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Sample Essay – Capital Punishment

Words 1,640

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that death penalty procedures violated the U.S. Constitution. After supposedly putting safeguards in place to prevent the “capricious and arbitrary” application of the death penalty, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Even with reforms in place, it seems that the greatest proportion of people sitting on death row today are poor people and people of color. Recent news coverage has also shown that many of the people sitting awaiting execution may, in fact, be innocent. They often find themselves on death row because of the incompetence of their state-appointed attorneys.

An example of this problem can be seen if one examines recent events in Illinois. In January 2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan issued an open-ended moratorium on executions in that state. Thirteen death-row prisoners were immediately exonerated. Ryan had always been a staunch supporter of capital punishment. That changed in 1998 when, Anthony Porter, a man with an IQ of 51, was scheduled to be executed for a 1982 murder. After receiving a temporary reprieve from execution, Northwestern University investigative journalism students, under the tutelage of their professor, David Protess, obtained a videotaped confession from the real killer.

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