For the history portion of this project, I synthesized the morality and effectiveness of the death penalty with the legal system and congress. I wrote laws while creating speeches to present to congress. I also conducted a poll to see the local area's opinion on the death penalty and created campaign pamphlets. For english I synthesized persuasive and narrative writing in order to create protest literature against the death penalty.
Theme: Revenge and Regret
I used this theme in my project by reading the book Dead Man Walking which was written about a Nun's experience working with death row inmates. This helped me integrate the sense of regret many death row inmates feel and the sense of revenge society feels into my project.
Protest Literature Writing
#3 Snow gently fell from the gray February sky as a small black car pulled up to the Pennsylvania prison. The door opened and a bundled up sixty year old priest by the name of Nicholas stepped out in front of the prison gates. He had requested a meeting with the prison’s warden, Christopher, a day earlier. The guards quickly recognized him and opened the gates, and he stepped through to be quickly searched by two more guards. After security was certain he was carrying no contraband, he was let through and into the warden’s office.
He stepped into the office, and was discouraged to see the warden’s impatient expression. Although he hadn’t mentioned it, they both knew he was here to protest the execution of David Brown, whose execution was scheduled to be in one week by electric chair. “Please, sit down,” the warden beckoned to a wooden chair positioned in front of his desk, and the priest took a seat. “As you have likely figured out”, he began, “I, as David’s spiritual advisor, request that you thoroughly reconsider his execution.” “I have told you, Nicholas, that David has already gone through the justice system. He has been found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.” “It is not the state’s place to decide who lives and dies. If David had been arrested just twenty miles north in New York, the death penalty wouldn’t be a possibility for his fate.” “He wasn’t arrested twenty miles north,” the warden says, unsympathetic to the priest’s argument. “Our rehabilitation centers are meant for rehabilitation, not sentencing fellow man to his death. God, not the government, is the only one pure enough to determine a man’s fate.” “We didn’t sentence him to death,” the Warden’s voice began to rise, signaling his irritation, “he did, when he murdered and robbed to innocent hikers in the woods, and left their bodies to rot”. “He has committed terrible crimes, but how are we better? If we kill another man in revenge?” “As a priest I am sure you are familiar with the verse Matthew 5:38 to 42. ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye.’” “The bible also says thou shall not murder, and that is exactly what you are doing by sentencing this man to death.” “David has shown no remorse about the murders. He mocks the guards in our prison and taunted the victims’ families in court. He is not fit to be protected under the moral laws that we hold each other to. He is less than human.” “Even if that is what you think, how can you justify spending thousands on this penalty in the first place. If we would refuse to carry through with it, more money could be spent on law enforcement in the streets preventing murders like this.” “The death penalty serves as a deterrent to murder. It is necessary that we make an example out of the worst of society to prevent this tragedy from happening again.” “By committing murder, criminals are already exposing themselves to a great deal of harm from their victims fighting back. The additional slight chance of the death penalty does little extra to deter them,” the priest said , beginning to recognize that there was little chance of the warden changing his mind. “The victims’ families have a right to closure, and criminals like David have no place in our society. The execution will take place on Monday, and that is final.” “I see,” the priest said, giving up. He left a bible on the warden’s desk, with the passage Ephesians 4:31-32* marked, and walked out to his car. After the snowy drive home he sat alone preparing David’s final words of religious redemption before his execution on Monday, February 17th, 2014.
*Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.*
#2 David stared blankly at the calendar on the wall, marked January 14th, just over a month before his scheduled execution. Two prison guards stood behind him, their bodies tense. They were in the same room as Michigan’s most notorious criminal, the man who had murdered a group of three hikers, one seven months pregnant, for drug money. David forced himself to ignore the police’s presence, and instead rapped his tattoed knuckle on the desk while staring blankly ahead. Five minutes later the door rattled open and David’s spiritual advisor, Nicholas, entered the other side of the room. The priest sat down, opened up the bible in his lap, and read, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” He let the silence settle throughout the room. “You have to change your ways.” “The joy on their faces when the judge sentenced me was too much, I just couldn’t handle it.” David spoke softly, nearly tearing up. “They will never let you off of death row now.” Nicholas’s face showed genuine remorse at David’s situation. Silence fell across the room as they both remembered the scene that had been made in the courtroom. As the jury had found David guilty of capital murder, he had screamed “to hell with you” at the family of the victims and attempted to lunge toward them. Three guards quickly grabbed and slammed him down onto the ground while the judge slammed her mallet on her desk. “Order,” she screamed, and just like that David’s chances of getting off death row were over. For a while the room was silent except for the soft humming of the fan. Nicholas finally ended it when he spoke regretfully, bringing more bad news. “The plea for your execution to be moved by the courts was denied. It is still set for February 17th.” David felt his hands clamp tighter, but not words left his mouth. “We haven’t given up yet, though,” Nicholas said, referring to the NCADP (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty), an activist group he was a part of “Next week we plan to appear in front of the governor, and three weeks after that I am appealing to the prison warden.” David choked down the rage that had hurt him so much in the past as he saw the man in front of him. “Thank you,” he blurted out. “I have been drug free for a month thanks to your help, and even if I die, I will do it as a new man.” Nicholas only managed to give a nod before a guard entered the room and told them time was up. David rose from his chair and submissively allowed two guards to handcuff and shackle him before he was dragged back to him cell.
