Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper
Is Capital Punishment An Appropriate Penalty For Murder?
Legal professor Ernest van den Haag believes that the death penalty is the good as in a punishment for terrible crimes that are committed. On the other hand professor of philosophy Hugo Adam Bedau thinks that the death penalty is not appropriate, do to it takes the lives of people that can not afford a good defense. I would have to agree with Ernest van den Haag. When a person commits a serious crime like murder, the only fitting penalty is death. “Maldistribution inheres no more in capital punishment than in any other punishment.” (Haag 274) Fear of the death penalty can be a good deterrent. Many people also try to abolish the death penalty by talking about the suffering a convicted murderer has to go through, but what about what the victim had to go through. Further, if we get rid of the death penalty it will show that we are not willing to impose our punishments on people who brake our laws.
Some maldistribution of the death penalty is unavoidable, but that does not mean we should throw out the death penalty. When the death penalty is imposed on an innocent person that is a serious miscarriage of justice. However, when people talk about the maldistribution of the death penalty they are not referring to when it is imposed on an innocent person rather when the death penalty is imposed on guilty minorities, or low income whites, who can not afford a good lawyer. Even if maldistribution occurs among people who should receive the death penalty that is irrelevant to the morality of the death penalty. It is really too bad that if you have money you can get your way out of the death penalty, but money talks in this country. Yes, we should change this policy, but will it ever change? It will probably never change. Still with these problems in our justice system when a person murders another he or she should receive the death penalty. “The only relevant question is: does the person to be executed deserve the punishment?” (Haag 275) It is irrelevant if people of different economic or racial group avoid the death penalty. If we only killed blacks and not whites, or vice versa that would not make the death penalty unjust. We should punish as many people as possible, regardless if others have escaped punishment. To let people escape the punishment they deserve, does not do justice to them, or our society. “Recent data reveal little direct racial discrimination in the sentencing of those arrested and convicted of murder.” (Haag 275) Take the O.J. Simpson case, the majority of the American people believed O.J. to be guilty. Still He was spared the death penalty, and even jail time. O.J. was spared all this because he had millions of dollars, and he was a celebrity. However, people who kill whites are more likely to be executed then people who kill blacks. But blacks usually kill other blacks, so blacks are spared death more than white murderers. Inequality in the distribution of the death penalty is not a reason to abolish the death penalty.
Capital punishment is a very good deterrent. Should we not try to save the lives of potential victims by the fear of the death penalty? “Most abolitionists acknowledge that they would continue to favor abolition even if the death penalty were shown to deter more murders than alternatives could deter.” (Haag 276) Does that mean that abolitionists care more about the rights of a murderer then they care about the rights of the victims? Yes, abolitionists seem to be more concerned about keeping killers alive in jail instead of giving them the death penalty, rather then saving the lives of potential victims, who might of been deterred away from committing murder by the fear of the death penalty. Yes, the death penalty does not deter all potential murderers, but because of its finality it is feared more than imprisonment. In prison convicts receive three square meals a day, they have cable television, and they can lift weights all day long. How is that deterring people away from murder? It may deter a few, but the fear of your life ending in a gas chamber or an electric chair is a better deterrent. If we deter only a couple people from committing murder by keeping the death penalty around, those couple of lives saved are more important than keeping alive convicted murderers because killing them would not deter others. We should also take into account that killing another person is morally wrong, except when that person took the life of another person. We need the death penalty around to scare away potential murderers.
Many people try to say that, “a person sentenced to death suffers more than his victim suffered, and that this suffering is undue according to the lex talionis (rule of retaliation).”(Haag 277) How do we know if a person sentenced to death suffers more then his or her victim did. We should not be concerned if a murderer suffers a little bit. He or she committed terrible immoral crime. The Criminal deserves his or her punishment no matter how painful it may be. What about the victim, did he or she deserve the pain and suffering inflicted upon them? Also, when we punish a criminal we are not punishing him or her to revenge, offset, or compensate for the suffering the victim had to go through. “Punishment is to vindicate the law and the social order undermined by the crime.” (Haag 277) We have laws that everyone is expected to abided by, and when a person commits a horrible immoral crime like killing another they should be punished. They should be put to death and that should be that. Yes, there are circumstances that should be considered. Did the person that committed the murder plan the crime out. If the answer is yes then that person should receive the death penalty. If the person killed some one on accident like running them over with their car they should not receive the death penalty. Only when a person commits first degree murder, and some cases of second degree murder should they be put to death, but not for manslaughter.
