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People argue that the death penalty is a valid deterrent to capital crimes. This may appear to be a logical argument, but it is only logical to a rational society. That is, reasonable people would be deterred from committing a capital crime if they understood the consequence of the death penalty. However, people who commit violent crimes are most likely not acting rationally at the time they commit the crime. The possibility of being put to death if convicted usually does not make it into the perpetrators mind. This is especially true when the criminal is mentally unstable or acting under the influence of drugs, or rage, or panic.
To date, no proof has been produced to verify that the death penalty deters violent crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently published statistics that indicate that incidents of murder within some states that enforce capital punishment have not declined. Similarly, incidents of murder within other states that do not enforce capital punishment have not increased. Additionally, between 1976 and 1985 approximately twice as many law enforcement officers were killed in capital punishment states as in states that do not execute.
Dr. Thorsten Sellin, the late University of Pennsylvania scholar who changed the face of criminology, has been credited with the formation and usage of statistics in the evaluation of crime, an area in which Dr. Sellin was a foremost authority. He conducted a widely respected study in the 1960's and 1980's that concluded that the deterrent effects of capital punishment are minimal.
Death sentences are often times random. It is applied neither fairly nor consistently. Of the thousands of convicted murderers each year, less than 1 percent receives the death penalty. People who have committed the same violent crime under similar circumstances have not received the same sentence. One would think that the severity of the crime would dictate the punishment. However, it appears that race and socio-economic status play a larger role. Prosecutors often show racial bias in their decisions to seek the death penalty. Some prosecutors only call for capital punishment if it will benefit themselves (i.e. re-election), or if pressured to do so by constituents. Although whites and blacks are victims of murder in approximately equal numbers, since 1977 eighty percent of death row defendants were executed for killing whites. Far more often the death penalty is ca
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