Capital punishment relies on flawed logic and system

Ohio is currently one of more than 30 states in the U.S. which permit capital punishment, according to CNN.com.

A recent controversy has arisen in which a new one-drug method of injection was used to execute an inmate in December. While a three drug “cocktail” is typically used, due to a prior botched attempt several years earlier, state prosecutors proposed this new method as an alternative for the death penalty. While sentencing in various states allows death by hanging, firing squad and the electric chair according to deathpenaltyinfo.org lethal injection has been deemed the most humane during the course of the 20th century.

The Supreme Court refused to intervene in a case recently, and Kenneth Biros was put to death by a method some consider to be a blatant form of human experimentation (the barbiturate used was given as a lethal dose, though its effects were not previously known).

This brings to the forefront a commonly debated issue: capital punishment. While used throughout history as the most threatening of punishments, and utilized only for the gravest offenses, its effectiveness in crime deterrence has often been questioned. In fact, the U.S. remains one of the few Western nations (along with Cuba and Guatemala) to currently utilize the death penalty. Eastern cohorts include China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Many feel that the only fair retribution for capital offenses such as murder and rape is an equally stark punishment of death. However, there are further ramifications for the continued usage of this process.

The U.S. Constitution, in its Eighth Amendment, cites that cruel and unusual punishment shall be prohibited, no stipulation of the severity of the crimes is given. While the semantics of this line have long been debated, the intent is clear. There have been several instances of poorly administered executions in which clear suffering occurred by the convicted person. While their crimes certainly must have been heinous, this is clearly in violation of the above statement. The death penalty has seen a progression from hanging to the electric chair to now lethal injection as the norm.
Each change has occurred as an effort to be more “humane.” Yet, if this is this case, then it appears that the flaw lies not with the method, but with the institution itself.

While this is certainly an unpopular opinion in Texas, which consistently carries through with the most executions of any state, the logic of the issue needs to be considered.

Firstly, there has been an exorbitant number of cases in which inmates have been wrongly convicted and later released from death row. There is, therefore, the potential for innocent people to receive the death penalty even though they may not have committed the crime. Secondly, as seen in the Ohio case, costs associated with carrying through with the provisions of capital punishment often exceed those of incarceration for the remainder of one’s life. The free counsel provided by the state in order to post appeals in the Ohio case led to a drawn out process in which the inmate was posted in a holding cell for the execution chamber multiple times before the process was actually carried out.

This example indicates that the debate should be reopened. Capital punishment, while an ominous and threatening consequence, does not seem to be the most reasonable solution. If prosecutors are still continuing to search for the perfectly “humane” course of action, perhaps this is the most evident reasoning that the practice should be ceased altogether. Life imprisonment prevents further atrocities from being committed, but death seems to offer little repose except as a redeeming form of justice in which observers often seem conflicted about the resolution. The U.S. should take this opportunity to reconsider its stance on the subject and continue to analyze its justice system to determine if capital punishment is actually the most effective and daunting course of action.

Matt Boaz is a senior Political Science major from Edmond, Okla.