David Keaton was a stoic and gentle individual with a passion for poetry and singing. On September 18th, 1907, in Tampa, Florida, 18-year-old David decided to visit a grocery store. Unfortunately, a robbery took place at the same time. A year later David was called in for questioning about that same robbery. On January 10th, 1971 he was convicted of murdering an off-duty deputy sheriff who was on the scene of the robbery and sentenced to the death penalty. Two years David spent in prison and then was given a new trial due to submitted evidence of fingerprints that were covering the scene, none being David’s. From the evidence, David was deemed innocent of all his convictions. The actual killer was identified and David’s charges dropped. He then was released, making him the first death row exoneree in the modern Era.
Conservative community columnist Marshall Frank, mentions four reasons he is against the death penalty with a liberal lean viewpoint.
Frank is against the death penalty because of the “probability that even one innocent human being may be or has been, executed.” This argument against the death penalty is popular and a sensible concern. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “Almost all Americans (87%) believe that an innocent person has already been executed in recent years, and over half (55%) say that fact has affected their view on the death penalty.” Boston globe tells us “by that math, as many as 30 of the 737 prisoners awaiting execution in California were wrongly convicted.” The National Academy of Sciences, reports that “at least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent…”
Moreover, Frank claims that “The only guarantee that innocent people will never be executed is to abolish capital punishment…” Author John Seasly, wrote, “5 big ideas to stop sentencing innocent people to death.” In the article, he notes to reduce using death-qualified juries, decrease relying on questionable testimony, tackle false confessions, end prosecutorial misconduct, and lastly abolish the death penalty.
The percentage to keep the death penalty has been drooping over the years. According to Gallups survey on Americans’ views of the death penalty “in the abstract, asking respondents the yes or no question: “Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?” 56% said they favored the death penalty. It was the second-lowest support for the death penalty in 47 years, one point above the 55% who said they supported the death penalty in October 2017.”
Another reason Frank opposes the death penalty is “people change.” Steve Mills, Ken Armstrong, and Tribune staff reporters published a story on Chicago Tribune about a 17-year-old killer. Years later, nearing the date of the killer’s execution, he has much to say about his past actions from a matured and contrite mindset, such as: “It was an impulsive act, one I regretted instantly…I thought I was grown then, but I had adolescent ways.”
There is an undeniable argument that the defendant could be telling a lie. Charles F. Bond, Jr and Bella M. DePaulo, “Accuracy of Deception Judgments,” that “…people achieve an average of 54% correct lie-truth judgments, correctly classifying 47% of lies as deceptive and 61% of truths as nondeceptive.” Yet this is not a counter-argument that Frank mentions in his article against the death penalty.
Frank argues the cost to maintain the death penalty is higher than it is to sentence life in prison. The Death Penalty Information Center shares the consistency in the testament that “the death penalty imposes a net cost on the taxpayers compared to life without parole.” Furthermore, the Morning Edition podcast asserts that “many states and counties are desperately strapped for cash, local prosecutors have even less incentive to opt for the expense of a death penalty trial.”
Finally, the fourth reason Frank opposes the death penalty is his conclusion that it does not deter violent crimes as some think it does. According to Amnesty, “After more than 30 years of research on the death penalty, Amnesty International believes that public support for capital punishment is overwhelmingly based on a desire to be free from crime. However, within the same article, it states that “In 2003 in Canada, 27 years after the country abolished the death penalty the murder rate had fallen by 44 percent since 1975 when capital punishment was still enforced.”
Besides that, the Death Penalty Information Center says “Other punishments such as life without parole might provide equal deterrence at far fewer costs and without the attendant risk of executing an innocent person.”
Charles Cully Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow & Manager part of the National Security Law Program, is an advocate for the death penalty.
Stimson tells, many Americans support the death penalty. However, a research article was written by the Death Penalty Information Center, released in 2019, just as Stimson’s article was, stated there has been a “15-percentage-point shift in American’s views towards capital punishment in five years. In 2014 Gallup asked the same question “Is the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole the better penalty for murder?” to 60% of Americans. “50% said the death penalty was the better approach to punishing murder, while 45% preferred life in prison.”
Continuing in Stimson’s claim, “The 5th and 14th Amendments carry express approval of the death penalty…” Supporting this case, the Death Penalty Information Center states “the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments were interpreted as permitting the death penalty.” Yet, they go on to say that “…in the early 1960s, it was suggested that the death penalty was a “cruel and unusual” punishment, and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment…” So this argument does not support Stimsons case.
Since the death penalty has been abolished in other countries, the U.S should as well. This is a counterargument Stimson acknowledged. Nonetheless, he went on to say “Yes, many European countries have abolished the death penalty. But they are less democratic than we are, and its lawmakers are less accountable to the people in their countries.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “More than 70% of the world’s countries have abolished capital punishment in law or practice. However, the death penalty continues to exist in many parts of the world, especially in countries with large populations and those with authoritarian rule…The U.S. remains an outlier among its close allies and other democracies in its continued application of the death penalty…”
Lastly, Stimson refers to the antidote he mentioned at the beginning of his article stating “Her murderers richly deserve the death penalty, though justice won’t be complete until their sentence is carried out.”
Contrary to that, some individuals argue they would preferably have a criminal sentenced to life in prison rather than sentenced to death. According to a story published on the website WGNO ABC, family members of a loved one taken away by a criminal claim that they would rather have them placed in prison, forced to consider their actions deeply instead of death. This was their interpretation of justice.
Justice For All
Marshall Frank says the death penalty creates too high of a risk that takes and/or interrupts innocent lives. I strongly agree with this claim. Innocent lives being taken becomes only a statistic and is normalized the more it happens. The longer the death penalty stands, the higher the risk is for innocent lives to be ruined.
Stimson had promising arguments for the appropriation of the death penalty, yet did not mention the risk of innocent lives. One compelling claim he did make was that cruel crimes deserve cruel punishment. This seems reasonable on the surface. Though, Frank makes a valid claim that people can change.
The death penalty strips individuals of the chance to reflect, change, and right wrongs. It is reasonable to say the cruelty deserves cruelty. Still, the reality is; we live in an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people, who will make remarkably imperfect decisions. The other reality is that even the cruelest individual can experience repentance in their heart. For another imperfect human to take away that chance is not reasonable.
I have a suggestion that creates justice for both views concerning capital punishment. Life without parole should be the alternative to replace the death penalty. In this, the criminal can endure their punishment and have a chance to reflect.