Death penalty in USA with emphasis in New York City
USA has had a long history in capital punishment. The recorded capital punishment dates back to 1608 when Captain George Kendell was killed for spying. The crimes that have been regarded as capital included drug trafficking, and aggravated murder. All in all, drug trafficking has not been treated as a crime to warrant the death penalty. What has remained include the following forms of murder: aggravated, felonious and contract (Henningfeld 21).
Not all US states have death penalty in their judicial systems. Alaska, Michigan and Hawaii have been influenced by other states to reinstate death penalty laws in their judicial systems. According to bureau of justice statistic in America, out of the 3859 executions performed between 1930-1967, 366 were from Georgia, 297 from Texas, 329 from New York, which had topped the list. The history of the death penalty in the US is not much different from those states that have adopted the penalty punishments. New York is one of those states. How it has reinstated and treated the death statute as unconstitutional needs critical examination. In this the historical background, the application and its challenges in the state need to be checked (Henningfeld 21).
In New York, the history of the death penalty dates back to 1860, when the legal systems in that state accidentally passed a law that abolished capital punishment. In 1861, the law was repealed but it did not clearly give detections and guidelines on how to execute. It did not give the directions on the methods to employ to kill those found guilty and deserving capital punishment.
New York, similar to other states in America which recognize death sentence, has had chronicles of methods until majority settled on the lethal injection. The methods that New York was using included: hanging the convicts; burning the convicts at stake, use of a firing squad and the use of a breaking wheel.
William Kemmler was the first person in New York to be a victim of death sentence on 6th August 1890. He had been found guilty of killing his common-law wife using a hatchet. Nevertheless, his efforts to appeal to the US supreme courts, for use of another method apart from electrocution failed. Electrocution is the use of an electric chair, to kill someone. This method was first discovered by a dentist (Henningfeld 21).
In New York, a committee had been constituted to devise a more humanitarian method to employ in the killing of the convicts. A dentist had seen a sudden death of a man and with minimal pain upon walking on dead electric wires. It’s on this rationale that the electric chair was built upon. After making trial on horses, it was unanimously agreed that William was to become the first human being specimen to establish the efficiency and the workability of the machine. During this act, in Auburn state prison, William died in presence of a small number of witnesses. An electric current, of 1000 volts was passed for 17 seconds on William’s body and he was pronounced dead. A current of high voltage had to be reused when some of those people present claimed that the man was not yet dead and was still breathing.
The experience was regarded awful by those people that were present during the electrocution. The burning flesh of the human person produced a bad smell. His hair was burnt beyond recognition. His blood vessels burnt and bled. Most New Yorkers condemned the method but it still was widely spread not only in New York, but also in other states across the US. Sarat Austin in the book When The State Kills: Capital Punishment and The American Condition 2002, completely abhors to the use of electrocution as it produced extremely horrible scenes. After the electrocution method gradually became less and less popular, New York resorted to the use of lethal injections to exterminate the convicts (Henningfeld 21).
There were quite a number of people in New York who were against the capital punishment. The warden of Sing Sang prison, Lewis E. Lawes, (1920-1941)-was very vocal in agitating for the abolition of capital punishment. Despite having controlled 303 executions, Lewis felt that capital punishment had not achieved its objectives. Capital punishment was not deterrent. It was not inequitable. It was very unfair. Amendments were required (Bedau and Cassell 12).
In 1967, the two houses in New York passed a compromise law. This law allowed only a restricted death penalty. The established decision of the US Supreme Court of the year 1972 related to the Furman v. Georgia case contributed to prohibition of the death penalty status in the country. New York lacked the courage to implement fully the US Supreme court ruling. In an attempt to retain the legacy and the application of the capital punishment, New York came up with a situation where capital punishment had to be applicable against all odds. A mandatory death penalty had to be imposed against any accused found guilty of killing a correctional officer or a police officer..
In an attempt to fulfill the 1972 US Supreme Court ruling, New York struck down all the death penalties for prisoners serving life sentences. Between 1978- 1984, New York legislators engaged themselves in ways that could have reinstated or expanded the death penalty by governor Mario Cuomo and Hugh Carey. These efforts were evidenced in both houses.
