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By Katherine Hunt

In 1999, Clayton Lockett had committed murder and and attempted to conceal a burglary he attempted. 15 years later, on April 29th, 2014 at 6:23, Clayton Lockett was administered his first drug on the execution table. The administrators of the first drug were having trouble finding a vein, so they used an uncommon one that hopefully would have worked. It was unknown how much of the drug actually made it into his system. At 6:33, Lockett was declared unconscious. At 6:36, he began twitching, and at 6:37, actually attempted to rise from the table. At 7:06, he was pronounced dead due to a heart attack. In the aftermath, many people frowned upon the result of this execution. Even Obama had declared the action “deeply disturbing.”

The Age Old Question

The question of whether we should keep the death penalty has been plaguing us for centuries. There has always been controversy about whether or not the death penalty is constitutional. From 1846 to now, 19 states have repealed the death penalty, and for a short period of time, from 1972 to 1976, the Supreme Court had declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

Is it Worth it?

The use of the death penalty has been on the decline for the past 15 years. This can be traced to a multitude of different factors. Due to expansions in the ability to DNA test crimes, there has been more that one instance where someone who was not guilty was executed. From 1973 to now, 156 people have been released from death row. The average time between conviction and release was 11.6 years.

In 2015 alone, 6 people had been exonerated:The time they were on death row ranged from 2 to 30 years.
 
Race is also a large bias to court ruling. From 1976 to 2015, 55.5% of victims were white in execution cases, although 76% of federal executions occurred when the victim was white. When interracial murders occurred, 31 white people were executed when the victim was African American, but 293 African American executions occurred when the victim was white. In Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than for those whose victim was black. (Pierce & Radelet, Louisiana Law Review, 2011). In 96% of states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination, or both. (Prof. Baldus report to the ABA, 1998).

Gender also plays a role in ruling too. According to a study done at the University of North Carolina, “Only 27% of all homicide victims are female, but 52% of all executions carried out in Ohio were for homicides involving female victims. Homicides involving White female victims are six times more likely to result in an execution than homicides in involving Black male victims.” (Frank R. Baumgartner)

The balance between the extremity of the crime, and the actual race and gender of the victim or delinquent is far too large most of the time to create a fair ruling. 

Major Crimes Put Convicts’ Lives on the Line?

Many people argue that the death penalty should still be used in cases where the crime is extreme. Admittedly, for large crimes like bombings and mass killings, people argue that the death penalty should occur. In the case of the Boston Bombing, the death penalty was used to prosecute Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the two people associated with the bombing. The second person associated, his brother Tamerlan, had died when he was shot by the police. However, this is the first death federal sentence since the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

And right now, Tsarnaev is in the U. S., a country where there are 60 federal prisoners, and only 3 federal death sentences that have occurred in the past 50 years.

As a result, the rates of federal executions are far too low to efficiently execute everyone who has been sentenced. If no one else was sentenced from this point on, and we executed people at the same rate, it would take 1000 years to execute everyone that is currently on Death Row. This is extremely unrealistic if we are looking to get everyone off of death row. Due to this, many people that are on death row will pretty much have a sentence of life without parole because they themselves will die before the government will find the time to execute them.

An Alternative to Death?

Price also comes in as a factor when executions are being considered. One execution trial could cost double than a case where life in jail was the only option. For the price of one full execution, six people could be kept in jail for life. With this option, if the convict was found innocent, it is possible for release. “The high costs of prosecutions, and the option of life in prison without the possibility of parole are also cited as major drivers for the decline” (Jon Herskovitz). 

61% of voters from a 2010 poll would choose a penalty other than death for murder.


“Fairly soon, someone will be the last person to be executed in America” (Anonymous) 

Works Cited

Herskovitz, Jon. “U.S. Death Penalties, Executions Slow as Capital Punishment Is
Squeezed.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2016.
 
Unknown. “Who Killed the Death Penalty?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper,
19 Dec. 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
 
Baumgartner, Frank R. “The Impact of Race, Gender, and Geography on Ohio
Executions.” (n.d.): n. pag. 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016
 
Von Drehle, David. “The Death of the Death Penalty.” Time. Time, 8 June 2015. Web. 20
Feb. 2016.