By nature, human beings are capable of committing different crimes as demonstrated in the history of man. To ensure coherence, peace, order and respect for sanctity of life laws have been enacted. Law defines different crimes and punishments to those who commit various crimes. In case of capital offenses such as rape, planned murder, repeated crimes among others, capital punishment may be awarded based on the laws that govern the land. Ideally, such people are perceived to be a gross danger to the society and hence their existence is to the detriment of the society’s welfare (Marquart, 1994).
Despite controversy on the effectiveness and merits of capital punishment, it is widely used in the USA as a means of deterring crimes. Execution is effected by use of gas chambers, electrocution, firing squad, lethal injections and hanging. Hanging of the death row prisoners was practiced in Texas between 1819 and 1923. Later, between 1924 and 1977, electric chair was used. From 1977, lethal injections were made legal means of executions. By 2003, there were38 states that still practiced capital punishment (Urbina, 2003).
Capital Punishment in America
The first ever capital punishment execution in America took place in 1608 in Jamestown colony. In this period, Revolutionary War Period, death penalties were generally accepted and there as many as 162 documented cases that happened in 18 Century. Afterwards, there were reforms in the constitutions by 11 colonies, although, 9 out of them never allowed death penalties, they all authorized it. The enacted legislation in 1790 provided capital punishment for such crimes as murder, robbery, forgery of public security and rape. Adoption of capital punishment became too common and the executed cases summed up to 1391 in the 19 century.
In 1967 however, Moratorium was placed on death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court declare some death penalty unusual and unconstitutionally cruel based on the fact that some juries were using them capriciously and arbitrarily. However, by 1976, Florida, Georgia and Texas enacted new capital punishment laws and were upheld by U.S. Supreme Court.
Statement of the Problem
Following the ratification of capital punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court Texas has become a centre ground for capital punishment. For instance, between 1976 and 1998 Texas had 167 execution cases followed b y Virginia with 60 cases within the same period. The frequency is alarming and begs the question on whether they could be procedural flaws.
Ideally, punishment is supposed to act as a means of deterring people from engaging in crimes. From a statistical perspective, we would expect a uniform distribution of crimes across individual sharing similar economic and social environment. In any case, punishment of those who have committed crime will act as deterrent to others and there would be expected a totally reduction in similar cases in the subsequent periods. The case is different in Texas, these cases have either increased or remained constant. Though there are many studies that have been conducted on stopping the capital punishment, there is still some knowledge gap of the effectiveness of capital punishment in deterring crimes within a society. This study seeks to fill this gap.
- What has been the trend of capital crimes in Texas?
- How is the distribution of crimes in Texas?
- What groups of people are associated with capital crimes?
- How is the possibility of wrongful conviction?
Objective of the study
The main objective of this study is to determine the effectiveness of capital punishment in the state of Texas. The specific objectives include:
- To determine the trend of capital crimes in Texas.
- To establish the distribution of capital crimes in the state of Texas.
- To determine the groups of people associated with capital crimes.
- To determine the possibility of a wrongful conviction.
Significance of the Study
As much as we would like to ensure that people abide to the law for a proper co-existence, we need to ensure that we have laws that are humane and capable of having positive implication as would be expected in their design and enactment. This study will provide knowledge of how effective capital punishments are in reducing crimes and hence recommendations on any changes if necessary.
Newton also notes that, there are no public defender systems in Texas. The courts make use of court-appointed lawyers who may lack in competence in capital punishment defenses or appeals. In addition, he notes that, Texas did not have an obligation to provide free lawyers to post-convictional habeas corpus appeals until 1995. Also, the amount that the state was willing to pay the lawyers was sufficient to guarantee an adequate representation of the defendants and some had do without counsel.
According to a study by Bryan Stevenson, racial discrimination has also been highly observed in Texas. He argues that, racial bias has been observed in various instances and that it has undermined the credibility of legal processes in capital punishment. He notes undue processes in case of African Americans among other minority groups.
David Dow, a death penalty lawyer in Texas, in his book on “Autobiography of an Execution” notes a case of Michael Richard who was mentally disabled defendant. He argues that the courts are rigid and inconsiderate based on the fact that, Richard was executed before any attention was given to the appeal simply because the lawyers did not finish before 5 when the court is closed (Sinclair, 2009).
According to David Gran, the state of Texas executed an innocent man where Willingham was charged with murder of his children by fire in December 1991. The court ignored the experts findings and concluded that the fire was an arson as opposed to an accident. Though there were much evidence relating to the innocence of the defendant from the neighbors and his wife the court relied on testimony from Jonny Webb the jail house informant who said that Willingham had had made confession to him of having killed his children. In their ruling, the jury argued that there was three sources of the fire and therefore could not have been an accident. Webb was later diagnosed as being bi-polar. Also, the board of Arson Expert concluded that the fire was an accident.
Marvin Wilson was executed by the state f Texas by use of lethal injection. He was accused of having murdered a policeman who directed authority to his house where they seized 24grammes of cocaine. William’s lawyer tried to spare his client and hard a 2004 psychological evaluation which proved that Wilson had an IQ of 61 reasonably below 70 the accepted minimum competent standard. The Argument by the prosecutor in his ruling was that there was a possibility of the psychological being faulty. Based on this case, it was clear that the unfounded and substantially subjective.
In the state of Georgia, Troy Davis was executed in Sep 21/2011 in a case that was full of doubts about the victim’s guilt. The judgment was based on the witness testimony that was characterized by a lot of inconsistencies. The two state’s non-police witnesses had contradiction in their testimony. The witnesses have confirmed in sworn affidavits that coercion and pressure was used to sign statements or testify.
The objective of this study is to establish the effectiveness of capital punishment in deterring crimes in the state of Texas. The study will make use of primary data that will be obtained from general public in Texas and also professional in the legal field such as lawyers. Data collection will be effect by use questionnaires.
The working hypothesis for this study is that the capital punishment in Texas is not effective in deterring crimes.
Data Analysis and Presentation
The study will make use of descriptive statistics as means of showing trends in crimes over time. It will also relate the number of executions and execution in other places. It will also consider the public opinion with regard to the effectiveness of the capital punishment. Presentation will be in the form of graphs and pie charts.