Punishment vs Rehabilitation Essay Example
“As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses…An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation.” (Coretta Scott King) For years, the United States has put people in prison and practices punishing them for their crimes; one of those forms of punishment being executing those convicted of murder. The death penalty is a major topic explored in the film “12 Angry Men” directed by Sidney Lumet. After analyzing the film, plus comparing it to modern court cases, it becomes clear that it’s time for the United States’ to reconsider capital punishment. In the film “12 Angry Men”, directed by Sidney Lumet, prejudice among a jury is prevalent.
Racism is a common form of prejudice and most of the time spoken of by Juror #10. A point where Juror #10’s personality shows is during his racist rant; “Listen to me. They’re no good. There’s not one of ‘em who’s any good.” (Juror #10, “12 Angry Men”, Sidney Lumet) In this line, the Juror’s blatant racism towards people of color comes out as he attempts to convince the Jury that the boy’s race is what makes him guilty. As it was in the 1950s, racism is still an issue among modern-day court cases. The “Hasty Generalization” fallacy, represented by Juror #10, is seen in a modern case by a detective named Mark Fuhrman. Both the fictional jurors, with the real detective their views in a trial clouded by their personal prejudice.
Fuhrman was one of the first investigators on the scene of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman’s murders, during the “People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson” case. During O.J Simpson’s trial, the defendant’s lawyers provided evidence that Mr. Fuhrman was using racial slurs when referring to the defendant. By the O.J Simpson trial, the death penalty was abolished in California, but in the film, the death penalty was a looming presence over the Jury. If someone is found guilty of a crime, due to hasty generalization surrounding their race, then innocent people are at risk of dying at the hands of the U.S. judicial system’s harshest punishment.
“Actually, the death penalty is on the decline….”, a man identified as “Mr. Dieter” begins to explain, “…and...the innocence cases,… DNA, that has [all] led to...skepticism about the death penalty…” (“Death Penalty Under Review”, Chideya & Dieter, “News and Notes”-Podcast) Every so often innocent people are convicted for crimes they did not commit. As stated above, DNA is a valuable asset to attorneys with convicted defendants. But, access to DNA is quite difficult. Many attorneys spend incredible amounts of time plus money fighting to gain a crime’s DNA evidence to prove their client’s innocence; many attorneys work towards gaining this up until their client’s last breath as they are on death row.
One may wonder how this connects to “12 Angry Men”, but the answer is quite clear; Juror #8’s personality is similar to the attorney’s fighting to prove innocence. The attorneys’ and Juror #8’s actions show their personalities; how they are willing to do whatever possible to save an innocent person from being killed for something they did not do. The death penalty does not protect the innocent people like it is believed to, as every execution is a risk for the death of an innocent man.
Not every convict is innocent. This fact causes many to believe that a few innocent deaths are nothing when compared to putting a killers terror to an end. Some convicted criminals proven guilty are The Manson Family, Nicholas Godejohn, and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. At first glance, one would wonder how these different criminals, convicted of different crimes and sentenced in various ways relate to “12 Angry Men”, but these cases fit in well with the film to prove how rehabilitation in the U.S. justice system is a much more beneficial strategy. In the well-known “Manson Family Murders” after about five minutes of reading, one can learn how Charles Manson, the leader of the infamous cult, was in-and-out of prison along with juvenile detention throughout his life.
He has stated, “My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system … I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.” (Charles Manson) Many take away from this line that due to his traumatic upbringing and the way he acted out in his youth, the constant punishment in the prison system is what taught Manson how to manipulate those around him. It is wondered that if he was given more rehabilitation if the outcome of his life would have taken place. As mentioned in the film, the defendant had also grown up around crime and was in-and-out of detention centers. If the boy was guilty, before the death of his father, rehabilitation for the boy would have been more beneficial; furthermore, have changed the outcome of events, and could have been a matter of life-or-death for his father.
The Jurors’ discussion of the boy also opened up another link to a modern day case; the Gypsy-Rose Blanchard/Nicholas Godejohn case. During the jury’s discussion, in “12 Angry Men”, the viewers learn about the boy’s father’s history of abuse. This can be compared to Gypsy Rose Blanchard’s mother, Dee-Dee Blanchard’s abuse of the girl and being found guilty of Munchausen by Proxy. (A mental illness in which the afflicted feel the need to take care of someone and will treat them as if they are ill.)
The form of abuse caused Gypsy Rose to turn to her boyfriend then, Nicholas Godejohn, to formulate a plan to murder Dee-Dee. Godejohn is facing life in prison for first-degree murder, but many believe that Gypsy Rose should be freed or given a shorter sentence due to the abuse she faced that drove her to commit the crime. There seemed to be substantial evidence that the defendant in the film had been through parental abuse, so is it right to put someone to death for an action caused by years of trauma?
The U.S. judicial system should focus more so on rehabilitation than punishment. Racial prejudice can affect a trial, affecting the fairness of a trial. Also, it is difficult for attorneys to gain their client’s or the case’s suspected DNA. For both errors in trials, rehabilitation allows for convicts who may be innocent to have more time to prove their innocence, as once they are executed, it is too late for them to be saved. Furthermore, rehabilitation is more beneficial, because for convicts with a criminal background before they commit murder, can receive help before it's too late to help them turn their lives around.