Wrongful Conviction and the Death Penalty

There has been a strong and strident call to replace the death penalty in the US and supplant it with sentences that run from two to three decades. Any conviction entails a margin of error and should therefore be capable of being overturned. This will permit the wrongfully convicted persons to be set free and suitably compensated. Such reversal is not possible with the death penalty. A survey conducted among the proponents and opponents of the death penalty in the US disclosed the fact that the people were gravely concerned about the suitability of the death penalty (Huff, p. 117).

The US continues to be estranged from other developed countries, due to its insistence on continuing with the death penalty. The European Union stipulates the abolition of the death penalty as a precondition for its membership. Furthermore, the Russians have kept all capital punishments in abeyance for an indefinite period of time. In the US, George Ryan, the Illinois governor had suspended the death penalty in his state, consequent to the exoneration of a greater number of felons awarded the death penalty than the actual number that had been put to death. This man of vision, clearly comprehended that the criminal justice system was quite imperfect and that their endeavors could result in the death of innocent persons (Huff, p. 117).

Recent technological advances have made it possible to greatly enhance the quality and precision of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, such advances have not been matched by the expertise and on occasion the morality of the personnel employed in forensic laboratories. In addition, some of these technicians had willfully distorted evidence to bring about the conviction of innocent persons. Nevertheless, the Innocence Project utilized DNA analysis to prove the innocence of a significant number of wrongly convicted individuals in the US (Huff, p. 113).

Another issue involved in wrongful conviction is the large-scale utilization of informants by the law enforcement authorities, to present false eyewitness accounts. For instance, out of 13 death row inmates in Illinois, five had been convicted based on the information provided by convicted criminals. Furthermore, 21% of the convicts on death row, who were subsequently proved to be innocent, based on DNA analysis; had been convicted based on the evidence provided by convicted felons. Such convicts generally depose in the manner required by the prosecution, in exchange for some favors from the authorities (Huff 112).

As such, some of the reasons for the occurrence of wrongful convictions are eyewitness errors, the mala fide activities of the law enforcement officers and prosecutors, like the withholding of evidence, forced or false confessions, perjury, forensic shortcomings, and the tendency to blindly ratify the decisions taken at lower levels as the case progresses in the system. Usually, a combination of such reasons results in wrongful convictions (Huff, p. 110).

Capital punishment is based on the premise that death is the least punishment that is commensurate, equitable, and effective for certain crimes. It is strongly contended that a murderer no longer possesses the rights of a human, after killing the victim. The death penalty illustrates the importance attached by society to the right to life of the victim. Furthermore, many a murderer on being set free, either conditionally or unconditionally, causes the death of innocent people to a much greater extent than the number of innocent people executed by the state. The death penalty is successful as a deterrent because the murderer can no longer indulge in any crime. Moreover, the number of convicts that are executed in the US is not even one percent.

Works Cited

Huff, C Ronald. “Wrongful Convictions: The American Experience.” January 2004. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice. 2