Death penalty is a kind of capital punishment which follows a legal process in prosecuting and killing people through the state for the crime the committed especially murder. It has been practiced widely in many societies’ who believe that criminals must be punished proportionally to the crimes they commit. It is seen as a fair deal because it forces one to give up their life just the way they took away another’s. United States is one of the countries of the world that practices death penalty as a punishment for some crimes. This sentence is seen as cruel and violation of values in America while some other people think it is a good way of fighting murder and related crimes. However some innocent people are put to death due to prejudice which makes this penalty questionable but there are terrorism issues which make it practical in punishing the perpetrators. It is a mutual feeling in many countries that death penalty is not part of civilization and therefore should be abolished.
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Financial costs incurred to taxpayers for capital punishment is high compared to that given for life imprisonment. A death sentence costs several times more than being sentenced for the rest of the criminal’s life. This is because of the many appeals requested, additional procedures needed, and wrangling in the legal formalities that end up dragging the process further. Sometimes the death row can take as long as 20 years and the government needs a significant investment on the side of attorneys, reporters in court, judges, facilities in court, and clerks which is expensive.
Death penalty is a cruel act that violates the rights of an individual according to the Bill of Rights. Whichever the means used, gas chamber, hanging, electric chair, lethal injection, or firing squad, it barbaric and cruel to permit such an action in front of a crowd. There is a restriction of using unusual and cruel punishment in US and death penalty is seen as a violation of this clause. The process of a death penalty requires endless appeals and many needed additional procedures that make the court system clogged. Court systems go through a huge task before giving a go ahead for the carrying out of a death sentence. There are numerous motion, briefs, appeals, and hearings that that monopolize the attorneys, judges, and other employees of the courts’ time and at the same time using up courtrooms and their facilities. This space and time could be useful for other unresolved issues. The system of the court has a tremendous back up which would help to move things (Messerli, 2010).
Death penalty practices the “eye for an eye” slogan which is not a good moral in the society. For advancement of civilization to take place the mentality of revenge should be scraped from the peoples’ minds. Revenge does not solve anything but instead it leads to a repeated violence cycle. This could explain the conflict between Palestine and Israel which is unending. Just like the conflict revenge has led to endless gang violence. The society should be educated on the wrongs of vengeful ideas. Killing people sends the wrong message to the society at large. Killing people who kill does not prove that their deed is wrong. If it were wrong then death penalty is wrong too. Even with the urge to make it a surety that the criminal is accountable for the crime or placing an effective deterrent, killing does not solve it. Instead it gives the society a reason to revenge. They will want to kill the people who persecuted their blood. All in all murdering someone who murdered another does not make sense (Burgado, 1969).
A death sentence does not serve the murderer right. A life in prison would be worse a punishment for them and an effective deterrent. This is because the suffering in a death sentence is over in a short while. Imprisonment for life on the hand makes the prisoner suffer in pain for several decades. Prisoners are treated like animals in some prisons where they are caged in an internal environment. They are exposed to rape and violence in their daily life there. This is a worse punishment for those who seek revenge for their loved ones who have been killed. Terrorists for example, may prefer being sentenced to death to life imprisonment. This is because they do not have to suffer humiliation in a country that they hate so much to an extent of bombing it. Countries that still perform death sentences have a deterred image on the face of other countries. For example there is a rampant spread of anti-Americanism in the whole world. This is because America continued to use the death penalty in it courts. The state is seen as vengeful and violent for insisting on a killing policy.
A poll is required by states for any jury member during pre-trials in order to ensure that they can stomach giving someone a death sentence in an actual court. Most of them are forced to lie in order to get a place on the panel, this is their career. The thought of passing such a sentence makes some members of the jury to acquit instead of risking the death. Prosecutors may also opt to give a lesser charge option instead of forcing the jury into the choice of death or acquitting. In such cases the sentence passed is not just and justice is not served. A death penalty makes the family of the prisoner suffer. Seeing a loved one being put to death by the state is traumatizing enough not to mention the emotional pain the family goes through during the appeal process. By passing a death sentence double suffering is triggered by the state. This is because the family of the victim, which is innocent, has suffered their loss and the family of the prisoner will have to go through the same trauma.
There is a probability that not all people sentenced to death are guilty of the crime. Various cases have been documented in the past where DNA test results showed that the wrong persons had been murdered by the state. This shows the imperfection in the justice system where the rich talk. Poor defendants are not given legal attention as required and the little they get is from less qualified individuals, the only one they can afford (Clegg, 2001). There are also cases of mentally ill persons being put to death. It is not their fault to be that way and no amount of schooling, reinforcements, drugs or rehabilitation can change them. It is not fair to judge someone who committed a crime due to their lack or poor reasoning capacity brought about by a brain defect. The constitutions of several countries state that it is wrong to sentence a mentally ill individual to death but this rule is vague since the jury and judge need convincing and proof of the illness in the defendant. Criminals are often despised by the society but killing them brings a feeling of sympathy. It makes the society shift their sympathy to the criminal from the victim.
