Capital punishment ineffective, archaic practice

Execution as a means of punishment for a crime has been a part of this country’s history since colonial times. While settlers brought with them the tradition of capital punishment from Britain, the U.S. still holds onto this practice despite the abolition of the practice throughout the European Union (EU).

Because the Council of Europe (COE) made the abolition of the death penalty a requirement for countries to be admitted into the EU, there has not been a single execution in the Union since 1997.

On the COE’s website, they have called the death penalty a “violation of fundamental human rights: the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

The COE also states that the death penalty is by no means more effective in the prevention of crime and that “It is sometimes used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and political opponents.”

They go on to explain that “It is also impossible to ensure that innocent people are not executed:  since 1976, 123 people have been released from death row in the USA after being wrongly convicted.”

The COE’s strong opposition to the death penalty has put a strain on relations between the EU and the United States since 32 states, including Washington, Oregon, and California, continue to uphold the death penalty as a part of their justice system.

This practice has recently been threatened, however, by the refusal of European manufacturers of drugs used for lethal injection to sell these drugs to states for purposes of execution.

In a recent story by CNN, it was revealed that states have been unable to obtain the drugs necessary for the practice of lethal injection. CNN spoke to the executive director of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center who said, “The states are scrambling to find the drugs.”

He went on to say, “They want to carry out these executions that they have scheduled, but they don’t have the drugs and they’re changing and trying new procedures never used before in the history of executions.”

These “new procedures” mean that these states have been found using untested combinations of drugs and even breaking laws to obtain these drugs.

According to the story done by CNN, a federal civil complaint was filed against Texas in October that claims officials from the state’s Department of Justice have lied, committed fraud, and otherwise broken the law in order to obtain drugs to use in the execution of prisoners on death row.

The story also cited one case in Florida in which a man named William Happ was executed using an untested drug combination, leading to a death that took twice as long as the normal seven minutes.

Now, we not only have a practice in this country that has been denounced by the EU as a “grave violation of human rights,” but also practices that clearly violate the Eighth Amendment, which bans “cruel and unusual punishment.”

While it can be argued that some criminals should be put to death simply because of how dangerous they are to society, the fact that so many states cling to this logic is leading to illegal acts and blatant violations of human rights as set forth by the Constitution.

What these events make clear is that the death penalty can only lead to the abuse of the practice itself. Because these states are unable to see the death penalty for what it truly is, “cruel and unusual,” they are willing to abuse further the power they have to execute prisoners.

The American Civil Liberties Union has found that the death penalty not only costs more than a life sentence, but it also has done nothing to reduce crime rates.

Why, then, do a majority of states continue to hold onto the practice of execution? All this has led to is the perpetual abuse of human rights, and the recent cases of blatant misconduct in states like Florida and Texas only serve to highlight further just how damaging the death penalty is.

Fortunately, there have been attempts to abolish the death penalty here in Washington. This year, Rep. Reuven Carlyle introduced Bill 1504 to the Wash. State House that would eliminate capital punishment.

The bill currently stands in the House with 21 supporters. This bill would not only allow Wash. to move past the unnecessary act of putting people to death, but also the opportunity to take a stand against the death penalty and join in with the other states that have also abolished capital punishment. This would show the rest of the country that this is something we as a nation should move on from.