The death penalty should remain abolished in Michigan

Foster Neve-Jones, Assistant Web Editor and Knights Speak

A summer’s night, 1828. A crisp breeze cuts the warm weather as the silence is broken by the heavy footfalls of three people, two on either side of a chained man leading up to the wooden steps of the mechanation of murder, the gallows of then Ontario, and now Michigan.

11 years before Michigan was admitted as a state, Patrick Fitzpatrick, a Michigan settler, was tried and found guilty for the murder and rape of an shopkeeper’s daughter. The same year that the territorial courthouse was built to confirm Michigan as a territory of the United States, Fitzpatrick was given the death penalty and was hung quickly after the conviction.

The death penalty has a long history in the U.S., despite having little history at all in the state of Michigan, as Michigan has had the death penalty abolished since 1837, the year that the state was admitted into the union. Many countries have completely abolished the death penalty, but when Michigan became a state, they were the first English speaking government to do so.

Only 13 executions were ever carried out in Michigan’s history, only one of these executions was after being accepted into the United States as a formal state when Tony Chebatoris was executed federally after attempting to rob a federal bank, shooting 4 people in his escape, before being apprehended while hijacking a car.

The rest of these executions were under French or British rule in the Michigan area, or when Michigan was just a territory of the union.

 The death penalty is widely controversial topic and is subject to heated debates over a multitude of its issues. However, the death penalty is ineffective, immoral, and frequently incorrectly used.

In 1835, seven years after Patrick Fitzpatricks hanging, a former roommate of Fitpatrick admitted his guilt to the crimes that Fitzpatrick had been accused, convicted, and hung over. He was exonerated of the crime, but the damage was done, and it had its effect on the decision two years later to abolish the death penalty in the State’s constitution. Even in 2020, the question of a convict’s innocence remains an issue.

In 2020, Michigan had the second highest wrongful convictions across the United States. Overall across the United States, just over 4 percent of those on death row are wrongfully convicted, that means 1 in 25 people are innocent of the crime that they have been tried and convicted for.

With evidence like this it’s easy to point out flaws in the justice system, especially when the price that you pay is literally the death of an innocent person. However, there are other problems with the death penalty.

In 2004, the Michigan House of Representatives upheld the states long standing abolition of the death penalty, Representative Jack Minore argued in his statement “The death penalty’s not a deterrent. In fact, the figures would suggest it’s just the opposite.”

According to a study done by the New York Times, 83% of US states without the death penalty had homicide rates below the national average. Research around the world shows that the death penalty does not provide a true deterrent to violent crimes. 

When the point of having a punishment does not lead to a decrease in violent crime that you meant to reduce, why have it at all? If your goal is not accomplished one way, why not try another?

The largest and most controversial argument around the death penalty centers around morals. While everyone thinks differently on this subject, there are some fundamental agreements that people have made throughout the years. 

The United States government in part is meant to provide for the safety and welfare of its citizens, while the conviction and imprisonment of murderers, rapists, and others who commit violent crimes, the death penalty breaks this idea of welfare.

The death penalty does not accomplish it’s goals of reducing crime and does not protect the welfare of United States citizens. It has a high chance of putting a completely innocent person to death all for nothing. The death penalty would be an awful addition to the justice system in Michigan, and should continue to remain abolished.