Capital Punishment for One Innocent Person Is One Too Many

Dominique Ray’s Execution Raises Troubling Questions

Amanda Sheldon, Guest Writer

Convicted of robbery, rape, and the murder of a young girl, Dominique Ray was executed in Febuary of 2019. According to the death penalty Information Center Article: “Execute but Possibly Innocent,” after Ray was prosecuted and killed, there was an in-depth investigation to later uncover strong evidence that supported his innocence. This case can seems so remote from many peoples lives, but it can happen to any one of us. Dominique Ray was simply living with a family, stable career, loving friends, and his entire life ahead of him. However, once wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit, nothing would go back to normal. The death penalty needs to be abolished immediately because there is not enough incorporated evidence or investigation, has severe bias towards certain races, and directly contradicts religious and legal rules stating that murder is wrong.

When sentencing a human to death, it is a permanent sentence that can never be undone. The problem is, all justice systems have the ability to make mistakes, but these errors should not take away a life that is not to blame. We have heard of so many cases where someone is sentenced to life in prison and years later, new evidence was found that exonerates them of their crime and they are released. If this exact scenario were to happen to someone who has already been executed, this would be an inexcusable tragedy that could never be corrected. A study performed by the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 claims that it is estimated that 4% of all death row inmates would be found innocent if their cases were properly handled. There are approximately 2721 people on death row in the United States. This means that there are potentially 109 innocent people waiting to be executed. The only way to make sure this flawed system does not continue, is to abolish the death penalty.

In addition to not enough incorporated evidence, racial injustice is a huge factor when it comes to the death penalty. Men and women of color feel helpless and voiceless regarding the way our justice system was created and how it continues to be racially biased. According to ACLU, as of 1976, 43% of total United States executions have been black, even though they made up only 12% of the population. Furthermore, black people are 4 times more likely to be sentenced to death than white people. Since 2002, 176 black suspects have been executed for the murder of white victims, compared to 12 white defendants killed for the murder of black victims, stated by the ACLU. This racial bias further underscores the fact that our justice system is severely flawed. 

There are countless religious and legal systems that point out the fact that the taking of a human life is not just illegal, but morally wrong. One of the 10 commandments of the Christian religion states “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. As stated by the Legal Information Institute, US code 1111 states that murder is the unlawful killing of a human being. Yet we have a system in place that allows our own government to take a human life. A sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole will provide a severe enough punishment, without the added ethical and morale burden to our society. 

The death penalty is clearly a fractured system with too many issues and is almost impossible to be administered without error. If nothing is done, it will remain going against our ethical values and national belief system, no matter how much it is adjusted. Imagine you are Dominique Ray’s family, discovering the news that the man you loved is put to his death due to an incident he had nothing to do with. If this happens to even one person, it is one too many.