The five cops moved carefully through the woods: two holding flashlights, two carrying pistols, and one on the radio. Just ten minutes earlier, at 8:47 pm, 911 had received a series of frantic calls from nearby residents claiming to have heard gunshots. By the time they arrived, the usually busy summer hiking trail had cleared out, and what was left was a foreboding darkness in the empty woods. The cops split up, each checking a different area of the park. Due to the parks small size, it was only a short matter of time until a cop found the crime scene. He let out a short gasp as the atrocity of the scene unfurled itself before him. On a group of jagged rocks below the hiking trail lay the bodies of three hikers. One of them a young woman who looked to be pregnant. He quickly radioed the nearby officers, and as he waited for them to arrive, he began to make out more details of the scene. All three of the hikers had several gunshot wounds, and it appeared as though their bodies had been searched for money and their wallets stolen. The other cops arrived, and the bodies identified and given to their families. Two days later a man named David Brown would be arrested for the crime.
Prison guards Gary and Nathaniel stood by the door to the bunker, at attention as the prison warden walked in side by side with the executioner. As soon as they were in, the guards turned to close the gate on the snowy February forest. “I was almost worried the execution would be postponed due to the snow.” Gary commented. “I know. This guy has had his fate a long time coming,” replied Nathaniel. “It would be a shame if the snow was too heavy to get him into the woods.” The execution room was nothing much more than a small black box, occupied by a mere six people, eight if you included the two armed guards stationed just outside. Gary stood by the door to the chamber as Nathaniel helped the executioner strap the inmate into the chair. Unlike most, he didn’t struggle, but rather allowed himself to be bound to the wired metal chair. While he waited, Gary found himself interested in the man’s spiritual advisor. The priest narrowed his eyes in frustration as the final tests were done on the chair, and constantly opened and closed his bible, as if he was only reading a sentence at a time. Although Gary knew that the priest was against the death penalty, he couldn’t help feeling sympathetic for the nervous man. Finally, as Nathaniel walked back from the chair, the executioner signaled he was ready and told the inmate that if he had any last words, now was the time to say them. The priest nodded, and the inmate began. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” As he finished delivering his final prayer, the executioner pulled the lever, slowly but steadily increasing the amount of electricity fed through the chairs twisted wires. The inmate gritted his teeth as his body began to convulse violently, Gary had expected the procedure to be over in under a minute, but as one minute turned into two, and two into three, it looked as though the man’s body was about to explode. “STOP, STOP!” The priest shouted, but his voice could not make it to the executioner or the warden over the sickening popping sound of the electricity. By the time the fifth minute was reached (the maximum amount of time the chair was legally allowed to run before the execution was deemed as failure), and the inmate was still not dead, the electricity was shut off, and the warden ordered Nathaniel to quickly unsecure him from the chair as paramedics rushed into the room. Gary watched in horror as the mans burned body and disfigured face were whisked onto the stretcher and carried out of the room with a blanket over it. He would receive the news that the man had died under hospital care on February 19th, and he would quit his job at the prison on February 20th.
Fellow congressmen, I rise in affirmation of the Bill to Ban the Death Penalty for the following reasons. Firstly, the death penalty is a drain on the state’s funds, and a waste of taxpayer money. An independently funded study in Oklahoma showed that court cases where capital punishment was sought cost an average of three point two times more than court cases where it was not, which means that capital punishment cases costed about seven hundred thousand dollars more than similar cases where capital punishment was not sought by the prosecution. The death penalty is also an unfair punishment to inflict on people when our justice system can be inaccurate and new ways of proving guilt and innocence are constantly being discovered. In fact, a study released 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that one in every twenty five death row inmates is innocent of their crimes. Of these people, almost double the amount are executed before their exoneration than are let out of prison with their lives. Finally, although some argue that the death penalty is necessary in order to deter violent crime and assist law enforcement, various studies have shown that this is not the case. John J. Donohue III, JD, PhD, Professor of Law at Stanford University, stated the following in his Aug. 8, 2015 article "There's No Evidence That Death Penalty Is a Deterrent against Crime.” Common sense tells us that if a man is contemplating murder, the small chance of being executed by the state, (only twenty people were executed in the U.S. during 2016), versus the sizable chance that they are killed by their intended victim or law enforcement on the spot is negligible. Especially when life without parole is still a harsh sentence that they are likely to receive if caught. In conclusion, I encourage you to support this bill on its way through congress because of the expenses and lives of U.S. citizens it could save, and because the death penalty is an unjust and ineffective deterrent on crime. I now yield my time to the chair.
Works Cited Clark, Dan. “Death Penalty: Nicholas Yarris Spent 22 Years on Death Row for a Murder He Didn't Commit.” Daily Local News, Daily Local News, 14 Sept. 2015, www.dailylocal.com/article/DL/20150914/NEWS/150919912. “Costs of the Death Penalty.” Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center, deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty. “Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime? - Death Penalty - ProCon.org.” Should the Death Penalty Be Allowed?, deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000983. Levy, Pema. “One in 25 Sentenced to Death in the U.S. Is Innocent.” Newsweek, 16 Feb. 2016, www.newsweek.com/one-25-executed-us-innocent-study-claims-248889. McCandlish, Laura. “Artist Protests Death Penalty By Painting Prisoners' Final Meals.” NPR, NPR, 22 June 2012, www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/06/06/154447333/artist-protests-death-penalty-by-painting-prisoners-final-meals.