Death peantlay Essay

This essay has a total of 2209 words and 10 pages.

death peantlay

Death Penalty
Introduction:
The most severe of all sentences: that of death. Also known as the death penalty, capital
punishment this is the most severe form of corporal punishment as it is requires law
enforcement officers to kill the offender. It has been banned in many countries, in the
United States, an earlier move to eliminate capital punishment has now been reversed and
more and more states are resorting to capital punishment for serious offenses such as
murder. An Eye for and eye, a life for a life, who has never heard of the famous lex
talionis? The Bible mentions it, and people have been using it regularly for centuries. We
use it in reference to burglary, adultery, love and many other situations. However, some
people use it on a different level, some people use it in reference to death. One steals
from those who have stolen from him, one wrongs those who have wronged him, but do we
really have the right to kill those who have killed. Today, there is a big controversy
over capital punishment whether or not it works, or if it is morally right. We have a
certain privilege on our own lives, but do the lives of others belong to us as well? Do we
have the right to decide the kind of lives others can or cannot live? We find someone
guilty of murder and sentence him to death, does that not make murderers out of ourselves?
Can justice justify our acts? Those who assist in the death penalty are they not partners
in crime? Is the death penalty a "Cruel and Unusual" punishment or is it now a necessary
tool in the war on crime? With the increase in crime and violence in our society, how does
the death penalty affect a North American family.


History of the Death Penalty:
Use of the death penalty has declined throughout the industrial Western World since the
19th century. In 1972, movement in America to have the death penalty declared
unconstitutional during the landmark case of Furman v. Georgia, which declared the death
penalty cruel and unusual punishment. However, after a supreme court decision in 1975,
Gregg v. Georgia, which stated capital punishment did not violate the eighth Amendment,
executions commenced again under state supervision. (Van der Haag, 1975, 3-4)


The debate:

Deterrence:
There are four major issues in the capital punishment debate, the first being deterrence.
A major purpose of criminal punishment is to deter future criminal conduct. The deterrence
theory suggests that a rational person will avoid criminal behavior if the severity of the
punishment outweigh the benefits of the illegal conduct. It is believed that fear of death
deters people from committing crimes. Most criminals would think twice before committing
murder if they knew their own lives was at stake. That if attached to certain crimes, the
penalty of death exerts a positive moral influence by placing a stigma on certain crimes
like manslaughter, resulting in attitudes of disgust and horror to such acts. (McCuen,
1985, 11)


Studies of the deterrent effect of the death penalty have been conducted for several
years, with varying results. Most of these studies have failed to produce evidence that
the death penalty deterred murders more effectively then the threat of imprisonment. The
reason for this is that few people are executed and so the death penalty is not a
satisfactory deterrent. If capital punishment were carried out more it would prove to be
the crime deterrent it was partly intended to be. During highly publicized death penalty
cases the homicide rate is found to go down but it goes back up when the case is over.
(Bailey, 1994, 42)


When comparisons are made between states with the death penalty and states without, the
majority of death penalty states show murder rates higher than non-death penalty states.
The average murder rate per 100,000 population in 1996 among death penalty states was 7.1,
the average murder rate among non-death penalty states was only 3.6. A look at neighboring
death penalty and non-death penalty states show similar trends. Death penalty states
usually have a higher murder rate than their neighboring non-death penalty states. (See
appendix b) (Death Penalty Information Center)


Retribution:
The second issue in the capital punishment debate is retribution. The need for society to
express sufficient condemnation for heinous murders. Supporters of the death penalty
contend that the only proper response to the most vile murders is the most sever
punishment possible. Therefore, society should literally interpret the "eye for an eye"
principle when an individual takes a life, society's moral balance will remain upset until
the killer's life is also taken. (Block, 1983, 112)


Although death penalty opponents disagree society should be able to express its outrage
with a vile crime by inflicting capital punishment. They suggest that they are showing
outrage for taking a life by talking the life of another. (Bedau, 1982, 88)


Use of the death penalty as intended by law could actually reduce the number of violent
murders by eliminating some of the repeat offenders thus being used as a system of
justice, not just a method of deterrence. Modern supporters of capital punishment no
longer view the death penalty as a deterrent, but just as a punishment for the crime, one
source said, "...in recent years the appeal of deterrence has been supplanted by a frank
desire for what large majorities see as just vengeance." (Bailey, 1994, 55)


Arbitrariness:
The third major issue is arbitrariness determined by or arising from whim or impulse rather than judgment or reason.
"From the days of slavery in which black people were considered property, through the
years of lynching and Jim Crow laws, capital punishment has always been deeply affected by
race. Unfortunately, the days of racial bias in the death penalty are not a remnant of the
past." (NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund)


Fairness requires that people who break the same law under similar circumstances should
meet with the same punishment, however the justice system is not consistent. Statistics
show that a black man who kills a white person is 11 times more likely to receive the
death penalty than a white man who kills a black person. And blacks who kill blacks have
even less to worry about. It's almost like we kind of say, "Oh, well, he needed killing
anyhow." (NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund)


In Texas in 1991, blacks made up 12 percent of the population, but 48 percent of the
prison population and 55.5 percent of those on death row were black. (NAACP Legal Defense
and Education Fund).


Wrongful Conviction:
Continues for 5 more pages >>




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