Vicente Benavides, Malcolm Alexander, Randolph Arledge, Christopher Abernathy: these names may or may not sound familiar to some people. The one thing they all have in common is that they were all wrongfully convicted under the death penalty, but were proven to be not guilty after spending decades in prison.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on March 13 to halt all death penalties while he is still in office. This will affect all 737 inmates who are currently on Death Row in California. This doesn’t mean that they are entirely off of death row, but executions will not be scheduled to occur.
Newsom stated that “it [the death penalty] has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error.”
A research done by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stated that “between 1973 and 2016, 156 people who had been sentenced to death were subsequently determined to be innocent.”
Personally, I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye”; seeing the death of a criminal won’t lead to a proper closure to any case. Killing those because of crimes they did doesn’t do justice to anyone, it proves that you are no different than them. Is it really worth killing someone innocent just to catch someone who has actually committed a crime?
America’s death penalty dates all the way back to colonial times in the 1630s. Even then, people were advocating for the abolishment of it. Michigan was the first state to abolish the death penalty in March 1847 and Wisconsin followed shortly after in 1853. By the end of the century, other countries around the world such as Venezuela, the Netherlands, and Portugal all ended the death penalty punishment in their countries. Thirty states in the U.S. currently still have the death penalty, but 11 of those states haven’t used it in over a decade.
Some people may disagree with Newsom’s decision to halt the death penalty for now. They believe that people should pay for the crimes that they have done. But while I believe that everyone should be able to obtain justice, people shouldn’t have to die in order for it to be achieved. The state has always been divided upon this issue as well. Several years ago, an initiative aimed to abolish the death penalty, but it was narrowly rejected by voters at 53-47.
There is also the issue of innocent people dying because they are placed on death row and executed without adequate evidence. The 14th Amendment states that the state will not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This is written in our Constitution, yet some people today are not being protected by the law in any way.
A better decision would be for the state to place its 700-plus inmates on life without parole. Not only will it save the state millions of dollars per year, it will also serve as a more moral option for our broken criminal justice system.