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Death Penalty

– Murder In Disguise Essay, Research Paper Death Penalty: Murder in Disguise?The American Heritage Dictionary defines capital punishment as “the penalty of death for the commission of crime.” The death sentence has been applied since ancient times as punishment for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder.

– Murder In Disguise Essay, Research Paper

Death Penalty: Murder in Disguise?The American Heritage Dictionary defines capital punishment as “the penalty of death for the commission of crime.” The death sentence has been applied since ancient times as punishment for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. In 1976, U.S. states began creating a bifurcated trial procedure that would legally allow imposing the sentence of death. The states did so in response to the 1972 (Furman vs. Georgia) Supreme court decision which ruled that death penalty statutes were too vague and ambiguous, thus unconstitutional and illegal. The two tier system reserved for capital punishment cases relies on jurors to decide on innocence or guilt. Another jury decides whether or not to impose the death penalty. The vote must be unanimously recommended for the death sentence to be imposed. Jurors, acting in societies best interest, have sent a clear message. Those who are compelled to commit a heinous premeditated murder must be ready to accept the consequence prescribed by law, death. Nearly 3 of 4 Americans support the death sentence as a form of punishment. The other third has condemned it and their list of claims against it is long. Opponents challenge proponents on issues of deterrence, economics, fallibility, and rehabilitation. Their indifference to capital punishment is founded on constitutional and moral grounds.Moral Issues:The sacredness of life has been taught for centuries. One can find it s teachings throughout western history. This reverence for life is often cited to oppose the death penalty. “Those who base their opposition to the death penalty on moral grounds argue that life is sacred and killing is always wrong, whether it is done by an individual or by the state.” (Honeyman .3) It is safe to say that most of us would agree that our lives are precious, and even sacred. Most of us also agree that killing is wrong. But not to punish a criminal that takes the life of another with the ultimate punishment, that being death, is to devalue all human life. Miller shows, “To punish a murderer by incarcerating him as one does a pickpocket cannot but cheapen human life. Murder differs in quality from other crimes and deserves, therefore a punishment that differs in quality from other punishments.” (87) By not giving criminals the proper quality of punishment, we send the wrong message to our society. We ignore the gravity of the crime by a mere slap on the hand and a trip through a revolving door. “To refuse to punish any crime with death is to suggest that the negative value of a crime can never exceed the positive value of the life of the person who committed it.” (Miller .88) We ve all heard the saying that actions speak loader than words. The fore mentioned viewpoint demonstrates a lack of value for the victims life. Biblical Perspective: The Bible has always been a source of moral foundations for western civilization. God set forth his word as a guide by which to live our lives. These commandments have stood the test of time. The above viewpoint that holds killing by the state as wrong may site the ten commandments as source. “Thou shall not kill.” But if one takes this commandment in context it clearly means, “Thou shall not murder.” Even in the ancient times, God demanded retribution for bloodshed. In Genesis 9:6, God s word says “whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed.” ( NIV) This scripture explains that wrong doers must face the consequences of their actions. In accordance with the Bible, all authority is instituted by God. The government bears all responsibility in punishing the criminal. In Romans 13 scripture reveals, “he who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted he (government) does not bear the sword for nothing. He is gods servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”(NIV13: 24) Here we see that God intended the government institutions to carry out punishment of criminals. It also shows that if we are not strict and swift in carrying out the punishment, criminals will be compelled to commit more crimes. Ecclesiastes 8:11 teaches us , “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (NIV ) Deterrence and Economics:Opponents argue that the death penalty cannot work as a deterrent because of procedural safeguards required by the courts in capital cases. Without these procedural safeguards, the risk of making a mistake and executing the innocent would be inevitable. This may be true even in cases that do not involve capital punishment. No one has claimed that the justice system in the U.S. is perfect and infallible. However, the death penalty is irrevocable and for this reason it deserves special attention. States have constructed a bifurcated trial system which focuses and addresses this concern. The questions of fact are made clear and a judgment is rendered to the best of a juries ability. This process is swift when compared to the appeals which follow. “Appeals courts review questions of law deciding whether prosecutions were procedurally correct.”(Kaminer 125) Opponents suggest that they are “necessary to reduce the likelihood of the execution of innocent persons.” Deciding on the constitutionality of a case through the appeals process takes an average of 10 years, not to mention , a lot of taxpayers dollars. To anyone, this would seem to be extremely wasteful and unnecessary considering that the facts have already been decided. In fact, this process could only be seen as a costly attempt to remove oneself from responsibility through the discovery of a procedural technicality and , in effect, seriously dampen its plausibility as a deterrent. Opponents sympathize with the criminal and argue that “even the severest punishment will not deter those who expect to escape detection and arrest.”