Death Penality Essay, Research Paper
Capital punishment is a very controversial issue. Many people have differing opinions about how a criminal should be disciplined, but there is no one right or correct answer. According to a USA today poll, eighty percent of Americans are currently in favor of the death penalty (USA Today). Presently, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have the penalty as legal statues, but is this concept of a life for a life the best way to punish a criminal? Of the thirteen states that don t have the death penalty, is crime more likely to occur in their state. Has there been criminal s wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row? Of course. Does the death penalty really prevent criminals from killing? Does a criminal think about the punishment before the crime? Is the death penalty fair to everyone, even the minorities and the poor? These are some of the questions confronting this debate.
Two very important Supreme Court cases dealing with capital punishment have been heard regarding this issue. In 1972 the case of Furman vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that under the existing laws, imposition and carrying out of the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eight and Fourteen Amendments of the US Constitution (Supreme Court). Yet four years later, the court shifted in opposition in Gregg vs. Georgia. The Court ruled that the punishment of death does not invariable violate the US Constitution. The Court ruled that these new statutes contained objective standards to guide, regularize, and make rationally review able the process of imposing the death sentence (Rehnquist).
There are different reasons, both pro and con, for the death penalty. The following list some of the arguments the pro side uses to defend its position. Some believe that those who kill deserve to die. This is called the eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth theory. When someone takes another person s life, they forfeit or sacrifice their own right to live. Murder is the worst crime a person can commit and it deserves the worst penalty. The death penalty also acts as the greatest deterrent to murder. If people know that they will be punished by death, they will be less likely to commit crimes that carry that penalty. Statistics complied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show that since 1976, fewer then two hundred of the twenty-five hundred people on death row have been executed. More then 20,000 murders that happen each year could have been prevented if criminals believed they would be executed for their crimes. The death penalty guarantees that the killer would not be able to kill again. Life imprisonment does not offer this guarantee. Because not all states have a true-life sentence, like Texas life only means thirty years imprisonment before the convicted persons eligible for parole. Thus giving them the opportunities to murder again (SPLC).
The arguments against the death penalty are just as strong. The theories of two wrongs don t make a right have been heard by many. Murder is murder and its wrong no matter what. Should the punishment for a rape be another rape? Should we detach one s hand for the crime of theft? The government s jobs is to protect its citizens, but are there another ways to do it without killing our own. There are no creditable studies that show that capital punishment acts effectively as a deterrent to crime, murder, and other capital offenses. Most murder cases happen due to recklessness and are not preplanned, therefore most do not think about the consequences of their wrongful actions. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates than states without such laws (FBI). And states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. The death penalty rarely discourages murderers who plan to kill because they do not believe that they will be caught.
Mistakes are routinely made in trying capital cases and have taken innocent lives. A recent study showed that of three hundred and fifty people who were convicted of crimes for which they could have been put to death, were later found to have not been guilty, and therefore released. Tragically, twenty-three were executed before exculpatory evidence showed their innocence. Some find that the death penalty discriminates against minorities and the poor, and is not administrated fairly. Almost half of those sentenced to die are black and eighty four percent of those were convicted of killing a white person (Bureau of Prisons). Furthermore, more than ninety percent of the inmates currently on death row were too poor to hire a lawyer to represent them at their trial. People are being executed because of the incompetence of their lawyers, generally a public defender (ACLU).
The American Civil Liberties Union believes that capital punishment is an intolerable denial of civil liberties. ACLU s position is that the death penalty essentially violates the U.S. Constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantee of due process of law and equal protection under the law. The state should not take unto itself the right to kill human s beings, especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, under the color of the law, in our names, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion (Bedau).
Capital punishment has been and will continue to be accepted for many years to come. But is this the correct approach? Are we really making those so intent on committing murder to rethink their criminal acts because the penalty exists? Punishment of criminals should be humane and not unjust. A murder should be forced to endure life imprisonment so they will suffer the way their victim did