Pro Death Penalty Paper

This essay has a total of 3224 words and 14 pages.

Pro Death Penalty


"The Death Penalty"
Capital Punishment in this country is a very controversial issue, and has been for quite
some time. The history of the death penalty in America dates all the ways back to 1622,
where Daniel Frank was executed in the Colony of Virginia for the crime of theft. (UAA)
Many more unrecorded executions occurred until the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics began
keeping track in 1930. During that time, there was an average of about 150 executions per
year. That number rose until about 1938 then began to decline until 1967, when executions
in the U.S. came to a halt. There was no law or court ruling that resulted in this, it was
more of a self-induced moratorium on the state level. The legal and moral questions seemed
to be coming into play. Then a ruling in 1972 by the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the
death penalty under current statutes is "arbitrary and capricious" and therefore
unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Furman v. Georgia) That
ruling was reached on a vote of five to four, clearly showing how even the U.S. Supreme
Court Justices, the highest authority of the law, were torn on the issue. This ruling
essentially made Capital Punishment illegal in the United States. This lasted about four
years, until another case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court (Gregg v. Georgia 1976) that
reinstated the death penalty. It stated that it must be administered with guided
discretion, meaning it must be applied fairly and uniformly. Two additional cases brought
before the Supreme Court this year (Jurek v. Texas) and ( Proffit v. Florida) upheld the
original ruling, that the death penalty is Constitutional. All of these court rulings deal
with only the legality and constitutionality on Capital Punishment. However, there are
many more fractions to be examined to truly evaluate the effectiveness of the death
penalty. The question of morality enters into the equation. Is state sanctioned Capital
Punishment moral? Deterrence is also another large factor. Does the death penalty deter
capital crimes? Any problems within the justice system have to be reviewed, such as
defense for lower income individuals, judges discretion, and discrimination. Public
opinion on the subject is a fairly important issue, as the laws in this country should
reflect the public interest. The economic cost of the death penalty is of course an
important factor, as it is with all government functions funded with tax payers dollars.
Perhaps the most important fraction is Justice served and retribution. That is after all a
primary purpose of the justice system. After reviewing this broad spectrum of fractions,
capital punishment is the most effective method of justice for punishing convicted
murderers.

Despite the dozens of rulings upholding the legality and constitutionality of Capital
Punishment, many still argue against it on the grounds that if it is unconstitutional. The
Eighth Amendment to the constitution states "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor
excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." (Bill of Rights) It
does not define what is considered cruel and punishment, therefore leaving it up to the
interpretation of the reader. Often people include the death penalty as one of the cruel
and unusual punishments, however Capital Punishment was never meant to be considered cruel
or unusual. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states "…nor be deprived of life,
liberty or property, without due process of law." This amendment was passed at the exact
same time as the Eighth Amendment. "This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed,
and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the ‘cruel and unusual
punishments'" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. (Scalia, 3) Justice Scalia's explanation
for why people argue against Capital Punishments legality and constitutionality is that
those people are very passionate about their feelings. He says "Convictions is oppositions
to the death penalty and are often passionate and deeply held. That would be no excuse for
reading them into a constitution that does not contain them." There is clearly nothing
contained in the Constitution, or any Amendment to the constitution, that prohibits the
death penalty. Justice Scalia concludes that "if the people conclude that such more brutal
death may be referred by Capital Punishment; indeed, if they merely conclude that justice
requires such brutal deaths to be avenged by Capital Punishment; the creation of false
untextual and unhistorical contradictions with in 'The courts Eighth Amendment
Jurisprudence' should not prevent them." The death penalty is clearly permitted under the
laws of the United States of America.

The morality of the death penalty is probably the most controversial topic surrounding
capital punishment. A favorite phrase of abolitionists' is "We kill people to show people
that killing people is wrong." (Carmical, 4) This phrase is simply a play on words.
"Kill", "Murder" and "Execute" are not synonyms for one another. Each has a unique
meaning. To kill is to take life, however murder is "The unlawful and malicious or
premeditated killing of one human being by another." (Carmical, 4) The phrase should read
"We Execute people to show people that murdering people is wrong." Does not sound quite
the same. If we use the reasoning that it is wrong to kill someone that killed, then we
must also use the reasoning that it is wrong for a cop to speed to catch a speeding car,
and wrong to imprison someone who kidnapped and illegally imprisoned someone else.
(Bradbury, 2) This reasoning has no place in the justice system. "Morally it is wrong to
incarcerate someone for murder. A sentence of life in a air-conditioned, cable-equipped
prison where a person gets free meals three times a day, personal recreation time, and
regular visits with friends and family is a slap in the face of morality. (Carmical, 2)
The morality of the death penalty often comes into question. When polls across the nation
survey people, the majority of Americans believe that capital punishment is morally just.
(Recent Poll)

The economic cost of the death penalty is clearly higher than its alternative of life
imprisonment. However, the gap is not nearly as large as the media, and death penalty
abolitionists would have you believe. And in some cases, use of the death penalty may
actually cost less than life imprisonment. Some argue that in-depth hearings, and numerous
appeals for capital cases make it too costly. What must be realized however, is that the
same procedures are often followed in murder cases that are not seeking the death penalty.
Then, after the conclusion of the proceedings, the government must now house them for the
rest of their life, free of cost on their part. While eliminating the death penalty could
save a little money, that is not the purpose of the justice system. If it were, we would
not prosecute criminals at all. The economic cost of justice is irrelevant when punishing
convicted murderers.

