Harrison H. Michigan

The Death Penalty in Today's America

This letter outlines the complexity of the death penalty in the U.S and why it may not be as simple as it seems it should be.

Dear Future President,

The state of the death penalty in America is not the way it should be. If you believe capital crimes should be punished with death; fine. I would even go as far to say I agree with you, but the problem is that even in the 31 states where the death penalty is legal and murderers are sentenced to death frequently, these criminals are not being put to death as they are sentenced. As of July 10, 2016 there were 2,905 death row inmates in america, but only 16 have been executed so far this year. States are not using the death penalty in the way it is meant to be used, to put murderers to death for committing the worst kind of crime, and when states actually do want to execute, they struggle to find lethal injection drugs or even botch executions. If states are not willing to sentence criminals to death, or once sentenced not willing or able to properly execute them, they should not be able to use the death penalty as means of justice.

Morally, I have no issue with the death penalty. I am a full believer in that the punishment should fit the crime, but as along as it is practical. If you believe all murders should be put to death I have no problem with that, but the problem is that they aren’t. Reiterating some of the statistics shared earlier, of the 31 states where the death penalty is deal, only six of them have carried out executions this year; executing a total of 16 inmates (seven being from Texas) so far in 2016. At this rate, suggesting no one is ever sentenced to death again, It would be almost 131 years before before the death row bench is clear. In today’s america being sentenced to death rarely means you will actually be executed. Murderers are not reaping the consequences of their crime. Part of the problem is that many states just aren’t willing to execute death row inmates. 24 out of 31 states with a legal death penalty have not executed anyone in 2015 or 2016, and for many of these states the uproar would be tremendous if they did, because they haven’t executed any inmates in years the execution would appear so arbitrary there would be a media firestorm. If these states aren't using the death penalty why should they even have it as an option? But there is another facet to the issue, and that is there are states who are willing to carry out executions (ex. Texas) but have trouble doing so. The problem is, there is a shortage of lethal injection drugs in the U.S. Many domestic drug companies have discontinued the drugs, and attempts to buy them from overseas sellers have been thwarted by foreign governments who themselves strongly oppose the death penalty. Not only has this impeded executions, but it has caused attempted ones to fail. Look at the case of Clayton Lockett, in Oklahoma death row inmate whose execution was scheduled for April 29, 2014. Unable to obtain the usual drug, Oklahoma proceeded to attempt the execution using two experimental drugs (even though they were known to cause intense pain on the unconscious). He was visibly in excruciating pain and died 43 minutes after the execution began of a heart attack. I’m not sure of the details of the crime he committed, but this is up there on my list of least preferable ways to die. This is just one of the horror stories (and not the worst by a long shot) of botched executions. Does anyone deserve to die like this? Is this really a ethical way to punish people? Have the states displayed the ability to responsibly use the death penalty?

Respectfully yours,

Harrison H.