(Bedau 4) This may be so, but statistics might give us insight as to why this is. As of 1993, there were 2,575 murderers under the sentence of death. That same year, only 22 were put to death. That is less than 1%.(The World Almanac ) There does not seem to be any “severe punishment” involved at all. Law has been reduced to a threat and criminals are calling societies bluff. Even if a criminal is caught for a lesser crime than murder and imprisoned, the prison life could hardly be described as punishment. With conjugal visits, basketball courts, free-weights, libraries, three healthy meals, medical, the right to file suit and have a hearing, not including the barbed wire fences, prison just falls short of all the amenities of a free society. Sentences and actual time served are also an indication of the disproportion of justice. CrimeSentences vs. Time Served for Selected CrimesSource: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Corrections Reporting Program, 1991, February 1994The following is a comparison of the average maximum sentence lengths (excluding both life and death sentences) and the actual time served for selected state-court convictions, based on 1991 data. Crime Sentence Time servedMurder 18 years, 11 months 8 years, 1 monthRape 10 years 4 years, 9 monthsRobbery 8 years, 10 months 3 years, 4 monthsBurglary 6 years, 5 months 2 years, 2 monthsDrug Offenses 5 years 1 year, 6 monthsWeapons Offenses 4 years, 1 month 1 year, 9 monthsIncapacitation:Another argument is that “violence breeds violence- that the death penalty carried out by the State against it s own citizens in effect legitimizes willful killing”. Opponents claim that if severe punishment could deter crime, imprisonment could be just as, if not, better than capital punishment. In defense of their claim, they cite the difference in homicide rates of Michigan and its neighbor Indiana ( one state without and one with the capital punishment, respectively). (Miller 69)”Between 1972 and 1990, the homicide rate in Michigan was generally as low as or lower than the neighboring state of Indiana, which restored the death penalty in 1973 and since then has sentenced 70 persons to death and carried out 2 executions.” (Bedau 4) In another case, they have attempted to prove that homicide rates increase as a result of the death penalty, lending to their “brutalization hypothesis”. At a first glance, this argument would seem to hold water. However, the comparison of the homicide rate between states with and without the capital punishment would be at most a narrow and inconclusive indicator of a problem which continues to plague this country. Statistics show that crime and homicide are on the rise. “The number of reported murders was up 3% in 1993 versus 1992 ” (The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995) Between these years, sentencing of criminals to more than 1year imprisonment increased in federal and state institutions by 13.2% and 7%, respectively.(The World Almanac ) Repeat offenders accounted for a 17-30% increase in the prison population. These statistics give us a clearer picture of the deterring effects that imprisonment has on violent criminals. Barbarity:Under the constitutional Eighth Amendment, the death penalty used to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Those against capital punishment continue to cite examples of barbarity. “Death on the gallows is easily bungled: If the drop is too short, there will be a slow and agonizing death by strangulation. If the drop is too long, the head will be torn off.”(Bedau 9) Electrocution doesn t always work the first time. “At this point Don s body started convulsing violently His face and body fumed a deep red and the veins in his temple and neck began to bulge until I thought they might explode.”(Bedau 10) Accidents do happen and one must remember that they are unintentional. Because of this, most executions are now done by lethal injection. But opponents still find this to be cruel. “The authorities repeatedly jabbed needles into Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had been a drug abuser.”(Bedau 11) In the end, appealing to the idea of cruelty by using more humane methods will be fruitless and catering to their argument could imply guilt. “The difference between crimes and lawful acts, including punishments, is not physical, but legal; crimes differ from other acts by being unlawful.”(Miller, 83) Opponents will continue to argue that capital punishment has failed as a deterrent, economically, statistically, humanely, and morally. In an attempt to summarize their position on the death sentence, they would have us believe that “executions seem to appeal to strange, aberrant impulses and give an outlet to sadistic urges.”(Bedau 11) This may be true for some people, even those who oppose the death penalty. Tit for tat, the bottom line is this. Our legal system has set a standard for society in the best interests of society. Whether or not it is being applied diligently, if at all, is debatable. Jurors have been given the chance to decide and their message is clear. Those who are compelled to commit a heinous premeditated murder must be ready to accept the ultimate consequence prescribed by law, death. For the proponent, “punishments- fines, incarcerations, or executions, although often physically identical to the crimes punished, are neither crimes, nor their moral equivalent.”(Miller, 83)

1. Honeyman, Jennifer C. and Ogloff, James R.P., “Capital Punishment: Arguments for Life and Death”, Reprint from the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, Vol. 28: 1 January, 1996. 2. Miller, Robert K., The Informed Argument, (1986). 3. New International Version, Life Application Bible, (1991). 4. Kaminer, Wendy, “It s All The Rage; Crime and Culture”, (1995). 5. Bedau, Hugo Adam, “The Case Against the Death Penalty”, IRC, gopher.nyc.pip sues/death/case_against. 6. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995. ” Capital Punishment: Murder in Disguise?”

