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Capital Punishment (2548 words)

Capital PunishmentMartin Ferretti
Capital Punishment
Capital punishment was established in this country many years ago to punish those
members of society which have committed horrendous crimes against fellow citizens and in a
way to give the family of the victims a sense of peace. Various forms of capital and corporal
punishment exist around the world and in most cases are very closely related to the religion of
the nation. I believe that capital punishment is an atrocious institution and should only be used in
those very few cases where rehabilitation is not an option because it does not help the criminal
become a member of society. It should be used only for those who kill just for the act of killing
and for no other reason. The killer must be proved guilty beyond a doubt for this punishment to
be used, and many times we find people on death row who are totally innocent of the crimes
which have sent them to their deaths. Something is wrong with the justice system and it should
be changed.
Around the country there is a serious deficit in funds for our schools and courts which
obviously shows in the crimes rates around the nation. Lack of funds at schools, leads to kids
finding a way of living on the streets, by stealing, dealing drugs, and sometimes killing. Lack of
funds in the justice system gives us another problem. Many people who are innocent are sent to
jail for years suffering for a crime they did not commit, and in the worst cases they are sent to
their deaths. The law of this country is that everyone will receive fair and equal representation.
Now, when someone is suspected of committing a crime, they are assigned a lawyer so that they
may have their voice heard in front of the judge and jury and tried fairly. Is it fair that most of
these lawyers works over a thousand hours and in most cases get paid only around two dollars?
What kind of lawyer would work for this amount of money? The justice system is so poorly
funded that it has no choice but to hire lawyers fresh out of college, or lawyers who can get no
other case because of reputation, and throw them into the system to defend a poor guy with no
other means of representation. Is it fair that the poor get such bad representation while the rich
may get away with crimes simply because they can afford to pay for the best lawyers? Certainly
not. To illustrate this point we must look at the case of Antonio James. He has been on death row
at Angola Prison for nearly twenty years waiting for the death when he will walk down the
hallway and enter the death chamber. His death sentence had been previously postponed
fourteen times and he was up for the next walk to the chamber. Mr. James had been in trouble
the law as a young child growing up in the ghettoes of the south, but one day he was with the
wrong guy and totally not in the control of the situation. Shots were fired and in the end, two
people were killed, one two separate occasions. Antonio and two other men were arrested and
tried for the robberies and murders but only Antonio went to jail for any significant time and was
sentenced to death. His partners in crime walked out almost free because they testified that
Antonio was the gunman on both occasions. Antonio went to jail and years later he got a new
lawyer, who discovered evidence that Antonio had not committed the murders. This kept
Antonio alive for years until he was finally put to death. We then look at the case of O.J.
Simpson. Simpson, also African-American, was a popular football star. One day his ex-wife and
her friend were murdered just outside of her home. Later Simpson was placed as the only suspect
and he gave the police and the American public plenty of evidence that he was guilty of the
crime. Simpson was found innocent despite the substantial evidence against him, but only
because he could afford the best lawyers that could be bought. So what are the differences in the
two cases? Both men were tried for murder, and both men were African-American, and yet one
walked free. The issue here is money. How could a judicial system that can be bought
possibly be fair to all people? This country was founded on the words that “all men are created
equal” and yet we treat this phrase as if only all white men or all rich men are created equal and
this is not the case. If the judicial system is to work to its full extent then it should be color blind;
especially to the color green. We also find cases where white defendants get away with crimes
simply because they were white. A good example of this is the recently resolved Diallo case in
the Bronx. If all or one of those officers were African-American or Hispanic, I’m not so certain
the jury would have decided in the same way. Even though much work has been done to stop
racism there is still a long way to go before this country achieves the true equality which Dr.

Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement dreamed of. Problems of the sort still persist
throughout the country but in particular in the same. We must remember, however, that racism
is not only a thing of the South.
So how do we solve a problem as deep as this? We must find a way to revolutionize the
system. Every year, billions and billions of dollars are spent on military prowess and flights into
space, while our education and judicial systems suffer and are worsened. People want quick
answers so the government builds jails to get rid of all the “outcasts” of society, but people don’t
realize that this only causes further problems and further expenditure of tax dollars. The only
way to fix the judicial system is to start with schools. Properly funded schools with good
facilities, faculty, proper maintenance, and proper books have shown to give great educations,
but of course it all comes at a price. Institutions like Horace Mann and other prominent private
schools spend thousands more per student and it obviously shows in the education of the child.

