Capital Punishment Opposing View Points




Capital punishment is the legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law. The capital punishment debate, in the United States, has been ongoing for almost four hundred years. Opponents of capital punishment cite that it’s arbitrariness and the execution of the “innocent” as reasons why they oppose it. Supporters of capital punishment cite its roles of deterrence and retribution as reasons why they support it. Capital punishment should be imposed upon those who purposely take the life of another.
A strong voice in opposition to capital punishment comes from an organization called Amnesty International. Amnesty International works to promote and protect human rights. The abolishment of capital punishment worldwide is one of many issues they focus on. On their website against the death penalty, Amnesty International states, “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishment”(Against).
This statement is the foundation for their fight against capital punishment. Their feeling is that the governments that allow capital punishment are playing God, and have no authority to do so. A greater concern is the fear of innocent people being executed. They argue that as long as the law is susceptible to errors, innocent people will be sentenced to death and may be executed before they can be exonerated. They are not trying to minimize the effects of the crime upon the victims’ families, but see the death penalty as the legal repetition of the crime itself.
Amnesty International points out that there is no conclusive evidence to support the theory of deterrence. The grounds for this argument came from statistical data, gathered by social scientists. “...They compared homicide rates in places with the capital punishment, to places without capital punishment. They found there to be no visible influence on the homicide rates” (Zimring). Looking at capital punishment as a deterrent can be dangerous for society, because society is holding on to false hope. If they continue to implement capital punishment, people will have lost their lives, but the crime rate will still remain unchanged. They feel people should be spared their lives and separated from society by sentences of life imprisonment.
They argue that capital punishment lacks consistency; some are sentenced to death while others, who commit the same crimes or worse, are sentenced to life imprisonment. They’re view that capital punishment is administered arbitrarily, is supported by the 1972 United States Supreme Court ruling to abolish capital punishment. The Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Furman v. Georgia, that the state statutes were void of standards, and gave too much discretion to the judge and juries. The Supreme Court found that blacks that killed whites were more likely to receive a sentence of death than whites that killed blacks. Those who received death sentences were financially challenged and could not afford good legal representation. Opponents point out that the trials of death-row defendants are littered with stories of lawyers who were drunk in court, racially prejudice against their clients, or had no experience with death penalty cases (Death). They feel supporters of capital punishment no better than the criminals themselves.
Although there are no specific organizations that rally to support capital punishment, there are people and groups that when asked, do express their views in support of it. One such group is the United States Justice Department. In response to a letter from Amnesty International they say, “This administration and this department support the death penalty as an appropriate sanction for the most heinous crimes...” (USA). When they speak of this administration, they are referring to the Clinton-Gore administration, whose support on the issue of capital punishment, can be seen in a statement made by the National Commission on Capital Punishment, written in the Democratic Party Platform. They say, “Those who are for capital punishment, see those against it as treating the criminals like victims” (National).
Supporters of capital punishment argue that society must retaliate against criminals. They conclude that the best possible retribution against a murderer is capital punishment. The execution of convicted offenders expresses the value society places on the innocent lives that are taken. These supporters