The majority of the people on death row are black, poor, uneducated, victims of childhood and neglect. That their profiles have so much in common is no coincidence. It doesn't mean they're not responsible for their actions, they are, but does someone who was present at a robbery where someone was shot and killed rise to the level of the death penalty? The death penalty in America is not reserved for cold-blooded, calculated killers/rapists/child molestors. The robbery-shooting death row inmate story is far too common in death penalty cases. For example, next week in Maryland a man is scheduled to be executed for being present at a robbery where someone was shot and killed. For some reason it doesn't matter that a recent study commissioned by the state of Maryland found an all too common picture of how unevenly the death penalty is carried out.
According to the study, released in January 2003, the death penalty is 2.5 times more likely to be sought against those who commit black-on-white murders than against those who commit white-on-white murders. Furthermore, the death penalty is 3.5 times more likely to be sought against those who commit black-on-white murders than against those who commit black-on-black murders. In addition, the study also found that Baltimore County is 13 times more likely than Baltimore City to seek the death penalty, 5 times more likely than Montgomery County, and 3 times more likely than Anne Arundel County.This alone should be enough for a moratorium, for the death penalty to be reconsidered, for people to realize that the judicial system cannot be trusted with fairly carrying out capital punishment.
I personally have very mixed feelings about the death penalty. On a philosophical level I have trouble with the notion of the state being able to methodically kill its own people. On some level I agree with America's peers, most of Europe, and consider the death penalty to be barbaric and uncivil. However, on a pragmatic level I recognize that there are some people whose crimes against others, against humanity, make them undeserving of life. If the death penalty were reserved for very rare, extraordinary cases-- serial killers, rapists, child molesters, cold and premediated murders-- I think I might be a fencesitter about its legality. But that is not the reality of the death penalty in America. Instead America's death penalty symbolizes all the deeply troubling flaws of our judicial system, reflecting America's most profound inequities. It's time for it to end.