The Constitution of the United States outlines the rights of a person accused of a crime. The individual has a right to a trial and to be judged by a jury of his peers. When the result of a trial is a guilty verdict and the individual is sentenced to death, the individual has a right to appeal the verdict and the sentence. At the present time, there are virtually no limits on the number of appeals the individual is entitled to and the process could take years. Therefore, the process should be altered to limit the number of appeals to one.
The Supreme Court of the United States re-instituted the death penalty in 1976. Between that year and 1995, 314 inmates have been executed in the 37 states, districts, and providences of the United States that allow the death penalty. There are more than 3100 inmates on death row. The majority of executions are of white males. Most executions are by lethal injection or electrocution. In the years since the Supreme Court re-instituted the death penalty through 1994, there have been approximately 467,000 homicides in the United States. Based on that number, 2.8 people will die every hour at the hands of another person.
Death row inmates are often on death row for years, some upwards of twenty years. This puts great financial strain on taxpayers' money. While in prison, inmates have many privileges, including cable television, the chance to pursue a college degree, and free health care, all at taxpayers' expense. There are many law-abiding citizens who don't get these benefits. It is appalling to think these people have a virtual life of leisure while in prison. There are some death penalty opponents who believe that convicts don't get enough privileges and lobby for better living conditions and the rights of the convicted felons. Lost in this passionate pursuit of human rights are the rights of the dead victim and those of that victim's family.
The appeal process is lengthy and time-consuming. The appeal process is almost automatic for
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Individuals sentenced to death. Many appeals are filed by the convicts in hopes of overturning their
Conviction or to change their sentence to life imprisonment. Although a great majority of these cases are handled pro bono by lawyers ethically opposed to the death penalty, no consideration is taken in respect to the cost to taxpayers for the local, state, and federal government to respond to and process these appeals. A little known fact about the appeals process is that many states have laws providing funds for the legal defense and appeals for convicted felons. At these convicts' disposal is up to $125 per hour for legal fees. Money that could be better spent elsewhere is wasted on people that have been given due process and now must answer for their crimes against society.
This proposal is both simple and efficient. Death row convictions are entitled to one appeal. This appeal process would begin the day after the individual is sentenced to death. The appeal should have some preferential treatment in regard to its priority, but that is only to expedite the process to be concluded within a year's time. A year from the date of sentencing either the individual is put to death or his death sentence is overturned. Either way, the matter is dealt within a more timely and efficient manner. This would lessen the burden on taxpayers a great deal and unclog the legal channels by not having it mired down by the limitless appeals for each inmate.
Expediting the execution process also gives the family of the victims closure. To have the process drawn out does not allow the healing process to begin for the loved ones of the victim. It keeps the pain fresh and life for them is on hold until justice is served. It is a further insult to them to put the rights of a murderer over the rights of the victim. The convict demonstrated a lack of regard for human life by taking the life of another. The basic premise of human intelligence is the ability to reason and make decisions. This person made a conscious decision to take a life. Regret and remorse will not change the outcome of those actions. This person does not deserve the life of idle comfort typically afforded to convicts.
On 24 April 1996, President Clinton signed the Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorist Bill. The purpose of this bill is to deny legal elongations by both the system and the convict. It limits the
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Appeal time frame after the state affirmed death sentence. The convict has one year to file an appeal and
One year to adjudicate that appeal. This bill is a step in the right direction. At this point, the bill has been upheld as fair and constitutional, but not without challenges.
The re-institution of the death penalty has not been the deterrent against violent crimes that advocates had hoped for. Part of the reason is the ability of an accused to plea bargain and avoid the death penalty all together and another is the anticipated length of time to be served on death row. If the government would take a hard line stand on this issue and enforce the death penalty efficiently, perhaps it would send out a different message to the would-be murderers on the streets.
The money that would be saved could be spent on bettering the nation and domestic problems in our country. This money earmarked to help felons could help get the homeless of the streets, feed the hungry, and help educate the youth. These convicts are not productive members of society and it is time that productive citizens demand swift justice and stop supporting these murderers with our hard earned money. The rights of the general public who obeys the laws should have more significance than weight that murderers. This is why death row inmates should be limited to one appeal and executed in a timely fashion.