In the United States offenses considered criminal are determined by statutes. The statutes give a clear sentence guideline on type of punishment to be meted. The rules are set out in the statutes to also govern the trials on criminal and pre-criminal proceeding. All the criminal procedures are set in compliant with the constitution of the United States. In the United States there death punishments are meted to people with capital criminal offences. It is the only western nation practicing death sentencing for capital offences and different methods are used in the process of execution (Banner 6-10). This research paper is concerned with how death penalty is used and its application to justice system1
The process of death sentence in the United State has some flaws especially as regards the criminal justice in the state of Ohio.
Death penalty in the United States
By the year 2008 it is said that only thirty seven states alongside the United States Military and the Federal Government authorized the use of death penalty as a punishment for felony committed. Death penalty is found in thirteen states and other jurisdictions including New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Maine, Michigan and West Virginia2.
From 1976 to 2008 the United States execution had reached 1,099 with 3,263 convicts on death raw in the same period (The Death Penalty 1-6). According to race amongst executed during the period whites accounted for 57%, blacks 34%, Hispanic 07%, Native Am 01% and Asians accounted for 01%. There are several methods used in the executions in the United States. Before 1913, the Indiana executions took place through hanging, until 1994 the executions were by electric chair and from the year 1995 it has been done by lethal injection. Currently in Indiana it is a requirement that the lethal injection execution be done within Indiana walls in the State Prison located in Michigan City, the execution must take place before the sun rises.
In other jurisdictions with death penalty there are varied methods of execution. In the thirty seven states executions are done in five ways: Electrocution, hanging, Lethal gas, and Lethal Injection but many jurisdictions prefer the use of lethal injection as a form of execution. In twenty jurisdictions the convicts are offered to choose the form of execution they each prefer. Nebraska is the only state that does not use lethal injection as the prime alternative to execution; it exclusively recommends electrocution as the way for carrying out executions. In the expansive United States of America there is no state with hanging, Lethal gas or Firing squad as the only methods of execution (Cummins 154).
Most jurisdictions practicing death penalty as a way ensuring justice and stopping crime give death penalty to convicts of crimes like the use of weapons of mass destruction leading to fatality, highest grade of murder, terrorism, treason, espionage and violations of certain Geneva conventions. In the United States Military, during times of war death penalty may be imposed on offenses like mutiny, desertion, misconduct in front of an enemy and spying for the enemy.
The legal process in death sentencing in the United States of America is complicated and encompasses four stages3. The stages include sentencing, direct review, state collateral review and Federal challenge. After a defendant is has been handed death sentence, the case moves direct review which is a legal appeal. In this case the appellate court examines carefully the recorded evidence from the trial court and determines whether the ruling was legally sound or it was wrongly imposed. In the process of direct review the appellate court finds no fault it may affirm the sentence, if a fault is found the court will reverse the sentence and redirects another hearing or if the court finds that there is no rational juror could prove the defendant to be guilty then the court may order the defendant acquitted. It is estimated that around 60% survive this process. In the event that the direct review affirms the death sentence, the case is moved to the collateral review where there are provisions for the defendant to challenge the sentence on the basis of reasons which were not reasonably raised during the trial time or direct review stage. Here new evidences are measured outside the original evidences (Death Row Information 3-7). The collateral review varies from state to state within the United States4.
Death penalty and Justice in Ohio
There has been a foregoing argument that death penalty in Ohio has not been a reserve for extreme criminal cases but imposed on arbitrary basis. This is likely to result innocent people being executed (League of Women Voters in Ohio 2). A study that was done as regards to death penalty and justice in Ohio found out that after the application of five factors of eligibility of the Commission of Illinois approximately over 85 out of 173 convicts on death row would not be qualified for execution. The five factors on the Illinois Commission are meant for highly serious cases since broader death sentencing is subject to errors.
