Should people’s lives be in the hands of the government ?

By Shakyrah Hardy

The death penalty is a sensitive topic for many people. Some people want it abolished, while others believe it should be allowed. In the United States, data shows there are risks to executing innocent people. For example, Carlos de Luna, a 27 year old man, was executed in 1989, for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a murder that he did not commit. It was not until after his execution, when evidence emerged proving his innocence. Rene Rodriguez, the attorney for Wanda Lopez’s family stated, “All these poor people,  they were all getting found guilty, they were all going to death row, and nobody represented them.” The unlawful execution of Carlos de Luna shows that capital punishment has it’s flaws. Cases like Luna’s bring up the same question, should the death penalty be abolished? 

According to ACLU (The American Civil Liberties Union), the death penalty goes against the constitutional ban of cruel and unsual punishment. The death penalty system is applied in an unfair and unjust manner against people. It is dependent on how much money people have, their attorneys, and the race of the victim. The ACLU found that since 1973, over 156 people have been released from death rows in 26 states because of innocence. Data from the ACLU also showed that nationally, at least one person is exonerated for every 10 that are executed. In 1972, the Supreme Court declared that under then-existing laws “the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty… constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.” Just four years after Furman’s decision, several hundred people were sentenced to death. By 1976, the Supreme Court moved away from the abolition, holding that “the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution.”  Since 1973, 185 people who have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in the U.S. have been exonerated. Sixty percent of those exoneres were either Black or Latinx.

A Texas man was executed for a murder he likely didn't commit. A new  documentary titled 'The Phantom' asks what went wrong | The Independent

Some poeple, such as NAHS student Ali Rabbani, think the death penalty should not be abolished, but should have some limits. Rabbani believes, “The death penalty lets justice be served at an eye for an eye level.” He added, “If someone kills someone, we should be able to kill them legally, in the right conditions, only when evidence for such a sentence is beyond reasonable doubt.”

Although the death penalty is a controversial topic across the United States, it is still allowed by the government. Groups such as the ACLU will continue to fight against it. Meanwhile other groups will fight to keep it legal. Capital punishment shouldn’t be abolished completely but, more action should be taken in cases where the death penalty is on the table. Before sentencing people to the death penalty there should be exact evidence proving that they’re guilty. Having complete evidence that gives a just reason to sentence someone to the death will provide more of a fair system.

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