Capital punishment cannot be ethically implemented under our current system of justice. While there is a certain utility in removing the worst criminals from our society and a basic justice in punishing the worst murderers, our system of justice as it stands has a record of wrongly convicting people based on faulty evidence, human bias, and inconsistent application of forensics technology, particularly DNA testing. Indeed, DNA testing, our most accurate forensic science, has shed new light on the number of wrongly convicted death row inmates we have behind bars. In an article posted by Scientific American, researchers concluded that roughly 4.1 percent of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death are falsely convicted
DNA profiling was first used in 1985, providing our system of justice with new techniques in the world of forensics. Most notable being its general acceptance by the scientific community as accurate, testable, and repeatable. According to the ACLU, “In the US, as of September 2011, 273 people including 17 death row inmates, have been exonerated by use of DNA tests.” While it is laudable that new advances in science were able to effect such a drastic reform and free many innocent people from an unjust death sentence, it is very disturbing that so many innocent death row inmates were there to begin with, despite our exhaustive appeals process for death row inmates. This begs the question: If this many innocent people were found on death row, how many more innocent people have we, over the years, executed? The implications are quite horrifying.
Based on this, we can conclude that there have been people that have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. Furthermore, we can conclude that our system of justice and capital punishment has executed innocent people. This is the ultimate travesty of justice. As noted jurist William Blackstone famously said, “It is better to let a hundred guilty go free than to let one innocent person suffer.”
These findings point to a potential greater number of innocent death row inmates still behind bars, still awaiting their unjust execution. Not every death row inmate has enjoyed having their case reviewed through the lens of DNA. Indeed, some states have actively fought against having their death row cases reexamined in this way. Without an exhaustive accounting of every death row inmate under the lens of DNA, we must conclude that there are still innocent death row inmates awaiting an unjust death.
To execute an innocent person goes against the very foundations of our civilization and our system of justice. It is an absolute travesty and mockery of everything that we, as a society, believe in. Therefore, until we can determine guilty or innocence with 100 percent accuracy, we cannot ethically implement capital punishment.