The Death Penalty


The Supreme Court building.
The Supreme Court building.

The conversation regarding whether to finally do away with the longstanding but out-of-practice death penalty law, while it has somewhat abated in recent months, has caused a staggering divide amongst the country’s electorate.

A considerable percentage of the country’s electorate believes the law should be enforced, as it would possibly serve as a deterrent to those thinking of engaging in criminal activities; and there are those, like myself, who believe that death penalty or not, people would still continue to carry out violent crimes and, for the most part, executing them seems like a lazy, inhumane solution to a very complex issue.

While the view of those who support the death penalty can be understood, in a society with a fractured judicial system such as The Bahamas’, there is too great a chance that a miscarriage of justice could occur and would see innocent persons being killed while criminals who can afford great lawyers and payment of bribes being set free with little more than the proverbial ‘slap on the wrist.’

The death penalty advocates, for the most part, form conclusions based not on facts and statistics, but on assumptions which are aided by their own biases and prejudices. They are largely driven by vengeance, and hold tightly to the maxim “an eye for an eye”, forgetting in the process the rights of every human, be they bad or good.

One of the major problems I have with the death penalty is its pure hypocrisy and false legitimacy. Yes, I do believe a person should be punished for their crimes, but why the state should be allowed to break a law (kill someone) because they broke another is beyond me.
We do not even currently have the capacity to begin implementing the death penalty, if that were decided, as we cannot even charge the non-violent offenders in a reasonable time. Is it unreasonable to expect a defendant to be brought to trial within 6 months of his/her arrest? For argument sake, what legal authority or body can the Bahamian people be represented by to ensure that the sentence is not used vindictively and fairly?

Since a death sentence cannot be rescinded by new evidence proving one’s innocence, the people and those sentenced to death should be able to rely on the Government, private and public sectors to ensure that implementation of the death penalty, and sentencing thereto, is not due to some factor outside of the crime. But, again, even those people are prone to their own biases and anger; so how can one ever know whether or not one is being fairly prosecuted? It does not matter how developed the system is and how upright are the bodies formulated to oversee its management, the fact remains that humans, who are and always will be susceptible to failure, will oversee the system.

Aside from that, the argument of death penalty advocates that it constitutes a deterrent can be seen as flawed at best, as a majority of the crimes carried out are ones of passion. So it is highly unlikely that, in the heat of anger and blinded by ignorance, one would stop to consider that one might be put to death for one’s crime.

Even research is not on the side of those wishing for the death penalty law to be kept, as, time and time again, in various studies it has been proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. The General Assembly of the United Nations once stated, “There is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty.”

Fact is, studies of the views of high ranking officials in top academic criminological societies, have found that an overwhelmingly, experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

In fact, in several states in the U.S and other countries which do not have the death penalty, the murder rates are actually lower.