A Sentence in Need of Deletion

The death penalty is not only especially costly and ineffective at deterring crime. It also unfairly targets poor minorities.

Christiaan Titus, Staff Writer

The recent execution of Brandon Bernard has made some aware of what many have known for a long time: that the death penalty is cruel and outdated.

Bernard was made to wait on death row for 21 years, before being killed by the federal government at the age of 40 years old. This made him the youngest person in the country to receive the death penalty in nearly 70 years. The crime that earned him this punishment was being an accomplice to a murder at the age of 18.

It is also worth noting that five jurors who had originally sentenced Bernard to death have since changed their minds.

Bernard’s execution must prompt us to revisit arguments to abolish the death penalty.

Horrifyingly, at least 4.1% of the defendants who have been executed were completely innocent. This means that more than 4% of the time the death penalty is nothing more than state-sanctioned murder.

Additionally, since 1973, at least 156 innocent people were made to spend time on death row before being found to actually be innocent. 

The perceived benefits of the death penalty re questionable. It might seem that such executions serve as a deterrent to crime, nut the FBI found that this isn’t even the case. According to an FBI survey, states with the death penalty actually have the highest murder rates, including Mississippi, and Missouri. 

Another argument in support of this barbaric practice is that it saves more money than giving a convict life in prison. However, this is simply not the case. According to Amnestyusa.org, the death penalty costs the US in excess of $137 million a year. In Kansas, this was found to be 70% higher than any non-death-related trial, in Tennessee it was 48% higher, and in Maryland it was as much as three times as costly as a trial with the end sentence of life without parole. The cost of the death penalty mainly comes from long, drawn out trials.

It should come as no surprise that is almost always poor people who are murdered by the state. According to OKCADP.org, upwards of 99% of the people on death row are in poverty, despite all income levels committing violent crimes. The website also explains that Black people are as much as four times more likely to be sentenced to death than white people for the same crimes. Similarly, in 77% of death penalty cases, the victims were white.

There is also a deep inconsistency with the sentencing. Only one out of every one hundred murderers are sentenced to death, and this has nothing to do with the severity of the crime or how many people murdered, but usually more to do with the income level of the defendant.

In 2021, it is time that the United States, which claims to value freedom and justice above all else, abandon the cruel and expensive practice that is state-sanctioned murder.