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Death penalty too flawed to remain as an option

This week, the circle in front of the Union was bombarded with images that made passersby cringe. Pictures of distorted and mangled aborted children, as well as genocide victims, lined the walkways, giving us all the opportunity to see images that are conveniently left out of our day-to-day lives for a very obvious reason.

Posters clearly defending the right to life were proudly hung around the area designated for the demonstration, reminding the students walking through of the reasons behind this protest.

However, what if these controversial posters contained slaughtered death row inmates instead of aborted children? Would the same reaction felt from seeing murdered children come from seeing these convicted men and women being put to death for the crimes they committed?

Although both of these ethical issues spark constant and ongoing debates and riots, abortion always seems to be in the media and civilian spotlight based on the sole idea that aborted children are innocent and have done nothing to warrant death.

Most death row inmates are obviously not innocent: they have committed a crime so heinous that someone has decided their life must be ended.

But does any one person really have the power to decide who gets to live and who gets to die, especially considering how flawed and biased our criminal system is?

According to a recent newspaper study published Sunday in The Cincinnati Enquirer, ‘The fate of death penalty defendants before a federal appeals court often depends on the political party of the president who appointed the judges.’

Judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appointed by Republican presidents vote to deny the appeals of death row inmates 85 percent of the time, while those appointed by Democrats voted to support at least part of the appeals 75 percent of the time.

The newspaper examined the 85 death penalty cases considered between January 2000 and April 7, 2007. The court decides death penalty appeals from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

If one examines the reality behind this finding, blind justice appears to become just another facet of our political system.

Based on the results of the study, one could intelligently argue that an inmate going before the court with a liberal majority has a much greater chance of avoiding an execution than going before one with a conservative majority.

How can one confidently claim that the death penalty is fair when our judges are making decisions based on political ideals and platforms?

Not only that, but people are not God. Everyone makes mistakes.

Keeping this in mind, it is important to realize that many death row cases brought before the courts end in people convicted and even killed for a crime they never committed.

In the summer of 2006, the Chicago Tribune released groundbreaking evidence claiming that the state of Texas may have executed an innocent man in 2004.

The defendant in the case, Cameron Willingham, was executed for the supposed murder of his three children in a deadly house fire despite his consistent claims of innocence. However, after serious investigations and research completed by four Tribune reporters were brought to the surface, it was found that prosecutors and arson investigators used arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances in order to have Willingham executed.

Sadly enough, there are probably hundreds of cases just like this one which have slipped through the court system in the quest for a conviction. However, there is no way to definitively tell how many of the over 1,000 people executed since 1976 may also have been innocent.

Thankfully, some mistakes are caught before it is too late. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973, 123 people in 25 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. In Ohio, five people have been freed from death row.

Although I find it unfair to compare the issues of abortion and capital punishment in most circumstances, both must be considered in order to really make a statement about the atrocities going on in our country when defending the right to life.

Everyone has the right to life, regardless of the crimes they may or may not have committed. I understand that family and friends who have had their loved ones ripped away by people on death row have experienced a loss that can not be replaced. However, taking away another human being’s life in order to revenge that death will do nothing: it will not make your loved one reappear and it will not ease the pain and hurt one feels after suffering a loss.

Now, more so than ever before, is the time to realize how biased and misconstrued our capital punishment system is. With the rise of killings and crime taking place in our country, more and more people are being placed on death row every single year. And in today’s day and age, while justice is supposed to be blind, it most certainly no longer is.

Send comments to Kristen Vasas at [email protected].

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