It is also found out that some cases of death row leaned on evidences of eyewitnesses, accomplices, and in-custody informants. These sources of evidences are very prone to serious errors leading to execution of innocent people (League of Women Voters in Ohio 2). Alarmingly it is also said that amongst the death raw convicts 63% requires reexamination before carrying out executions. This means that chances are that about 63% of death raw convicts are likely to be innocent. It is also argued that offenders whose victims were white are highly likely to be given death sentences as compared to those whose victims are black. This shows that death sentencing is based or race and not purely the pursuit for justice5.
There are also geographical disparities in the process of death sentencing, only 8% death sentences is accounted for in Cuyahoga while Hamilton County accounted for about 43% of the death row convicts. Some form of discrimination is also seen in terms of defense cost. The counties charge different amounts for defense cost. Franklin County pays the highest at $50,000, followed by Hamilton County at $40,000 and then Mahoning and Cuyahoga in which defense cost amount to only $25,000. This makes the defense attorneys to be very expensive in some counties6.
The death penalty in Ohio is riddled with some forms of irregularities which should be examined and eliminated. There are some forms of discrimination based on counties and race. Some of the ways used in collecting evidences are also prone to mistakes. This puts innocent people at the risk of facing execution especially those who cannot afford to hire strong defense attorneys (League of Women Voters in Ohio 6).
Death sentence in the United States of America is used in the execution in high capital offenses like critical intentional murder, use of weapons of mass destruction, spying and espionage. There are states which have abolished the use of death penalty in their justice system while a good number of the states including the Federal and the United States Military still use death penalty as a form of punishment7.
The methods used in executions vary from state to state and they include lethal injection, lethal gas, electrocution and hanging (Saltzburg 146). The sentencing to deaths goes through four processes including sentencing, direct review; state collateral review and Federal challenge (Palmer 167). The death sentence process is generally flawed in some ways. Giving specific reference to Ohio where there is possibilities of executing innocent people due to discriminatory costs for hiring defense attorneys and racial discrimination during justice process. This calls for thorough review of death penalties in various states in the United States (Death Penalty Cases 1-9). There are possibilities that many people are executed innocently due to errors during hearing process8.
- The Death Penalty. “Methods of Execution.” Clarkprosecutor, 2010. Web.
- Stuart, Banner. An American History; the Death Penalty. ISBN 0674010833, 9780674010833. Harvard University Press, 2002.
- Louis, Palmer. An American citizen’s guide to understanding federal and state laws. McFarland. 1998. ISBN 0786404442, 9780786404445.
- Sally, Cummins. Digest of United States Practice in International Law. 2006. Oxford University Press US, 2008. ISBN 0195339487, 9780195339482.
- Death Row Information. “Offenders on the Death Row.” Texas department of criminal justice. 2010. Web.
- League of Women Voters in Ohio. “Recent Ohio Death Penalty Studies.” Columbus Ohio. 2005. Web.
- Stephen, Saltzburg. Cases and commentary American casebook series. American criminal procedure. West Pub. Co. 1984.
- Death Penalty Cases. “In the United States Courts of Appeal For the Sixth Circuit.” No. 05-3532. 2010. Web.
Banner, Stuart. An American History; The Death Penalty. ISBN 0674010833, 9780674010833. Harvard University Press, 2002.
Cummins, Sally. Digest of United States Practice in International Law. 2006. Oxford University Press US, 2008. ISBN 0195339487, 9780195339482.
Death Penalty Cases. “In the United States Courts of Appeal For the Sixth Circuit.” No. 05-3532. 2010. Web.
Death Row Information. “Offenders on the Death Row.” Texas department of criminal justice. 2010. Web.
League of Women Voters in Ohio. “Recent Ohio Death Penalty Studies.” Columbus Ohio. 2005. Web.
Palmer, Louis. An American citizen’s guide to understanding federal and state laws. McFarland. 1998. ISBN 0786404442, 9780786404445.
Saltzburg, Stephen. Cases and commentary American casebook series. American criminal procedure. West Pub. Co., 1984.
The Death Penalty. “Methods of Execution.” Clarkprosecutor, 2010. Web.