- Published: November 19, 2012
In a forward-looking legal system, however, there are many issues with this argument. The first is that these numerous journals that cite statistical proof in favor of the death penalty have faulty methods. In the article “Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs,” Columbia University law professor J.A. Fagan points out that "[m]ost of the studies fail to account for incarceration rates or life sentences, factors that may drive down crime rates via deterrence or incapacitation.” One study that did adjust for this did not find that execution was a significant deterrent. Furthermore, he adds that the studies do not differentiate between types of murders; instead, they reductively group all homicides together. Because of the lack of concrete evidence to support that x number of innocent people are saved for each murderer executed, the deterrence argument falls though.
Furthermore, the cost of enforcing the death penalty is much more expensive than other forms of punishment that are likely equal or better deterrents. Judge Alarcón and Dr. Mitchell performed a study to evaluate the cost of execution in California. It found that taxpayers have paid $4 billion more than if a life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) system had been in place. Imagine if that money had gone toward funding education programs in prisons to help inmates readjust to life after prison, decreasing recidivism rates. Additionally, that money could be used to support neuroscience research or help identify offenders with brain disorders. If a forward-looking legal system is to use neuroscience to help determine if one is criminally responsible for one’s actions, then capital punishment might be used less often. Then again, University of Notre Dame law professor Dr. O.C. Snead writes that “capital juries often regard evidence of future dangerousness as the most important aggravating factor in their sentencing calculus.” Knowledge of the brain is a double-edge sword, for if an offender is deemed as irrevocably dangerous because of brain disorder, then he is likely to be put on death row. Policies should be implemented to prevent a form of eugenics against the mentally ill through capital sentencing.
2009. "Death Penalty Deters Murders, Studies Say." CBS News.
Andre, C. and M. Velasquez. 1998. “Capital Punishment: Our Duty or Our Doom?” Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: Issues in Ethics 1(3).
Fagan, J.A. 2006. “Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs.” Columbia Law School.
Judge A.L. Alarcon and P.M. Mitchell. 2012. Costs of Capital Punishment in California: Will Voters Choose Reform this November?, 46 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. S1. .
Snead, Carter. 2008. “Neuroimaging and Capital Punishment.” The New Atlantis. <http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/neuroimaging-and-capital-punishment>