Death penalty3 Essay

This essay has a total of 2500 words and 10 pages.

death penalty3



The Debate On Capital Punishment
What act by the United States government kills almost a hundred people every year? The
United States Department of Justice legally executes criminals who commit certain crimes.
The crimes for which a person can be executed for are named Capital offenses, thus the
name Capital Punishment. The debate over capital punishment originates in the seventeenth
century and still continues today. Many different arguments shine throughout the debate
which I will be reviewing both sides.

Capital punishment has been in America since the early seventeenth century. The first
recorded execution in America was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony
of Virginia in 1608. Crimes advocating capital punishment varied among settlements during
the Colonial period. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, crimes such as witchcraft, rape,
perjury, adultery, and murder warranted capital punishment. In the Quaker society, crimes
such as treason and murder warranted capital punishment. In 1787, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a
signer of the Declaration of Independence, held a meeting at the home of Benjamin Franklin
calling for an end to public executions. In the fall of 1787, Rush developed the Society
for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. The society was instrumental in the
development of the prison system in the United States. In 1790 the Walnut Street Jail in
Philadelphia was converted into the nation's first modern prison. The emergence of the
new prison system in the United States provided an alternate means of punishment for
crimes. Rush was the first prominent American to publicly urge the abolition of capital
punishment. Over the next two decades, prisons in the United States were constructed, and
the number of crimes warranting capital punishment decreased considerably. Capital
punishment in the United States has undergone many modifications since the early
nineteenth century. Its use gradually has become more limited and constrained. However,
the death penalty has endured as a basic fact of debate in the United States. The debate
over capital punishment throughout American history has been characterized by the struggle
of a relative handful of groups and individuals to change the nation's broad and
consistent support for the sanction. The level of opposition has varied greatly. More
often than not, its strength and success have been affected by other historical events.
Today thirty-seven states and the federal government authorize capital punishment for the
commission of certain crimes. In most states, only murder is a capital offense. In order
for a specific murder to warrant the death penalty, the Supreme Court requires that two
conditions must be met. The crime must be a first-degree murder and one or more
aggravating circumstances must be present. First-degree murder involves the deliberate
and premeditated taking of a life. Aggravating circumstances refer to those aspects of a
crime that increase its severity but are apart from the essential elements of the offense
itself.

The majority of the population in the United States argues pro capital punishment. The
first argument the public cites is that the death penalty deters criminals from committing
the vial act of murder. Deterrence is the fear created by the death penalty to stop
criminals from committing these crimes. Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital
punishment is that of deterrence. The prevailing thought is that imposition of the death
penalty will act to dissuade other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous
studies have been created attempting to prove this belief; however, all of the evidence
taken together makes it hard to be confident that capital punishment deters more than long
prison terms do. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the overall crime
index has declined eleven percent since 1991 and is now the lowest it has been since 1985.
Violent crimes in the United States are at its lowest since 1989. The amount of murders
in the United States declined thirteen percent since 1991. The number of rapes in the
United States is at the lowest level since 1991, and the number of burglaries is at its
lowest level in two decades. In some of the biggest cities in the United States the
amount of violent crimes decreased to astonishing levels. In New York City alone the
amount of violent crimes decreased forty percent. It is hard to see why opponents of the
death penalty do not believe that it has an impact when in the 1940's and 1950's
executions took place more frequent, and the murder rate was much lower. In the 1960's,
the murder rate increased dramatically and did not decrease until the reinstatement of the
death penalty. The taking of a life by society, through the court of law, eliminates
personal vendetta and sends a message that society will not tolerate this criminal action.
Public opinion in America supports the death penalty by a more than two to one margin,
and this view rests largely on the deterrence of crime from this severe punishment. An
example of these statistics comes from the state of Florida. Support for death penalty
changes when alternatives are added. When asked simply whether they favor the death
penalty, 80 percent of Floridians said they did.

Retribution refers to the penalty a society exacts for wrongful behavior. Retribution is
another leading argument in the pro capital punishment movement. The criminal law of a
society reflects its value system or moral code. Proponents of capital punishment believe
that the law should place less value on the life of a convicted murderer than on the life
of an innocent person. Proponents insist there is no valid substitute for the death
penalty. More serious offenses should be met by more severe penalties. Proponents
emphasize that retribution is not revenge, but the individual's desire for revenge
replaced by a concept of lawful punishment. It is important that the penalty for a crime
fulfill society's sense that justice has been served. For certain horrid infractions,
only the execution of the offender will satisfy the public that justice has been attained.
Why should a person such as OJ Simpson or Charles Manson get the satisfaction of life
imprisonment. Why should they be treated fairly or nice when they took someone's life.
Why give them the satisfaction of living in a cell with cable TV and many other emenities
that the general public does not receive. Why should they sit in jail and take up valuable
space and waist important tax money that many people could use.

The issue of expense is the most recent argument for the opponents of capital punishment.
People commonly assumed that it cost less to execute a person than it does to imprison
them for life; however, the price of execution is more costly than the cost of
imprisonment. The costs of capital cases have increased in recent years. Several reasons
account for these costs: Capital trials take longer to litigate; a second penalty phase
is required if a guilty verdict is returned; a protracted appeals process normally follows
all death sentences; and death row facilities where defendants often await execution for
many years require more money to staff and maintain. The result is that capital cases are
significantly more expensive than trials for serious felonies where the death penalty is
not applicable. Instead of dedicating scarce resources to executing a handful of
prisoners, it would be more worthwhile to sentence capital offenders to long prison terms
and use the money saved to fully fund efforts such as victim-assistance programs. In
North Carolina an execution cost two million six-hundred thousand dollars, and in Texas an
execution costs two million three-hundred thousand dollars. California alone spends
ninety million dollars a year to execute prisoners on death row. In Florida, it costs
three million two-hundred thousand dollars on each death row inmate, compared to about
five-hundred thirty-five thousand for an average of forty years for each prisoner
sentenced to life. This is a huge amount of tax payers money, but the public looks at it
as an investment in safety since these murderers will never kill again.

Cruel and unusual punishment has been at the top of the Abolitionist argument throughout
the years. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution states, "Excessive bail shall not be
required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." On
June 29, 1972, a split five to four vote by the Supreme Court reached the landmark
decision in case of Furman versus Georgia. The decision rendered that the death penalty
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