Irreversibility of the Death Penalty

The intrinsic weakness of the death penalty as a justifiable measure lies in the fact that it is irreversible and irrevocable. Numerous examples bear testimony to the fact that even the highest judicial system of any country can make mistakes, that innocent persons have been dealt the death penalty time and again, that persons on the death row had been granted last minute reprieve when their innocence had been proved.

Studies reveal that more than 200 people have been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes such as murder and rape in California alone since 1989 (Martin). In the United States 123 persons have been exonerated and released from death row since 1973 (Death Penalty Information Center, 2006). A 1980s study in the United States identified 353 cases since the turn of the century of wrongful convictions for offences punishable by death and 25 innocent persons were actually executed (John Howard Society of Ontario, 2001).

The death penalty leaves no scope for errors in judgment. If a person is found to be innocent after the sentence has been carried out, there is no way in which the wrong can be undone. Unlike in other cases, the option for compensation for a wrong done is also completely ruled out in the case of the death penalty.