, Research Paper
Moral Justification of the Death Penalty
“There are, of course, political leaders and others who advocate capital punishment as part of a calculated attempt to gain or maintain power, but most people who favor the death penalty are motivated by natural reactions of fear and indignation, as well as laudatory moral desires to protect the innocent and to see justice done” (Nathason and Goldberg). Capital punishment has been used by almost every culture in the world. Execution has been in existance almost as long as people have populated Earth, and has been controversial since. History has shown since the Old Testament and Hebrew and Heian period to the present day, there have been those in favor and those against the death penalty. Whether or not capital punishment should and will be a permanent establishment in our justice system has been discussed by many, in various levels of society for hundreds of years. Although many in society argue the issues in abolishing capital punishment, many areas can point to the moral justification of punishment in general.
Legal execution has existed as long as human culture was brought upon this planet. One of the first written codes of law, composed by Hammurabi of Babylonia and carved on a stone column nearly four thousand years ago, includes death as an appropriate punishment (Bender and Leone 12). With as many tracks of history, punishment has been used for many years. The Hebrew culture used the death penalty as a means of retaliation against criminals. The retaliation was intended to be for the crime that has been made. “An eye for an eye,” is the most common used quotation in associated with this principle. Today, more than one- half of the world’s nations use capital punishment. Iran, for example, was site of more than 470 legal executions between 1985 and 1988 (Zimring and Hawkins 2). In Ireland, capital punishment is legal, but the last state-sanctioned execution was in 1954 (Bender and Leone 13). Many countries took part in accepting the system of the death penalty, in as much where crimes were extreme or not. The death penalty was first used in the United States of America when Daniel Frank was put to death 1622 (Zimring and Hawkins 15). He was convicted of theft in the Colony of Virginia. From that time on, capital punishment has almost always been an issue of the criminal justice system in the United States.
With many areas of the world in favoring the issue of capital punishment, some countries refine an important aspect of death penalty, its “symbolic character.” Capital punishment supporters often cite public opinion as a reason for retaining it, but public opinion or perception almost invariably follows tradition, and the death penalty as symbol is certainly traditional (Zimring and Hawkins 13). Along with its symbolization of governmental authority to employ power against those who threaten society, with murder, rape, etc., if when the government surrenders that power,the public will view that society will be incapable of protecting itself. Therefore in reality, the death penalty is much relevant to controlling the violence it claims. Whereas, a sacrificial ritual is done when one’s life is taken by another, however, not toward the point of slaughter is in effect. It’s not so much an eye for an eye, as it is that certain criminal atrocities against the innocent demand the symbolic blood offering of the criminal’s life (Sidney). With many countries retaining the death penalty, many others abolished the penalty or stopped executing criminals, for it conflicted with the right to life and its bad results. By then eight more states, all European nations, Australia, and New Zealand had either abolished the penalty or stopped executing criminals (Zimring and Hawkins).
Upon the debate over capital punishment, the death penalty is a guaranteed method to eliminate a relapse of criminal behavior. As many speak, criminals should be punished accordingly to their crimes, as reinstated “an eye for eye.” Also, with the fact that a death of criminal is a less efficient manner used, than to strip a man by his liberty. As so Bender states:
As it is by that we learn to speak, to walk, and to satisfy our necessities, so the ideas of morality are stamped on our minds by repeated impressions. The death of a criminal is a terrible but momentary spectacle, and therefore a less efficacious method of deterring others, than the continued example of a man deprived of his liberty, condemned, as a beast of burthen, to repair, by his labour, the injury he has done to society. (23)
When a person is evident in taking another life, one should precede in knowing the consequences it holds. The primary role the government must abide is to maintain law and order. If so a person threatens or hurts the society in any way, the culprit has proved
to be capable of committing more extreme crimes. Therefore, it is justifiable to penalize such person for the crime done in return with death. The criminal should be punished
accordingly to their crime. Only in concern with the moral it teaches society. There is a natural inclination in man to return injury for injury, evil for evil (Bender and Leone 36.) In belief the penalty for murder should be death as it is itself. Whereas, society chooses to take the life of a murderer, in exchange society does not want to lose its own. Rather than be sympathetical to the culprits for their wrong doing, they deserve the penalty it follows for that specified crime. The act of murder is the climax and in return be the same penalty of the crime that had been done. Here Bender precedes his thoughts: ” I believe that man is entitled to free will and that except in rare instances he is both morally and legally responsible for all his acts… I believe that society is justified in destroying the irresponsible murderer if he is known to imperil the life of other persons” (45).
Moreover, many supporters favoring capital punishment may admit to some innocent persons being wrongly executed and with facts of racial issues against black and white is concerned. While on the contrary, racial factors should not be involved in the conviction of such persons. These are facts of unavoidable flaws of the system, yet still is an acceptable way to use, to further protect society. The principal plea of the death penalty is that only by taking a murderer’s life is when true justice is served. As so the most common fear is that an innocent person is wrongly executed, still, the finality of execution requires that accused murderers be given the opportunity to challenge their convictions. Upon that, these murderers are sill given a chance to live to prove their innocence. Though, with the debate over this issue, today, many innocent people were executed for false evidence. Considering that many, judge the system to be unjust. Then again, innocent persons may be carried out for execution, though it can be directed to the saying, “its better to punish the wrong person, rather than let the wrong person go.” For example, with today’s new technologies in science such as DNA, who judges if they do prove to be true or false?
A person who commits a murder, deserves death, for he becomes worthy of the crime he has done. However, noting that he should not be put to death, but primarily in the condition, where he is treated in the same condition, in a acceptable note. The Church’s teaching on capital punishment is sometimes presented in this way: “The state has the right to put those who commit serious crimes to death for the sake of the common good” (Bender and Leone 69). Though this statement may be misleading, the fact that states is that the punishment should be carried out for the sake of the society. With the government, maintaining its ground of law and order for its people. In a short paragraph Bender and Leone had cited: Life is sacred, and that is why God instituted the death penalty- as a way to protect innocent human life (73). For example, one can feel peace of mind, although still knowing by supporting the penalty cannot bring his or her family, friend, etc. back to life. The statement expressly states that justice is served for the murderer’s irresponsible actions.
Naturally, no conclusion can be set forth to be ruled on all aspects of capital punishment, which continues a controversial debate for ongoing years to come. Although in general, capital punishment can point to the moral excuse of punishment to such persons. In view of the fact that the government seeks to uphold law and order, securing the safety of its people. Since this is one acceptable way to show the moral point to society. Until then, society finds a way to protect itself from the murder of its members, this country will continue to be known as “the most lawless nation claiming place among the civilized nations of the world (Bender and Leone 46).