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Even public schools such as those found in prominent neighborhoods such as Scarsdale, are
much better off than city schools simply because of property tax differences. I propose that less
is spent on military and space plans and more on education so that every child in the country
may have enough knowledge to compete in the work place. This competition would only better
the economy in time. With a more educated population, the crime rate would inevitably go
down. The next step would be better funding of the judicial system. It is not fair that poor
defendants who cannot afford their own lawyer receive a sentence because their two dollar an
hour lawyer fell asleep during the hearings. Proper funding of courts would allow these poor
defendants to have a better chance of proving their innocence and that if they are guilty that it
may be proved beyond a doubt. Jails are being produced at an incredible rate because of lack
of funding to schools, but people don’t want to change this new institution because it generates
jobs in poor towns. We as the American people, must begin to look to the future of our children
and grandchildren and not just to our own futures. If we do not attempt to change things now,
how much harder will it be twenty or a hundred years from now to fix everything that has been
done. Legislative action should also be taken to ensure that proper procedures are being
followed. It took the civil rights movement years to get their point across, but they finally did
when the Supreme Court ordered desegregation of schools, buses, restaurants, etc. If a state
did not comply, then the National Guard was sent in such as in Little Rock, Arkansas, when
the Governor refused to desegregate schools. The federal government tries to let each state rule
itself as it says in the constitution, but there comes a time when if something is not done
correctly then some higher power has to take charge, and in this case that higher power is the
federal government, and if it takes the army to get the point across then that is what must be
done. Heavy taxation policies such as those used when Yonkers refused to integrate its school
can also be put into place so that everyone may follow the laws. We call ourselves a democratic
country but if the people cannot do what is best for the country then the government should take
action. President John F. Kennedy once said that “the rights of every man are diminished when
the rights of one man are threatened”. It is the duty of every American and every person around
the world to look out for his/her neighbor. To quote a famous passage from the Scriptures: “Am I
my brother’s keeper?” The answer is yes. We are all held responsible for the way our society
works. Especially in a democratic government which is supposed to be run for the people and by
the people. The statistics show that our society is on a decline and we need to do something
soon. We must make America what it was meant to be and if it means making a sacrifice then
that is what must be done. This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave,
but what kind of freedom is there in a society where social mobility is nearly impossible without
the aid of altruistic sources? For years people have come to America to follow their own religion
without being persecuted, or to escape some kind of threat to themselves. Isn’t it then our duty
to protect the weak and weary? America is the land of opportunity but what price must be paid?
In order to make America truly what it stands for many things must be changed. The
whole system must be changed from the inside out. More money needs to be dedicated to
educating the children and to provide proper resources to the court system. Police departments
should be run the way they were meant to be. They should serve and protect, not kill the
innocent. Many holes need to be patched in the system but it requires a change in attitude around
the country in regards to race and class. We must stop thinking about finding quick solutions and
we must begin to think about the long run, and find solutions that solve problems, not create
more. We live in a democracy and we have the right to decide where our tax dollars go. The
American public needs to make a stand on what’s right before it’s too late the politics of the
system finally cause it to crash.
As Amadou Diallo’s mother mentioned in an interview done by CNN, justice was not
served in this case. Amadou Diallo was shot at forty-one times by four police officers right
outside his home in the Bronx because he seemed to fit the description of a wanted felon. From
the interviews I have seen and the articles I have read in newspapers, it seems to me like this
shooting was nothing but poor police work on the part of the officers. They claim that Mr. Diallo
waved an object that looked like a gun, later discovered to be his wallet, at them and that act
forced them to shoot Mr. Diallo. Certainly in the dark things may get distorted and one might see
something that is not there but it is the police officers’ duty to differentiate between reality and
what appears to be and to take every precaution necessary to ensure that a life will not be
unnecessarily lost. This officers were part of a special crime unit and therefore that fact should
prove that they are especially trained to deal with these types of situations. Another thing one
might consider is that if Amadou Diallo’s wallet was confused for a gun, how could the officers
possibly have any idea whether they had caught the right guy or not. They stated during the trial
that Mr. Diallo was standing just outside his door and that it was dark. It is certainly possible that
this was not the right man, and in this case it was not. So was racial profiling an issue in this
I don’t believe that if one of the four officers were African-American it would have
mattered in any way. If one of the officers had acted in such a careless manner as these four did
then the rest would more than likely have followed with the same reaction, and shot Mr. Diallo.
While the fact that all four officers involved were white seems to me irrelevant, it seems to me
like there indeed was some sort of racial profiling done. The description of the wanted felon
loosely fit that of Mr. Diallo’s. What was the description? A tall, thin, African-American with a
short haircut? That description fits many people. If the police’s job is to serve and protect than
police officers should be better trained to recognize criminals and they should be better trained
to deal with situations of this sort so that incidents like this don’t occur again. Even if one of
those officers had been black, I think racial profiling would have occurred because while Police
Chief Howard Safir denies the NYPD’s use of racial profiling, it seems evident in this case and
in many cases around the country that racial profiling is used heavily.
The NYPD and other police departments around the country should be better instructed
to deal with these kind of situations. The police officers should make sure that the subject they
have caught sight of is the right one. If the subject is in a dark area and can’t be identified, then
every effort should be made to make that suspect come out and show him/herself. Another
problem in the Diallo case is that the officers were probably not very psychologically trained to
deal with what occurred. Police work is very arduous work and it takes a lot out of a person.
Psychological testing should be made available to all officers to ensure their mental well being
so that when they have to make a decision very suddenly, that they can make the right one. The
NYPD is certainly one of the best in the country at what it does, but as shown in this case more
has to be done. Police officers cannot make these mistakes in identifying an suspect. Shooting
should be a last resort. If we cannot trust the police department to do their job than who can we
trust our lives to? Their responsibility is to serve and to protect, not to shoot innocent people.
Every effort should be made to ensure that justice is served and that other officers may learn
from this incident.
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