ByDr. Philosophy8/16/96The American Heritage Dictionary defines capital punishment as “the penalty of death for the commission of crime.” The death sentence has been applied since ancient times as punishment for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. In 1976, U.S. states began creating a bifurcated trial procedure that would legally allow imposing the sentence of death. The states did so in response to the 1972 (Furman vs. Georgia) Supreme court decision which ruled that death penalty statutes were too vague and ambiguous, thus unconstitutional and illegal. The two tier system reserved for capital punishment cases relies on jurors to decide on innocence or guilt. Another jury decides whether or not to impose the death penalty. The vote must be unanimously recommended for the death sentence to be imposed. Jurors, acting in societies best interest, have sent a clear message. Those who are compelled to commit a heinous premeditated murder must be ready to accept the consequence prescribed by law, death. Nearly 3 of 4 Americans support the death sentence as a form of punishment. The other third has condemned it and their list of claims against it is long. Opponents challenge proponents on issues of deterrence, economics, fallibility, and rehabilitation. Their indifference to capital punishment is founded on constitutional and moral grounds.Moral Issues:The sacredness of life has been taught for centuries. One can find it s teachings throughout western history. This reverence for life is often cited to oppose the death penalty. “Those who base their opposition to the death penalty on moral grounds argue that life is sacred and killing is always wrong, whether it is done by an individual or by the state.” (Honeyman .3) It is safe to say that most of us would agree that our lives are precious, and even sacred. Most of us also agree that killing is wrong. But not to punish a criminal that takes the life of another with the ultimate punishment, that being death, is to devalue all human life. Miller shows, “To punish a murderer by incarcerating him as one does a pickpocket cannot but cheapen human life. Murder differs in quality from other crimes and deserves, therefore a punishment that differs in quality from other punishments.” (87) By not giving criminals the proper quality of punishment, we send the wrong message to our society. We ignore the gravity of the crime by a mere slap on the hand and a trip through a revolving door. “To refuse to punish any crime with death is to suggest that the negative value of a crime can never exceed the positive value of the life of the person who committed it.” (Miller .88) We ve all heard the saying that actions speak loader than words. The fore mentioned viewpoint demonstrates a lack of value for the victims life. Biblical Perspective: The Bible has always been a source of moral foundations for western civilization. God set forth his word as a guide by which to live our lives. These commandments have stood the test of time. The above viewpoint that holds killing by the state as wrong may site the ten commandments as source. “Thou shall not kill.” But if one takes this commandment in context it clearly means, “Thou shall not murder.” Even in the ancient times, God demanded retribution for bloodshed. In Genesis 9:6, God s word says “whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed.” ( NIV) This scripture explains that wrong doers must face the consequences of their actions. In accordance with the Bible, all authority is instituted by God. The government bears all responsibility in punishing the criminal. In Romans 13 scripture reveals, “he who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted he (government) does not bear the sword for nothing. He is gods servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”(NIV13: 24) Here we see that God intended the government institutions to carry out punishment of criminals. It also shows that if we are not strict and swift in carrying out the punishment, criminals will be compelled to commit more crimes. Ecclesiastes 8:11 teaches us , “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.” (NIV ) Deterrence and Economics:Opponents argue that the death penalty cannot work as a deterrent because of procedural safeguards required by the courts in capital cases. Without these procedural safeguards, the risk of making a mistake and executing the innocent would be inevitable. This may be true even in cases that do not involve capital punishment. No one has claimed that the justice system in the U.S. is perfect and infallible. However, the death penalty is irrevocable and for this reason it deserves special attention. States have constructed a bifurcated trial system which focuses and addresses this concern. The questions of fact are made clear and a judgment is rendered to the best of a juries ability. This process is swift when compared to the appeals which follow. “Appeals courts review questions of law deciding whether prosecutions were procedurally correct.”(Kaminer 125) Opponents suggest that they are “necessary to reduce the likelihood of the execution of innocent persons.” Deciding on the constitutionality of a case through the appeals process takes an average of 10 years, not to mention , a lot of taxpayers dollars. To anyone, this would seem to be extremely wasteful and unnecessary considering that the facts have already been decided. In fact, this process could only be seen as a costly attempt to remove oneself from responsibility through the discovery of a procedural technicality and , in effect, seriously dampen its plausibility as a deterrent. Opponents sympathize with the criminal and argue that “even the severest punishment will not deter those who expect to escape detection and arrest.”(Bedau 4) This may be so, but statistics might give us insight as to why this is. As of 1993, there were 2,575 murderers under the sentence of death. That same year, only 22 were put to death. That is less than 1%.