In 1984, Kirk Bloodsworth was arrested and convicted of rape and murder in Maryland and sentenced to death because he resembled a police sketch of the police’s prime suspect. He spent nine years in a Maryland prison before his lawyers were able to convince prosecutors to test a still-novel science of DNA evidence. Bloodsworth was later proven innocent, making him the first death row inmate to be exonerated using DNA.
Bloodsworth, now a promoter for nationwide abolition of capital punishment, is the advocacy director of The Witness to Innocence organization that helped promote a Maryland State Senate bill that was passed last Friday to abolish the death penalty. Nearly 30 years after his sentence, Bloodsworth successfully helped the state that almost wrongfully executed him make sure that cases like his would never happen again.
The death penalty is the most barbaric and unethical practice of the judicial system. There is no rationale for murder. It is, by any ideological reasoning, explicitly and unequivocally wrong. The death penalty is not even reasonable enough to be determined as justice, but rather an unfortunate deterioration from justice into vengeance – the eye-for-an-eye complex.
The only reasoning, albeit inept, for the death penalty would be that it would deter violent crime and murder. But, since it was re-instated in 1976, there has been no significant evidence that the death penalty successfully hinders or decreases the amount of homicides in the U.S.. In fact, murder rates in states without the death penalty have a lower murder rate than states that do.
This is not to mention that the criminal justice system, despite its best efforts, is not infallible. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 142 death row inmates have been pardoned or acquitted of all charges before their determined execution because they were later found innocent. The DPIC also notes seven distinguishable cases where a prisoner was executed and later found innocent or they were not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – including the 2011 execution of Troy Davis. Though there is not an overabundance of such cases, those seven people were given a finite conviction that could never be exonerated.
Capital punishment only makes the state just as bad as the criminals that they incarcerate. It does not bring peace to the victims or the victim’s family. The finality of capital punishment simply makes the problem go away, whereas, indefinite incarceration, would allow the state to work out any inaccuracies in the legal process and would allow a guilty criminal the right to rot in an eight-by-six foot prison cell, lingering in guilt until his or her life naturally ends.
What Bloodsworth and Maryland lawmakers have done is secure the sanctity of the justice system by ensuring that the state cannot be liable for taking an innocent person’s life. The rest of the U.S. needs to follow Maryland and other prohibitionist states and stop fighting murder with murder.