Capital Punishment in the State of California

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Along with costly trials and imprisonments comes the possibility of wrongfully executing an innocent human being – something of which has unfortunately occurred after past death sentence trials. A wrongful execution can stem anywhere from: inadequate legal representation, police and prosecutorial misconduct to mistaken eyewitness testimonies and racial prejudice or community/political pressures to solve a case. “According to a sweeping new statistical analysis, … the rate of wrongful death sentences in the U.S. is much higher than experts have estimated” (Drehle, 2014).

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This study goes to further show that the proportion of incorrect convictions is roughly four percent of those actually exonerated and, thus, discharged from death row – meaning, that an estimated one-hundred and twenty of the three-thousand death row inmates in America are potentially not guilty, while the wrongfully convicted serve life in prison after their death sentences become reduced due to legal errors. In the United States, “’death sentences represent less than one-tenth of one percent of prison sentences, but they [have] accounted for about twelve percent of known exonerations of innocent defendants’” (Drehle, 2014). Furthermore, the exoneration of innocent inmates is at a higher percentage than the actual percent of sentenced prisoners – statistically, a large effect. The percent of these erroneous executions could easily go down by nullifying capital punishment in the state of California. In California specifically, an approximation of over two-hundred humans have been falsely convicted for murder and other serious offenses. Of the seven-hundred inmates on California’s death row, “six people have been freed as a result of proven wrongful convictions [and] a 2004 study of over thirty cases of wrongful conviction in California [indicated] that African Americans have been wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than people of other races” (ACLU, 2018). Given that mistaken incarcerations to death row are not uncommon, evidently, a good percent of the inmates sitting on California’s death row could as a matter of fact be innocent. However, due to the high expense for pre-trials and trials for the death sentence, those wrongfully accused continue to be held in solitary confinement while the system stands still.

Many of those still in favor of the death penalty are so because they believe it is a deterrent.

However, contrary to belief, that statement has been proven to be untrue. From a 2008 study, “FBI data shows that all fourteen states without capital punishment had homicide rates at or below the national rate” (Death Penalty Facts, 2011). This is presumably due to the fact that the threat of execution is unlikely to affect those acting, either: under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, mental illnesses and not fully grasping an understanding on the severity of the crime being committed. An understanding of these reasonings are becoming evident as “more Americans are recognizing that killing a prisoner is not the only way to make sure he [or she] is never released” (The New York Times). For example, in states where the death penalty is not available, they will apply life without the possibility of parole as a replacement. This, in turn, reduces death sentences: therefore, with capital punishment not serving as a deterrent, the abolition of California’s system would resolve the state’s issues of expenses and possibility of going forth with a wrongful execution. Perhaps, money currently being spent on death row, if the system were to be abolished, could be spent towards officers/guards, courts, public defenders and prison cells. Evidently so, the death penalty in California does not serve as a deterrent to capital crimes and is merely costing the state more for the capital punishment rather than incarceration.

The state of California, within the last twelve years, has purely proven it’s capital punishment system’s amount of corruption. The methodology has not done any good for the state or people in over a decade. Instead, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year to really just imprison these inmates for life, since no executions are being gone through with. As the death penalty remains at a halt, even after the winning of Prop. 66, in 2016’s election, to speed up California’s death sentencing, government money is wasted towards cells to house the growth of the over populating death sentencers. It would make the most sense financially for the state to abolish the process since keeping death row costs much more than holding a prisoner for life. If inmates on death row are going to simply end up living out the rest of their days there, due to the impediment of the system … is it worth paying for their lives?

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Capital Punishment in the State of California. (2019, Oct 22). Retrieved from