Death penalty has a way of bringing lawyers on board. They do not care about the money given to them or performing justice but are more concerned about the case’s publicity and their beliefs on the death penalty morality. In most cases the defendant is pronounced guilty. Attorneys know how to manipulate, cover facts up, and make the jury sympathetic on their side. They can find obscure technicalities which would make their client plead innocent but that does not happen because criminals cannot afford them (Joshua, 2005). Death penalties are different because lawyers avail themselves to earn a reputation. The judgment made in their attempt to showcase their power is wrong, guilty persons are released. A death sentence is useless because it does not bring the already dead (victim) back to life. It should thus be banned because the fact that the victim is never coming back cannot be changed. All kinds of emotions; revenge, anger and hate will never fill up the emptiness felt for losing a loved one. Forgiveness should be the way forward to creating a morally upright society.
A penalty of death gives closure to the family of the victim. They take long to shock and loss while others do not recover at all but recovery could be hastened by receiving this kind of closure. If the criminal is imprisoned for life it means that he will haunt the victim’s family for life. They believe a death penalty brings finality to them. It is also a way of deterring crime otherwise it would be so rampant. Even though life in prison is enough some crimes and people need more, death penalty being one of them. By giving a death sentence there is better service on the line of justice because the punishment given fits the crime committed. It is sensible that a brutal killer be submitted to his own medicine.
By not giving the sentence the justice system would be depriving the victims of something. This act would show sympathy on the side of the defendant other than the victim. For a person to have committed murder in most cases it means there is a line of other crimes he has done and all the victims in each would be relieved to finally get justice and it means that justice for the past and current crimes is served. A death penalty deters prisoners serving a life imprisonment. They could murder people when in prison. Other life imprisoned persons could escape and continue killing people outside as a way of revenging. A death sentence is the only effective deterrent in such cases (Haag, 1983). Due to the advancement of technology there is a very minimal possibility of error. DNA testing combined with other science on the crime scene eliminates almost all uncertainties regarding a person’s predicament. All doubt cannot be cleared but recently it is very close. The effectiveness of DNA for example is 99% while the appeal and trial process remains a thorough one giving no room for errors (Ellerin, 2006).
If a life imprisonment is passed there could be a possibility of prisoners escaping or parole. This would give them another opportunity to kill. The ultimate reason for a death penalty policy is to avoid repetition of the crime. The system of parole does not make sense. There is no way a prisoner can be multiple sentences to life in which he/she still has a chance to escape or kill fellow prisoners. Sentencing a prisoner to life means overcrowding in the prison systems which over exploits the resources there; cell portion, clothing, guard time, and food. If the option of death penalty is removed then the prisons will have a problem of overpopulation because these criminals are there for life. A death penalty gives prosecutors a chance to bargain a plea with the defendant. This makes the defendant admit to the crime in exchange for a lenient sentence. It is difficult to get a criminal to take blame in a court of law but a death sentence does. It is an advantage because the persons arraigned in court are already guilty. The victims’ families feel satisfied just knowing the real killer is on trial and the possibility of sentencing an innocent person is minimal. A plea bargain saves on time, personal requirements and costs of a criminal case. Death penalty existence thus gives power and flexibility to prosecutors to ensure justice.
Capital punishment is a very serious issue, which is worth detailed discussion and analysis. A century ago it was a common way of punishment for murderers, and today more and more people start considering that it is illegal, unjust, uncivilized and immoral. While discussing the topic of capital punishment, the arguments of Ernest van den Haag, Jeffrey H. Reiman, and Gregg Georgia should be regarded.
Professor Ernest van den Haag is one of the most famous pro-death penalties academics. His arguments concerning the capital punishment seem to be the strongest. According to him, it is much better to execute a murderer needlessly than risk the life of an innocent person. Van den Haag supposes that a person that has committed such a crime is to be expelled from the community of living and dehumanized. Death penalty is a way to deter murderers, and statistically it helps save one human life per year.
Jefrey Reiman’s arguments seem to be rather rough and vague. He tries to emphasize that death penalty should be abolished. Unlike van den Haag, he generalizes the data and expresses only his subjective viewpoint. He does not provide any statistics, real facts, being armed only with his own attitude. The same concerns Gregg Georgia, he holds by an opinion that capital punishment is excessive and immoral. He tries to explain reasons of this immorality and criticizes the justification of this kind of punishment. Badeu agrees with Georgia and states his key aspects of capital punishment‘s explanation in the video “The Case Against The Death Penalty” (2012). However, Remain and Georgia do not discuss robbery or drug addiction, but murder that is deliberate taking of somebody’s life. It is immoral, and punishing for this is a necessary thing. The video “Capital Punishment: Right or Wrong?” (2012) tries to emphasize that sometimes the judges may make a mistake, and in case of capital punishment it cannot be helped.