In 1995, George Pataki, the new governor then, signed the new legislation for death penalty. This legislation gave the adoption of the new method of executing people called lethal injection. This marked the end of electrocution which was blamed and despised by many people not only in New York, but in the whole of the US. Adam Hugo et.al, describes the hollows of electrocution method which he says have been well documented and cannot be disputed. The death chambers are full of burned flesh (Bedau and Paul 12). This was in an attempt by Adams and his associates in bringing into the attention of the public the methods of execution either as humanizing or as dehumanizing. This too has been documented in invitation to an execution: a history of the death penalty in the United States as being unacceptable (Bedau and Paul 13).
In June, 2004, the US Supreme Court declared the statute of 1995 as unconstitutional. This meant that the statute was only to be found in books of law and other legal literature materials. It was destined to remain incapacitated. The laws were not and were nonimplementable. In 2007, the last death sentence had only been reduced to a life sentence. This was interpreted in another way meaning that New York had empty death-row and without feasible death penalty law. In the year of 2008, Governor David Paterson executed an order according to which all execution equipment had to be removed from the state facilities.
Death penalty in New York appears to be a very controversial issue. Some people have been advocating for it while the rest have been rallying against it. This in New York that they had prompted the suspension of executing capital punishment to those found deserving it. This had started in 1963, by the execution of Eddy Mays. This, by 2007, had resulted in a considerable increase of inmates in death law in New York. Does it mean that death penalty portrays a very inhuman project? Is there no other alternative to the capital punishment? Should capital punishment be allowed to the life in the twenty first century? What are the arguments that New York has presented in either support or rejection of execution as the only method of punishment to those accused of murder?
One may want to note that the New York reinstated the death penalty in the state. Interesting, is the Death Penalty in New York report by the state assembly that clearly formulated the supporting points for rejection of death penalty in New York (United States 22). Among the 150 witnesses that the report covered the majority revealed the flaws and the loopholes of the capital punishment not only in New York but also in the US and the whole world. The death penalty was found to be very unfair, very illogical, expensive and inhuman. The state assembly presented a number of facts that were unearthed from the group of witnesses. These facts have been portrayed as problems of capital punishment in New York. The problem sounds shocking, yet they deserve a critical examination to understand the legal, social political and economical stand of the new Yorkers (Bedau and Paul 15).
The risk of executing an innocent person has been one of the problems put forward to advocate for the rejection of capital punishment in New York. Bobby Mclaughlin, despite being innocent was convicted of murder. To avoid punishing innocent people, a method was used that can not be reversible once there is no substantial evidence to challenge the ruling; New York has tended to exonerate quite a number of convicts. The number of those exonerated has been growing. In fact, according to NYS bar association, human judgments are always subject to misconception. 53 wrongful convictions in the state were found out (Henningfeld 21). When there is such a discrepancy, the need for a taskforce is inevitable. The taskforce should be mandated to come up with all possible avenues that can alleviate the problematic concern in question. Thus, a rigorous research should be conducted to establish the route cause of such a human error as well as recommendations that can lead to creation of lasting solutions are expected to be provided.
Illinois and Masaschutes states studied the cases of death penalty and came up with a list of recommendations that were sought to minimize if not to eliminate the risk of murdering an innocent person. In Illinois in particular, it was noted that very little has been done to implement its 85 recommendations. Most of these recommendations are not yet included in New York criminal justice systems. Is this fair to those who have been wrongfully branded as criminals who deserve capital punishment, yet being innocent (United States 22).
Racial and geographical bias is the second issue of death penalty. it was found out that there was an apathy in how cases, involving different people as victims were treated. Whites and blacks were not equally treated. A convict of a white victim was twice likely to receive a death penalty than the one with a black victim. This should not be allowed to happen at any cost. No one should be above the law. No person is special in the dictates of law. It should be applicable to all people and to all geographical areas. In New York, for example, the capital punishment was not equal to the one of any other counties. It was found out that it is only in six counties where the law was applicable the same way.
