Capital punishment misc15 Essay

This essay has a total of 2688 words and 11 pages.

Capital punishment misc15



Crime is inevitably one of the biggest problems that faces the modern world today. It can
be found all over the world, whether in large cities or small villages. Over time, society
has tried to find ways to deal with crime. Such methods include community service, paying
a fine serving some time in prison, and in the case of more serious crimes, the death
penalty. This is the case in some states in the U.S. where persons have been executed for
aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, sabotage and espionage. Advocates for
capital punishment feel that it deters criminals from committing crime and that if the
criminal is not executed, the risk later extends to the community as such persons may
escape or be pardoned or paroled. Although believers in the death penalty feel that it
deters people from committing violent crime and is a variable solution for protecting
society , capital punishment is immoral, it cannot be proved to be a deterrent, it
violates the principle of double effect, it is often applied with inequities, is condemned
by the Church as heresy, and should be eradicated.


Before an actual argument in favour of the eradication of the death penalty it is
important to define what capital punishment actually is. Capital punishment is the
execution of a criminal under death sentence imposed by competent public authority. It is
derived from the Roman word, "caput", meaning the head, the life or the civil rights of an
individual. Unlike the revenge of a single person, this penalty is a manifestation of the
communities will to vindicate its laws and systems of justice. The death penalty was used
in ancient times as well. The earliest historical records contain evidence of capital
punishment. It was mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of laws and edicts by
Babylonian king Hammurabi that date from the first half of the 18th century BC. The Bible
prescribed death as the penalty for more than 30 different crimes, ranging from murder to
fornication "Whoever hits a man and kills him is to be put to death."( Exodus 21:12) The
Draconian Code of ancient Greece imposed capital punishment for every offense. It also
existed in the legal codes of the Ancient Middle Eastern Kingdoms. These codes commonly
prescribed death for murder, religious and sexual offenses. The Israelites listed capital
crimes as homicide, bearing false witness in a capital charge, kidnapping, insult or
injury to parent, sexual immortality, magic, idolatry, blasphemy and sacrilege. During the
reigns of King Canute and William the Conqueror in the 11th century AD, the death penalty
was not used in England. However, the results of interrogation and torture were often
fatal. By the end of the 15th century, English law recognized seven major crimes: treason
(grand and petty), murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson. By 1800 more than 200
capital crimes were recognized, and as a result, 1000 or more individuals were sentenced
to death each year (although most sentences were commuted by royal pardon). In the
American colonies before the Revolution, the death penalty was commonly authorized for a
wide variety of crimes. African Americans, whether slave or free, were threatened with
death for many crimes that were punished less severely when committed by whites. In the
early days if death was prescribed, the sentence was often carried out by stoning hanging,
beheading, strangulation or burning at the stake. Today, there are different methods of
execution such as the electric chair, the gas chamber, lethal injection or death before a
firing squad.

All of the methods of executions above are all highly immoral. Not only are they brutal
and savage, but they are destroying the person’s basic human good of life, therefore,
violating the principle of morality or moral action. This principle states that when
freely choosing human goods and avoiding what is opposed to them, one should choose in a
way that does not directly damage, destroy or impede any one of the basic human goods in
one’s self or in others. The basic human good of life refers simply to the preservation of
life and to various aspects of health, safety and the removal of pain. It is relatively
obvious to see, that killing a criminal his basic human good is being destroyed. It is
easy to say, it is easy to say "he/she is a criminal and deserves the death sentence", but
he/she is still a human being, and

Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves ‘the creation of God’, and it
remains forever in a special relationship with the creator…[N]o one can in any
circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being.
(Pope John Paul II, 94)

Furthermore, God himself proclaims that He is the absolute Lord of the life of man, who is
formed in His image, giving human life a sacred and inviolable character. As far as the
right to life is concerned, every human being is equal to all others by virtue of the
simple fact that they are humans and nothing else.

Similar to the right to life, advocates of the death penalty feel that it deters criminals
and potential criminals from committing violent crimes, thus lengthening their own lives,
and the lives of others. There is a problem, however, with this line of thinking because
all of the empirical evidence is ambiguous and can have alternative explanations. For
example, during the 1980’s, the states that employed the death penalty averaged seven and
a half homicides per one hundred thousand people, while eradication states averaged just
under seven and a half homicides per one hundred thousand people. There is no solid
evidence that capital punishment deters crime. In fact majority of the police chiefs
surveyed all across America feel that the death penalty is not to be a effective
deterrent. In some cases, the death penalty may have the opposite effect altogether. For
example, in England, when public hanging was the punishment for a pickpocket, the other
pickpockets found it a good time to pick pockets when everyone’s attention was on the
pickpocket being hanged. Those who believe in capital punishment think that "…[a]
would-be murderer [would] think twice before taking a life if he [knew] that he may well
forfeit his own in doing so." (Sorell,32-33) This theory makes sense, but it is hard to
prove because it assumed that all criminals use rational thought. It excludes those who
murder in a fit of passion, or those who plan to kill others and themselves . Other things
besides the death penalty could cause more murders, for example, tensions within families,
or factors as diverse as adultery and unemployment. Advocates also argued at unless
murders are execute they might some day be free to kill again and others may be tempted to
kill. With this philosophy, a human life is intentionally taken as a means of achieving a
hoped for but uncertain end, a reduction in deadly crime. The end, deterrence, justifies
the evil means execution. This is a violation of the principal of double effect.

The principle of double effect is a principle that recognizes that moral decisions often
have two effects, a good one and a bad one. In order to obtain the good we must have no
choice but to tolerate the bad one. Self-defense is a good example to illustrate how the
principle works. The good defender intends that removal of deadly force that is
threatening his/her life. This is inseparably linked to the evil that he/she must commit,
which is the death of a person. This principle, however, does not apply when the state
executes a criminal for murder or another capital offense, but first we must distinguish
between two parts of good and evil effects. First, both effects, neither of which causes
the other, resolved from a single act or procedure. Secondly, the evil effect produces or
induces the good means to an end. When the second part is examined, it is important to
realize that

"…a good end, no matter how compelling, never justifies an evil means. Never, in other
words may [one fundamental human good] be intentionally sacrificed… for the sake of
another" (Campbell,17).

Only in the first case can the principle of double effect be invoked. Capital punishment
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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