Both Sides Of Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper
Murder is the unlawful killing of another human being with an intentional or criminal intent. In today’s world, terrible crimes are being committed daily. Many believe that these criminals deserve one fate: death. Capital punishment, the death penalty, is the maximum sentence used in punishing people who kill another human being – and is a very controversial method of punishment.
In most states, a person convicted of first degree murder has the potential to be given the death penalty. Capital punishment is a subject that can be counted upon to stir emotion and controversy into any conversation or argument. The very concept provokes a profusion of valid questions and opinions. Today’s daily world of crime and violence calls for punishment of a severe nature, and many citizens argue that the punishment necessary is the death penalty. These people quote passages such as the “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” concept from the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian bible. Some people take the neutral position that there is no right or wrong answer, that each opinion on capital punishment is valid in its own way. Opponents of the death penalty claim that sentencing a person to death does not change the reality of the situation; the harm already done simply cannot be fixed from a vengeance standpoint. You cannot bring the murdered person back by taking the prisoner’s life. Proponents of capital punishment tend to defend their opinion mainly on two grounds: death is a fitting punishment for murder, and executions maximize public safety through incapacitation and deterrence.
The view of proponents of the death penalty in reference to the “let the punishment fit the crime” ideal is that, in the eyes of many law officials and citizens of the United States, if a crime is so serious that it causes irreversible damage or the loss of human life, then the only penalty for such crimes would be death for the individual that committed this act. Many also feel that if an individual can possess the strength and will to take the life of another human being in a planned manner, then they must also in turn be able to face their punishment which could only be a punishment of the same magnitude as the crime they have committed; that being for their life to be ended for the common good. These people feel that, while it is the cruelest punishment, it is the best way to penalize heartless, cold-blooded killers.
The ideal of executions maximizing public safety through incapacitation and deterrence explains that such a punishment as the death penalty would keep callous and dangerous murderers from roaming the streets of our children and innocents. It would serve to “scare” criminals into not commiting their crime for fear of the ultimate punishment. It seems rational to think that if potential killers are aware that if they commit serious crimes they could be put to death for it, they are less likely to commit these crimes. Another strong point of this concept is the retribution and justice bestowed to society. The community demands a sense of closure, that justice be served. This is imperative for peace to be maintained. If criminals were allowed to get away with such a serious crime as the taking of human life, fear and chaos would rule. A sentence of life in prison is not substantial enough. The government must be trusted to permanently protect its innocent citizens from further crime.
The following is a description of a common execution:
“At 8:30 p.m. the first jolt of 1900 volts of electricity passed through Mr. Evans’ body. It lasted thirty seconds. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode tied to Mr. Evans’ left leg. His body slammed against the straps holding him in the electric chair and his fist clenched permanently. The electrode burst from the strap holding it in place. A large puff of grayish smoke and sparks poured out from under the hood that covered Mr. Evans’ face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing began pervading the witness room. Two doctors examined Mr. Evans and declared that he was not dead.”
The death penalty in the United States should be abolished without exception. The problems associated with this controversial form of punishment are uncountable — morality, innocence, money, unjustified retribution, racism — and cannot be resolved without the abolition of such punishment.
In response to the “eye for an eye” concept, opponents of capital punishment inevitably take the standpoint that killing one another is wrong in every manner regardless whether it is just or not. A society that respects human life does not deliberately kill human beings. An execution is a violent public spectacle of official homicide and one that endorses killings to solve social problems. It is unjustified retribution Capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment , being a relic of when slavery, branding, and other such corporal punishments were common.
The main argument used by death penalty supporters is that capital punishment deters murders. They argue that it is the duty of the government to protect it’s citizens by permanently incapacitating criminals. This would be a perfectly cogent standpoint, if it were actually accomplished by the death penalty. However, the death penalty fails to deter further murders for a few underestimated reasons. Instead, as it is shown in a number of recent surveys, it actually seems to produce an increase in criminal homicide. This form of punishment fails as a deterrent for several reasons. The following facts illustrate this point:
1. Death penalty states average an annual rate of 7.9 homicides per one hundred thousand people while abolitionist states average 5.1 murders for the same amount of people.
2. The death penalty was reintroduced in Oklahoma in 1990, only to cause the addition of one stranger-murder per month in the state.