(The World Almanac ) There does not seem to be any “severe punishment” involved at all. Law has been reduced to a threat and criminals are calling societies bluff. Even if a criminal is caught for a lesser crime than murder and imprisoned, the prison life could hardly be described as punishment. With conjugal visits, basketball courts, free-weights, libraries, three healthy meals, medical, the right to file suit and have a hearing, not including the barbed wire fences, prison just falls short of all the amenities of a free society. Sentences and actual time served are also an indication of the disproportion of justice. CrimeSentences vs. Time Served for Selected CrimesSource: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Corrections Reporting Program, 1991, February 1994The following is a comparison of the average maximum sentence lengths (excluding both life and death sentences) and the actual time served for selected state-court convictions, based on 1991 data. Crime Sentence Time servedMurder 18 years, 11 months 8 years, 1 monthRape 10 years 4 years, 9 monthsRobbery 8 years, 10 months 3 years, 4 monthsBurglary 6 years, 5 months 2 years, 2 monthsDrug Offenses 5 years 1 year, 6 monthsWeapons Offenses 4 years, 1 month 1 year, 9 monthsIncapacitation:Another argument is that “violence breeds violence- that the death penalty carried out by the State against it s own citizens in effect legitimizes willful killing”. Opponents claim that if severe punishment could deter crime, imprisonment could be just as, if not, better than capital punishment. In defense of their claim, they cite the difference in homicide rates of Michigan and its neighbor Indiana ( one state without and one with the capital punishment, respectively). (Miller 69)”Between 1972 and 1990, the homicide rate in Michigan was generally as low as or lower than the neighboring state of Indiana, which restored the death penalty in 1973 and since then has sentenced 70 persons to death and carried out 2 executions.” (Bedau 4) In another case, they have attempted to prove that homicide rates increase as a result of the death penalty, lending to their “brutalization hypothesis”. At a first glance, this argument would seem to hold water. However, the comparison of the homicide rate between states with and without the capital punishment would be at most a narrow and inconclusive indicator of a problem which continues to plague this country. Statistics show that crime and homicide are on the rise. “The number of reported murders was up 3% in 1993 versus 1992 ” (The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995) Between these years, sentencing of criminals to more than 1year imprisonment increased in federal and state institutions by 13.2% and 7%, respectively.(The World Almanac ) Repeat offenders accounted for a 17-30% increase in the prison population. These statistics give us a clearer picture of the deterring effects that imprisonment has on violent criminals. Barbarity:Under the constitutional Eighth Amendment, the death penalty used to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Those against capital punishment continue to cite examples of barbarity. “Death on the gallows is easily bungled: If the drop is too short, there will be a slow and agonizing death by strangulation. If the drop is too long, the head will be torn off.”(Bedau 9) Electrocution doesn t always work the first time. “At this point Don s body started convulsing violently His face and body fumed a deep red and the veins in his temple and neck began to bulge until I thought they might explode.”(Bedau 10) Accidents do happen and one must remember that they are unintentional. Because of this, most executions are now done by lethal injection. But opponents still find this to be cruel. “The authorities repeatedly jabbed needles into Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had been a drug abuser.”(Bedau 11) In the end, appealing to the idea of cruelty by using more humane methods will be fruitless and catering to their argument could imply guilt. “The difference between crimes and lawful acts, including punishments, is not physical, but legal; crimes differ from other acts by being unlawful.”(Miller, 83) Opponents will continue to argue that capital punishment has failed as a deterrent, economically, statistically, humanely, and morally. In an attempt to summarize their position on the death sentence, they would have us believe that “executions seem to appeal to strange, aberrant impulses and give an outlet to sadistic urges.”(Bedau 11) This may be true for some people, even those who oppose the death penalty. Tit for tat, the bottom line is this. Our legal system has set a standard for society in the best interests of society. Whether or not it is being applied diligently, if at all, is debatable. Jurors have been given the chance to decide and their message is clear. Those who are compelled to commit a heinous premeditated murder must be ready to accept the ultimate consequence prescribed by law, death. For the proponent, “punishments- fines, incarcerations, or executions, although often physically identical to the crimes punished, are neither crimes, nor their moral equivalent.”(Miller, 83) Works Cited 1. Honeyman, Jennifer C. and Ogloff, James R.P., “Capital Punishment: Arguments for Life and Death”, Reprint from the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, Vol. 28: 1 January, 1996. 2. Miller, Robert K., The Informed Argument, (1986). 3. New International Version, Life Application Bible, (1991). 4. Kaminer, Wendy, “It s All The Rage; Crime and Culture”, (1995). 5. Bedau, Hugo Adam, “The Case Against the Death Penalty”, IRC, gopher.nyc.pip sues/death/case_against. 6. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1995. ” Capital Punishment: Murder in Disguise?”ByDr. Philosophy8/16/96

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