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Argumentative Essay

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Bailey Haigler

Ms. Bowlin

ENGL 1101

26 October 2016

Topic #6

        There are many reasonable methods of punishment for crimes, but the death penalty is not one of them. Sadly, the death penalty is still used in the United States and across the world. The United States does not have the highest execution rate, though. That is China, committing thousands of executions in the year two-thousand and twelve alone compared to the forty-eight that were committed in the United States during that same year. With that being said, this still does not make the use of the death penalty okay. I do not believe in the death penalty because, though there are many problems with it, the most prevalent are that it is permanent, unconstitutional, and expensive.

Possibly the most important reason, in my opinion, that the death penalty is so wrong is because of its permanence. You can not simply bring someone back to life if you discover their innocence after they have already been executed. There are many cases where the defendant is executed when there is some possibility that they are actually innocent. One of these cases is the one surrounding Richard Masterson, who was executed on January twentieth of this year. This man’s execution has taken place even with questions regarding whether any murder had occurred at all. Masterson confessed to putting a sleeper hold on the victim, whose death was later labeled as strangulation. Masterson’s lawyers found that the prosecutors had concealed evidence that proved the medical examiner, Paul Shrode, to be unqualified to perform the autopsy. The lawyers argued that the death was incorrectly ruled as a homicide and that the death of the victim was most likely caused by a heart attack. Since there is no DNA or sound evidence connecting him to murder other than his confession to the strangulation, it is very wrong that Richard Masterson was executed. Unless there is no doubt or question unanswered on the conviction of the defendant, then their life should not be taken. There is evidence to prove that this case may not have been a murder at all. If sometime in the future the concealed evidence does come out changing the cause of death of the victim, then the life of an innocent man is permanently taken. Death is permanent, meaning that it can not be undone. Another case where an execution took place on a possibly innocent man is the case of Brian Terrell. This man was convicted in nineteen ninety-five and was executed in two-thousand and fifteen. Physical evidence from the crime scene made the conviction of the defendant very hard to determine. Evidence such as none of the thirteen fingerprints that were found matched his and the footprints that were discovered near the body were smaller than Terrell’s feet. Not only was the evidence reason for questioning the justification of the execution, but the state of Georgia also tried Terrell three separate times. The first trial ended because the jurors could not agree on a conviction, the second resulted in a conviction that was later overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court and the third finally resulting in the death sentence. On top of these two already questionable factors, the key testimony was given by Terrell’s cousin who later admitted to lying to save himself. None of the evidence presented in this case seems reliable enough to sentence a man to death. Brian Terrell’s last words as the execution drug was administered through the lethal injection IV were “Didn’t do it.” I believe that there is more than enough reason to say that the evidence that convicted Terrell was faulty and misleading. Both Masterson and Terrell were not prosecuted fairly and suffered an irreversible punishment as a result.

The death penalty is widely considered unconstitutional because it violates the fifth, eighth, and fourteenth amendment. The fifth amendment states that individuals should always have the presence of a Grand Jury at trial, should never have to witness against themselves, and should never “be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The penalty of death most definitely deprives a person of their right to life. The eighth amendment outlaws any form of “cruel and unusual” punishment. In the case of Gregg v. Georgia, William J. Brennan argues that death is a very unusual punishment in its pain and enormity. Brennan argues that death as a punishment treats humans as nonhumans. The fourteenth amendment also touches on the right to life, liberty, and property but in the context of state governments. It also states that all persons have equal protection under the law. The fourteenth amendment is violated when the defendant does not receive due process of law thorough his trail. This means that even if a defendant claims innocence, if the jury comes to the conclusion that he is guilty and the trial has met constitutional standards of fairness, he or she can still be executed.

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