Over the years the world has evolved and during this evolution practices and views have changed to fit the times. During this time capital punishment has remained the same in some places. Capital punishment is defined as being an order issued by the legal system to punish a convicted criminal to punishment by death. Some people believe capital punishment should be abolished, while others believe it should remain the way it is. This type of punishment has claimed the lives of many innocent people. Causing hurt amongst families, mistrust against the judicial system, and drastic life altering circumstances for those wrongly accused. Not to mention how the actual criminal is still in the community waiting for his or her moment to strike again.
The law says, “A person is innocent until proven guilty.” Some of us live by this statement while others laugh at it. The actions of the government has to prove that the person is guilty, and there can’t be any doubt left in the mind of the jury. The individual is placed before a grand jury of his or her peers, and the jury listens to the arguments provided to determine if the individual is guilty or not. After all arguments have been heard the jury deliberates to determine the person’s guilt or innocents. A verdict of guilty is turned over to the judge so that he or she can decide what punishment will be given for the crime. If the verdict is guilty, the judge determines the defendant's sentence according to special federal sentencing guidelines issued by the United States Sentencing Commission. The court's probation office prepares a report for the court that applies the sentencing guidelines to the individual defendant and the crimes for which he or she has been found guilty.
During sentencing, the court may consider not only the evidence produced at trial, but all relevant information that may be provided by the pretrial services officer, the U.S. attorney, and the defense attorney. In unusual circumstances, the court may depart from the sentence calculated according to the sentencing guidelines. (Duff, 2010)
Capital punishment is currently used in 36 states, the U.S. Government, and the U.S. Military. In past times stoning and crucifixions were used as ways of administering capital punishment. Today in the United States the most common used punishment is the lethal injection and some places still use the electric chair.
Capital punishment is believed to affect everyone involved in such a case. The judge, jury, prosecutor, defendant, defendant’s lawyer, family of the victim and the defendant, and the public are all affected by capital punishment. The jury is the one that makes the decision about a person’s innocence. After the guilty verdict has been reached the judge determines the punishment. Most of these individuals pray that they have made the right decision. No one wants to be a part of an innocent person being put to death for a crime that they did not commit. The family of the defendant has to deal with the fact that their loved one will never leave the prison alive again.
When talking to others about how they feel about capital punishment most will tell you that they are against it. Some are against it for religious reasons and others are against it because of the possibility of an innocent person being killed for a crime that they did not commit. Such is true in the 1945 case of Lena Baker. Lena Baker was an African-American woman living in Georgia, who was the first and only woman to be executed in the state of Georgia. Ms. Baker went to jail for killing her employer. Ms. Baker tried to plead her case, which was that it happened in self-defense. The jury was full of Caucasian men that knew what type of person her employer was but because she was black there was no way anyone was going to speak on her behalf. Even the Caucasians that saw her grow up turned their backs on her. Their ideas of her could not have been further from the truth. This case was one of the most of fair cases I have ever heard of. Ms. Baker’s lawyer was even against her. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by electric chair. In 2005, 60 years later, Ms. Baker was pardon, but what good is a pardon to a woman that has been dead for 60 years? Lena Baker went to her death calmly and proclaiming her innocence. Her last words were, "What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself. Where I was I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I have nothing against anyone. I picked cotton for Mr. Pritchett, and he has been good to me. I am ready to go. I am one in the number. I am ready to meet my God. I have a very strong conscience." She was pronounced dead at 11:26 AM, after six minutes and several shocks. The Cuthbert paper reported Baker's death with the headline "Baker Burns." (Phillips & College, 2005).
As humans we make mistakes those mistakes are even made within groups. The evidence given has to provide exact proof that the person is the perpetrator or it is a waste of every ones time and effort, and even case with a preponderance of evidence still convict the wrong person. Those cases have evidence that is made to point the finger in someone else’s direction in an attempt to get away with the crime. When their efforts are effective and they are able to give the illusion that someone else committed the crime they walk away without being punished. The one that gets away with the crime does not learn a valuable lesson. They do begin to believe that they can fool the police and get away with the crime. What else are they to believe?
These are the very laws today that have raised a few eyebrows. While some of us see this as a controversial topic, others see it as a loop hole for criminals to slide right threw. Allowing someone else to bear the burden of their punishment while they continue on their crime spree.
It is still bittersweet when the right person is caught because their family has to grieve as well. The down side is this person actually committed the crime so it is time to accept the punishment that comes with it whether it is sitting in a jail cell, the electric chair, or the lethal injection. The best we can do is sympathize with the family, and attempt to provide support groups for them as well.
Capital punishment has a couple of pros on its side, and those pros are two that are attached to retribution and security. It is human nature to want to harm the person that has harmed the people that we love. In 1998 a man was killed by an enemy in his neighborhood. When they caught the individual he was arrested, but was later released. He was released because the gun he used was found in another person’s vehicle. That news became a problem for the family because this killer got off on a technicality and he got away with murder. The idea of not being able to see their family member again was one thing, but the person responsible was not going to pay for what he had done. Their faith in the judicial system was lost.