A major concern with the death penalty is the possibility of executing an innocent person.
This however, is nearly impossible. Studies that show that innocent people will be
executed use that number of death row inmates that were exonerated. That assumes that
exoneration is the equivalence of innocence, and obvious fallacy. The actual true error
rate, the rate of innocents being executed, is zero. (Bradbury, 2) Of the over 7,000
executions in the U.S. during the 20th century, abolitionists have been able to find one
case where they believe the executed party was innocent. This is the case of James Adams,
executed in 1984. There are four main reasons why they believe he was innocent. First, the
witness who identified Adams was driving the other way on the road in a large truck, and
could not have possibly had a good view. In actuality, Adams was driving maniacally,
forcing the witness to pull over. Once at a complete stop, he was able to get a good view
of Adams. Secondly, the possibility that the witness was angry at Adams for dating his
wife. In the court case, no evidence or discussion was presented on this topic; clearly
showing it did not exist. For if it did, it would have most certainly been raised by the
defense without a question. The Third reason was that a second witness heard a female
voice coming from the house, not a male. I am not even sure how they include this as a
valid argument, as the sound was clearly the female victim, as Adams would have no reason
to be vocal at that point. The fourth argument is that a hair was found on the victim that
did not match the defendants. This knowledge was known by the defense before the trial,
yet was never even mentioned. This is because the hair was found during an examination of
her body, which was after cops, paramedics, doctors, and detectives have reviewed the
body. The chance that the hair came from one of them was too great, therefore not even
worth the defenses time to mention it. In addition to factual rebuttals to each one of
their arguments, there is some additional evidence that proves Adams is the guilty party.
His alibi was contradicted by 4 witnesses, one of them being called by the defense. Hours
after the murder, he went to a body shop to have his car repainted. And at the time of his
arrest, he had on his person, $200 dollars cash, and he had just borrowed $35 dollars from
his friend the day before. Of the $200 in cash, one $20 dollar bill was stained with the
victim's blood type. When asked about the blood he said his finger was bleeding the day
before, but it wasn't his blood type. Also found on his person were his clothes also
stained with the victim's blood type, and jewelry that without a doubt came from the
victim's house. The defense was unable to give any reasonable explanation for those facts.
(Markman, 3-4) If this is the case where it is most likely an innocent person was
executed, I think it is quite clear that it is very unlikely that an innocent person has
been executed in this country. In a capital case, first a jury of 12 peers must find
beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. Then, if the defendant is found
guilty, he or she is automatically granted a state appeal, then if they are found guilty
again, they are automatically granted a federal appeal. Often additional appeals are
granted. This means that a person has to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at
least 3 different times. With the average time between sentencing and execution now at
over 10 years, and the introduction of DNA testing in the 1990's, the likelihood of
executing an innocent person is almost zero. (Methvin, 2)

A Major argument against the death penalty is that it discriminates against the poor and
against African Americans. The statistics show that it is not discriminatory. About the
same percentage on trial for capital cases are convicted, regardless of if they were
represented by public defenders, or their own attorneys. Those represented by public
defenders that were convicted were slightly more likely to be incarcerated, but received,
on average, shorter terms. (Key Facts) That shows that there is very little or no
discrimination against the poor. As far as discrimination against African Americans, it
was once true that blacks were executed at a higher rate than whites, however that trend
has recently reversed, and the opposite is now true. (Pojman, 4) In addition to the
statistics, on June 6,2001, the justice department found that there is no bias in the
application of the death penalty. (Carmical, 3) Despite the data showing none, or very
little discrimination, arguments persist that it exists. Even if that were true, it would
not justify abolishing the death penalty. Many laws experience discrimination. From
speeding tickets, to drug charges, to violent felonies, there will always be some
unfairness in the system. These problems exist within the system, not the law itself. This
is a cry for judicial reform, not the abolition of the death penalty. "We should reform
our practices as much as possible to eradicate unjust discrimination wherever we can, but
if we are not allowed to have a law without perfect application, we will be forced to have
no laws at all." (Pojman, 4) If discrimination against the poor does exist, than "What is
unfair is not that poor and black prisoners get what they deserve. What is unfair is that
rich and white prisoners do not." (Carmical, 3) Discrimination is an invalid argument
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