3. A survey of criminologists from the American Society of Criminology, The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and also The Law and Society Association proved that an overwhelming majority of experts did not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent to murders. Over 80% believe that the existing research does not support a deterrence justification for the death penalty.
When a crime is planned, the criminal concentrates on escaping, arrest, and then the possibility of conviction. The threat of even the most intimidating punishment will not stop a murderer if he or she expects not to get caught. However, you will find that the majority of murders are commited in the heat of the moment, or when the murderer is under great emotional stress, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which, of course, dismisses rational judgment.
United States Attorney General Janet Reno says that she has yet to find any evidence that the death penalty deters crime. She quotes, “I have inquired for most of my adult life about studies that might show that the death penalty is a deterrent. And I have not seen any research that would substantiate that point.”
It is clear that a lack of ignorance establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that capital punishment fails as a deterrence to murder. No comparable body of evidence exists that contradicts this conclusion.
It is sometimes argued that abolishing capital punishment is unfair to the taxpayers. This is assuming that life imprisonment costs are more than those of when the death penalty is an issue. However, if you were to add up the costs of litigation — the time of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court reporters, and the high cost of briefs — you would find that the contrary is true. In the court of law, time is money, and a capital punishment is inevitably going to be much longer, not to mention the chance of an appeal will go much higher.
A good example would be Florida, a state with one of the nation’s most populous death rows. The state has estimated that the actual cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or six times the cost of a life imprisonment case. A 1993 study of the costs of a state’s capital punishment system revealed that litigating a murder case from beginning to end is $163,000 more than what it would take to keep the offender in federal prison for twenty years.
It is commonly reported by the media that public opinion is in favor of capital punishment. However, a more careful analysis reveals that most Americans prefer an alternative; they would oppose the death penalty if more criminals were convicted to a life sentence without parole.
It is reported that if the alternative were life imprisonment without possiblity of parole, plus financial restitution to society, only a minority of the American public would support the death penalty.
Capital punishment is forbidden by law and widely abandoned in practice worldwide, in almost every country outside the U.S.. There are 50 national organizations that are involved in the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in American alone.
Both the issues of innocence and racism are prevalent when the death penalty is at hand. In 1980, in the state of Texas, a black high school janitor, Clarence Bradley, and his white co-worker found the body of a missing 16-yr old white schoolgirl. Interrogated by the police, they were told, “One of you is going to hang for this.” Looking at Bradley, the officer said, “and since you’re the black one, you’re elected.” In a classic case of rush to judgment, Bradley was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. The circumstantial evidence against him was thin and the racism was heavy. In 1986 Centurion Ministries, a volunteer group devoted to freeing wrongly-acused prisoners, came to Bradley’s aid. Evidence had meanwhile emerged that another man had commited the murder for which Bradley was awaiting execution. Bradley was not released until 1990, a full year later.
Right now, over 3,500 inmates sit in wait on Death Row nationwide. The overwhelming majority are poor, and a disproportionate number are African American or of some other ethnic minority. In addition, most had legal representation that ranged from inadequate to grossly incompetent. However, what may be the most disturbing of all is that a significant number of them may be quite innocent. It is proven fact that, since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, at least one of every eight people sentenced to die by the death penalty in America is later proven innocent.
Morality itself should be virtue enough to at least call for the moratorium of the death penalty in the United States, the land of freedom and justice. Capital punishment blatantly violates the very concept of justice and is unacceptable as a form of punishment. The Marquis de Lafayette, a good friend of the United States during the Revolutionary War, once said, “I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me.”
Some radical death penalty opposers even go so far as to claim that those who support such punishment with the excuse of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” are like immature children who continue to insist on the principle of childish payback and petty revenge. They s
y that these people did not listen to their mothers when they were told “two wrongs do not make a right.” They say these men and women have not grown out of a tendency toward violence and a shunning of the virtues of mercy and forgiveness, in addition to morality.
Opposing the death penalty does not mean sympathy with convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder and manslaughter both demonstrate a lack of respect for life. For this very reason, a policy of state-authorized killings is immoral. Criminals no doubt need to be punished, but severity of punishment should have its limits, beginning with the use of human dignity. Governments that respect these limits do not use premeditated and violent homicide as an instrument of keeping the peace.