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Views of the Death Penalty Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice system since the earliest of times The Babylonian Hammurabi Code ca 1700 BC decreed death sentences for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer Egyptians could be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burial sites 2 In this country although laws governing the application of the death penalty have undergone many changes since biblical times the punishment endures and controversy has never been greater However in recent times opponents have shown the death penalty to be racist irrational in violation of the United States Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment and economically unsound Capital punishment is racist and discriminates against the poor About forty percent of death-row inmates are black whereas only eight percent of the population as a whole is black 1 In some cases black defendants were four to six times more likely to receive death sentences than white defendants who had similar criminal histories Studies show that the chance for a death sentence is up to five to ten times greater in cases with white victims than black victims 1 The poor are also discriminated against Although murderers come from all classes of society the inmates on death row are almost without exception poor and were living in poverty at the time they were arrested I believe this is because the majority of death-row inmates were represented by court-appointed public defenders and did not have the luxury of high-priced defensive attorneys Also the state is not obligated to provide an attorney at all for appeals beyond the state level The death penalty is irrational As James Carlton has pointed out Capital punishmenthas always been a religious punishment and is reconcilable with humanism3 In other words we would like to think that society has long since left behind the archaic and barbarous customs from the cruel eye for and
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