Last Updated 19 Apr 2023

Dead Man Walking: How the Death Penalty is totally Biased

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My position on the death penalty is that it is completely unfair and an unjust system. Throughout the whole novel we learn how the death penalty was strictly enforced more in the south than in any other part of the nation. The worst part of this was that it was most rigorously used against people who killed “white” people. The death penalty was a system that was racial and also socioeconomic biased, making it totally unfair and one-sided.

In a state that had the highest misery stats in the nation, it was pretty expensive to afford a well-prepared lawyer. By not having a well-prepared lawyer you had to rely on public defenders which usually had many clients to defend that made it impossible to interview inmates before trials, much less do time-consuming investigations that capital cases required; thus the reason why ninety-nine percent of death-row inmates were poor. The government had basically created two types of separate, unjust legal systems: one for the rich, in which everything was put into consideration, every opinion was heard, and where you could buy your freedom; and one for the rich, in which hasty guilty pleas and brief hearings are the rule and appeals are the exceptions.

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Racism was a very big part of this penal system. As both Prejean and Farmer pointed out in the novel, the death penalty biased people who committed murders against white people and that in the south nine times out of ten when the death penalty is sought it’s because the victim is “white”. Around seventy-five percent of death-row inmates were there for killing “whites”. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged, in McCleskey vs. Kemp (1987), that there exists racial bias in capital sentencing and that killers of “whites” are more likely to receive the death penalty than killers of “blacks”. These are the type of things that made this system prejudice towards “blacks”, not only that but it also demoralized their life.

Throughout the novel Prejean strives to do the opposite of what society is doing to these men, which is humanize them. The humanization of both Willie and Sonnier actually made my stance against the death penalty a lot stronger. It just shows that not everyone is perfect and no matter how big or small everyone will have flaws. I do agree with punishment but it doesn’t give the government the right to choose whether you live or die.

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