Justification of Capital Punishment
History proves that the crimes to which the capital punishment has been awarded often seem unfair, unjust and frivolous to some extent, but times have changed. The investigation lasts till the dissection of all evidences and is given only after deep consideration of the matter. So we can state confidently that the capital punishment nowadays is awarded after a lot of discretion and thought. 92 countries in the world use capital punishment, but nowhere is it discussed as frequently as in the U.S. where according to the Constitution each state can formulate its own policy. 38 states allow the capital punishment as a sentence. Although some states like Illinois have recently imposed a moratorium till the end of the investigation.
The capital punishment is not given for the murder only. The list includes treason, murder, repeated aggravated assaults and terrorism. In most countries, the death sentence is a method of political dissent and suppressing crimes. During the war time, it is given for treason due to the fact that it means loss of life in most cases. Acts of terrorism cause great number of people to be killed or injured, therefore, is awarded the capital punishment. Execution is also imposed on people who have been convicted of brutal rape, manslaughter or aggravated assaults, as well as to people who have served a punishment and repeat their crimes again.
The arguments for capital punishment are:
- The imprisoning system is for rehabilitation of the people who will eventually be released; therefore, why should we keep alive the person who will never leave the prison. Besides, the cost of execution is much lowers that imprisoning for life;
- The death is the only appropriate punishment for murder, according to “an eye for eye” justice. Some crimes are so severe that people think the only right option is a retribution or revenge. The punishment should be equal the crime.
- The crueler the crime is, the more severe the punishment is needed. In this case what is worth: the execution or lifetime in prison?
- The measure of pain for capital punishment is also conversational issue due to different norms in various cultures and religions.
- The arguments against capital punishment are:
- The fact is that there is no sociological proof that countries with capital punishment have a lower crime rate of, so the possible risk to be executed does not seem to prevent crimes;
- Basically, the criminal`s life cannot compensate the crime committed, due to the ethic issue that two bad things do not make good;
- Killing a human is not humane in general;
- The imprisoning is a viable alternative to executing, due to the fact that even imprisonment is still leaving hope for being released;
- Some people consider capital punishment as a violation of the human right to live;
- Some people were wrongly convicted and executed for the crime which they did not commit. Moran (2011) states that “If we are to support it guilt needs to be clear, with no possible alternatives” (Moran, n.p.);
- Some cultures believe that death should be natural. Therefore, capital punishment is not a natural way to die;
- Executing a person deprives his/her opportunity to compensate for a harm or damage from the crime;
- Family members of the executed person are suffering too. Therefore, it is a punishment of the criminal, as well as his family.
In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations to promote justice, peace and fundamental rights as the foundation of freedom in the world. The question that is constantly discussed since that time is whether the capital punishment is justified. If it is then what sort of crime would lead to a death sentence? As an example, there is a case of Robert Massie who repeated his offences even after imprisoning and the capital punishment has been awarded for obnoxious incidents, according to California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation. In 1965, Massie murdered a woman after robbing her house. He was sentenced to death, but then commuted to life imprisonment so Massie could testify against his accomplice. Eight months later Massie was paroled and murdered a businessman Boris Naumoff and previously having robbed him. He was executed on 2001 (California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, n.d.).
To summarize, a capital punishment does not rehabilitate the person and return him/her to society. Therefore, taking into account all the arguments for and against, to my mind, the capital punishment is completely justified in cases of serious crimes. Thomas Aquinas (n.d.) argued that by accepting the death punishment, the person is able to escape punishment in the next life and expiate all evil acts he/she did (St. Augustine and St. Thomas in Favor of the Death Penalty). It should be mentioned that Ernest van den Haag’s arguments seem to be the strongest, as he notes that capital punishment is not only a way of punishing for guilt, but also a way of deterring others. Researchers Reiman and Georgia criticize him, but their arguments seem to be rather unconfident. But as a matter of principle, they are also right. People cannot take somebody’s life, because they have no right to do it. And this is not an issue of moral or ethics; it is an issue of human rights. The problem of capital punishment is therefore multi-sided and does not have clear-out solution. To my mind, there is a line morality which cannot be crossed. If a person crosses it he/she will never be the same again. If to refer to the list of pros and cons, it seems more positions against capital punishment, but this is only because of the emotional issue of the execution. In fact, there have been cases when prisoners escaped and killed again. However, I do not consider that life imprisonment without parole could adequately protect the public. Even if the criminal is no longer a danger to the society, he/she remains dangerous to the prison service and cellmates. Capital punishment would remove that danger once and for all.
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