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Volume 72, Issue 102, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Opinion

Death unjust punishment for democracy 

Florian Martin
Opinion Columnist

Texas executed its 384th citizen since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977. Harris County has contributed the most to this number, having executed 95 people during that time.

From the 38 states that have the death penalty, Texas carries out the most executions by far. Virginia comes in second, with 98 executions since 1977. As a whole, the United States has executed 1,063 people since that year. 

This makes the United States one of a handful of countries responsible for most executions in the world. According to Amnesty International, in 2005 94 percent of all executions took place in the United States, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

In total, 69 countries retain and use the death penalty. The United States, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are the only developed countries where it is legal to execute people. Of those, this country has had by far the most exeautions.

Except for Belarus, the only dictatorship in Europe, the old continent has entirely abolished the death penalty; so have Canada and Australia. In fact, any country that wants to become part of the European Union has to abolish the death penalty. Consequently, the United States would not qualify.

Looking at a map that points out countries with and without capital punishment, the United States joins mostly countries whose human rights policies it usually criticizes. The countries that have a similar number of executions are mostly those that President Bush likes to call "rogue nations." 

Proponents of the death penalty in the United States say that murderers should be put to death so they can't kill more people, that it acts as a deterrent on murder and that a killer deserves the same as his victims. 

The latter argument is usually avoided as it is a form of revenge, but it is probably the one argument that convinces about 65 percent of Americans to support capital punishment, according to a 2006 Gallup poll.

The deterrent effect of the death penalty has never been proven, and a study by the Death Penalty Information Center concluded that the murder rates in states with the death penalty are higher than in non-death penalty states. 

Life in prison is no more desirable than death and should consequently have the same deterrence as the death penalty. People who kill someone usually don't think about the consequences or that they will be caught.

One very important argument against the death penalty is the possibility of convicting somebody who is innocent. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 117 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973 because of newfound evidence or DNA samples. It is difficult to know how many of the more than 3,000 death row inmates in the United States are actually innocent.

Executions usually divide the population into supporters and critics. Whenever there is an execution, there are heated debates for and against the death penalty. In some cases, such as Karla Faye Tucker's execution in Texas in 1998 or the execution of former gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams in California in 2005, the convicts get international attention and support. Many capital punishment supporters criticize the fact that the murderers get more attention and sympathy than their victims, which is indeed absurd.

However, if killers rotted in prison for the rest of their lives, nobody would feel sorry for them. The death penalty transforms murderers into martyrs.

There are many moral and logical reasons for ending capital punishment in America. If the United States wants to be credible as a supporter of human rights and have a reputation for being the "good guy," abolition of the death penalty is essential. 

Martin, a communication senior, 
can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu

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