Editorial: Stop the Death Penalty

Editorial: Stop the Death Penalty
La pena de muerte es una aberración que goza del respaldo de una mayoría de los estadounidenses
Foto: EFE

Death penalty is an aberration that is widely accepted in the United States, although fortunately less and less so.

It is a feeling that mixes a misconception of justice with vengeance and public safety. The “An eye for an eye” principle is supposed to comfort the family of the victim and ensure that the criminal won’t strike again.

This leads to terrible situations such as the one in Arkansas, where seven executions have been scheduled in 10 days, before one of the state’s drugs to execute inmates was set to expire.

The hurry to execute one inmate every two days, after 12 years in which the capital punishment has not been applied once, is an example of what happens with the death penalty.

The pressure of the relatives of the victims who have been waiting for a long time for the enforcement of a sentence, the politicians eager to show they are tough on crime, and a process that, in this case, sacrifices the rights of the accused in the name of speed.

The Arkansas case circumstances made it quite extraordinary. For example, the time for hearings on clemency requests and for the condemned to present their claims have been reduced. Other elements are very common, like that fact that many of those inmates have the same public defender.

No one should be surprised that most people on death row are poor, uneducated and disproportionally members of racial minorities. Their attorneys are usually overworked and can hardly organize a defense as complicated as the cases involving capital crimes demand.

Numerous studies reveal the tendency of white juries to vote for the death penalty when the accused are Latinos and African American. Likewise, the death penalty is more likely to be applied when the victim is white instead of a racial minority.

The good news is our country, for the first time in a decade, is not among the five nations with more executions, according to a new Amnesty International report. In any case, it remains inadmissible to be in the company of such nations as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

The decrease in the number of executions carried out in the U.S. reflects the growing difficulties to implement, especially when trying to do it in a “humane” way, a punishment that is inhuman by definition.

Ultimately, a judge stopped the planned executions in Arkansas. It is another positive sign in order to find the process unconstitutional. That’s encouraging.