If we do not impose our punishments on people who brake our laws will that not show the criminals out there that we are soft on crime. I know that people claim that life in prison is a tuff punishment, but like I said before criminals do not have it that bad in prison. Life in prison is also for only fifteen years, it is not actually life in prison. When a person commits a crime like murder he or she knows the punishments that go along with murder. So when the crime is committed the criminal assumed the risk that he or she might get caught and punished. He or she could have avoided these punishments by not committing the crime. Therefore, the suffering the criminal has to go through, is suffering he or she volunteered to go through. Like when you sky dive you assume the risk that your parachute may not open and you may die. It is the same thing for a person who commits a murder.
Capital punishment is a very controversial topic in our society. Many want it to stay while others want it to go. After reading both Bedau’s and Haag’s I would have to side with Haag. Capital punishment may be guilty of some maldistributions, but what type of punishment is not guilty of maldistribution. Capital punishment is also a good deterrent because of the fear it places in potential murderers because once it is administered to a killer he or she is never coming back. Capital punishment is also the punishment that a murderer deserves because of the suffering the victim had to go through. Further, if we get rid of the death penalty we would be showing future criminals that we are getting more easy on crime.
In Bedau’s paper he points out how the death penalty is not distributed equally. He quotes late supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas as saying, “One searches our chronicles in vain for the execution of any member of the affluent strata of this society.” (Bedau 271) This is true if you have money, and you commit a murder you will probably not get the death penalty. Does this mean we should get rid of capital punishment? No, we should keep it around. If it is maldistributed among the innocent that is another questioned. However, we are not, we are talking about how it is maldistributed among the guilty. When the death penalty is maldistributed among the guilty that does not mean we should get ride of capital punishment, when a person commits a immoral act like murder they should be executed. They were tried and convicted, so now they have to face the music. It is to bad that if you have money or you are a different color you may get out of the death penalty. Should this change? Yes, it should change will it probably not because money talks in this country, but we should not get rid of the death penalty.
Bedau also points out how the threat of the death penalty is not a good deterrent it may even cause a person to kill an innocent person, “if they are reasonably certain of achieving their own death and perhaps some notoriety.” (Bedau 267) Well if they want to die then we should execute them. However, I do not think this is why they kill someone. If they wanted to die they could just kill themselves. I know you could also say that a person may not want to kill himself, but he does not have to kill someone to be killed. All they have to do is wave a gun in the face of a cop, and you will probably be killed. Then if they do kill some one for notoriety then we should also execute them because they committed an immoral act. He also gives a situation that happened in England when pick pockets would be executed for their crimes, that pick pockets actually did a great deal of pick pocketing during an execution. This may be true. however, we are not going to deter all potential murderers, but if we deter just one murder that is one innocent life saved. Just because we can not deter all potential murderers we should not get rid of the death penalty.
Bedau also thinks that the death penalty is not just imposed for retribution a “a life for a life.” (Bedau 269) He then goes on to say, “Most defenders of the death penalty have implied by their willingness to use executions to defend not only life but limb and property as well, that they did not place much value on the lives of the criminals…” (Bedau 269) This may of been true in our past history, but it is not true no more. Yes, people used to be executed for things like rape, kidnapping, and even the descration of a grave. However, this no longer happens. The death penalty is only handed out to peolpe, who commit horrible immoral crimes like premeditated murder. Does this mean that we should throw out the death penalty because people, who did not really deserve to die, were killed? No, we have changed the laws, and no one gets the death penalty unless they deserve to die.
Capital punishment should stay around. Yes, there are some maldistributions on the way it is opposed on a person, but those maldistributions are imposed on guilty people. Capital punishment is feared by potential murderers because once it is ordered on them they are not coming back. When those potential murderers are deterred away form murder, those are innocent lives that are saved. Further, if we get rid of capital punishment we will just be showing criminals that they can get away with murder, and be punished that severely.