Not only does capital punishment, demonstrate the ugliness of being biased, but it has been found out to be expensive, inefficient and unwanted. This makes the third problem. New Yorkers spent over 200 million US dollars pursuing capital cases without single execution taking place. It was found out that it requires over 40,000 US dollars per year to facilitate court proceedings per each accused person in New York, which is too expensive. In fact it is reported that seven men died not exhausting all possible appeals. The cost of imprisoning a person through court proceedings with capital punishment like New York is more expensive than the cost of trials, housing and appeals put together (United States 22).
It is a clear misuse of resources which could have otherwise been used in crime prevention and in monitoring the needs of the victims. The death penalty has not achieved the deterrence effect that it was intended to achieve. In fact, crime has been increasing in areas like Rochester, where death penalty was imposed. In areas like Manhattan, where death penalty was not sought, crime has been decreasing since 1991 (Bedau and Paul 15).
Representation of the victims in court proceedings poses a challenge to the systems of justice. Since 1995 it has become very hard for some victims to access private attorneys. Could this be attributed to the cut of funding to death penalty offices? Partly yes and partly no. The fact is that before the April 2004 a court of appeal that outlawed the death penalty as unconstitutional was managed on the reduced funding.
It’s critical when a death penalty involves a person who has suffered a mental breakdown. Any information given in courts by people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can not be fully trusted. . New York legal systems blindly ignored this fact. It allowed Stephen Lavare from Suffolk County who was sentenced to death penalty to represent himself in the court.. If only the court had refused to satisfy his demand and rather had him presented by someone else, the process of investigating evidence during his trial probably could have brought to the attention of the court the circumstances that had provoked him to murder. In his childhood he suffered sexual abuse, had undergone much psychiatric hospitalization and had attempted suicide. On the night of the murder committment he had excessively consumed cocaine (Henningfeld 20). The cocaine indulgence, coupled with his terrible childhood experience could have been responsible for his actions.
In the case of Stephen Lavare the New York judicial systems lacked means preventing such people from self-representation in court. The case appears to be quite unfair not only in New York but almost everywhere in the US and the whole world. Moreover, people suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have never been favored by any legal system in which capital punishment has been entrenched.
Family members are known to be constantly asking legislators to get rid off the death penalty. Marie Verzuri, a director and founder of homicide victims, believes that the use of death penalty is not a solution. Whichever way one decides to approach the issue, neither the victim nor the victimizer becomes contented. What is more, the first become enslaved by the same system that would be the source of their personal and collective emancipation. It seems ironic that such legal systems appear to promote justice, promoting inhumanity.
Advocating death penalty not only in New York but in the whole world is itself illogical and ill-advised. The question that needs to be asked is how murderers can receive the treatment they have been accused of and to be murdered? Here it should be noted that the use of death penalty is not be advocated only in the cases that involve charges of murder, but in all other cases (Henningfeld 19).
It appears as if the death penalty is full of cons. It may seem it has achieved nothing since its invention and application in New York. Does it mean no credit can be attributed to the capital punishment in the US and particularly in New York? It is a commonsense that any move, no matter how sane or insane it is, no matter how straightforward or mediocre it is, no matter how obsolete or updated it is, must posses at least two contrasting characteristics.
A solution can not be arrived at without understanding a problem which must be addressed Well-educated men and women are not expected to gather to discuss death as an option to any crime of murder, but are to be brought together by patriotism of their own state which could have been torn by many crimes of murder. New York is a densely populated city with high prevalent levels of crime (Bedau 21). According to the statistics of bureau of justice, between 1930 and 1967, in New York alone the number of people executed was 329. The question here is if these 329 people were given a chance to live, what are the chances that they would end up committing murders, either as hobby, as leisure or any other form. Execution of these people is believed to have saved New York by means of time, money and energy that could have been wasted in an attempt to address the possible quagmires that could have further complicated the life of new Yorkers. Providing these murderers with probation in cells can never be termed as a solution. What can a person who has murdered someone do? He can murder himself or murder the people around him. The best option therefore is that of the capital punishment that the New Yorkers have sometimes ascribed to (Bedau 22).
If death penalty is viewed as being full of demerits, this is not the case to all people. Particularly, those people who earn living as being enforcers and implementers of death penalty. The executioners top the list of beneficiaries of the capital punishment. They are employed to kill by lethal injections. Although Death penalty in the New York is currently not applicable, future legislators need to consider the above argument in order to determine whether to reinstate or abolish it completely.