A recent two part documentary in which Sir Trevor McDonald visits inmates on ‘death row’ in Indiana State Penitentiary shows the inhumane and illogical nature of capital punishment.
‘I deserve to be executed’ said Fredrick Baer, an inmate on death row in Indiana State Penitentiary, at the same time facing the superintendent who would be responsible for his death. He seemed unfazed by the fact that one day he would be told the exact date and time of his death. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that he was seven years into his stint on death row and had somewhat come to terms with his fate. He was also seven years closer to death.
Fredrick Baer is not a man that deserves our sympathy. On 26 February 2004, under the ruse of being lost, Baer knocked on the door of twenty four year old mother Cory Clark who lived with her four year old daughter Jenna Clark. He intended to rape the mother. However, not able to go through with the rape, yet aware that he still faced prison he proceeded to slit the throats of the mother and her four year old daughter, killing them both. This is an absolutely horrific crime and one which many would argue is thoroughly deserving of the death penalty. An eye for an eye. Even Sir Trevor McDonald, self admittedly against the death penalty, admitted that when faced with crimes such as Baer’s he understood why many would deem the death penalty an appropriate punishment.
However, despite this, the whole concept of the death penalty seems illogical. From young, children are taught that two wrongs do not make a right. For the victim of an assault to retaliate against the assailant makes the victim no better than the original perpetrator, the idea goes. However, here is a State telling its citizens that it is wrong to kill others yet at the same time doing exactly that to those who do. Therefore use of the death penalty seems inherently contradictory. As asked by Benjamin Ritchie, another inmate on death row in Indiana State Penitentiary, ‘Why are you killing me? You said killing is wrong’.
Then comes the question ‘What if we are wrong?’ Is it ever justified to kill one innocent man if it means the death of twenty others who are guilty? In my view no. Take the example of Reggie Clemons who was arrested aged nineteen on suspicion of killing two young women. He was later sentenced to death for allegedly being an accomplice in the murder. He has maintained his innocence for the whole nineteen years he has sat on death row. Moreover, there are many question marks surrounding his conviction. There is no physical evidence indicating his guilt, he received inadequate legal representation and the jury was ‘stacked’, dismissing many African Americans. This is just one example of how flawed legal proceedings could lead to the death of potentially innocent people.
Although abolished in most countries, capital punishment is still used in China, India and the United States of America, and many more. It is inhumane and illogical and can provide no guarantees that innocent people will not be killed.
UK residents can watch the documentary at www.itv.com/itvplayer