Capital Punishment

The controversial issue of capital punishment has intense moral implications to all those involved especially to the religious individuals. Although it is a necessary and important penalty in modern day society, it should be regulated as such. Should capital punishment be moral or not when it comes to disciplining an individual for monstrous crimes?

While Capital Punishment has been one of the most feared things of our time, it is still being questioned if it is unconstitutional. The Death Penalty is being enforced in more than 100 countries in the world and is usually in used in politically related cases. Although it has been the case in many countries throughout the world it has been said that the Death Penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment” which is a direct violation to the Bill of Rights. Capital Punishment is a certain copy of the earliest days of slavery, when you had no rights or any different opinion, and like then, executions have no place in our civilized society. The Death Penalty, throughout its years of existence, has always been against the views of the people, either because of its brutality or because of its lack of effectiveness.

The Death Penalty has been opposed by the people since the beginning of its era, which was around 1976, when the United States Supreme Court declared that the death penalty was not against the Constitution. But if read directly the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “prohibits cruel and unusual punishments” and not only that but abolitionists also think that Capital Punishment ensures Americans equality for all. The abolitionists also did a poll which ensured that there was “no support for the view that the death penalty provides a more effective deterrent to police homicides than alternative sanctions. Not for a single year was evidence found that police are safer in jurisdictions that provide for capital punishment” The highest homicide rates were also in Death Penalty states with executions: 9.7 homicides per 100,000 people as compared to 5.1 in states without the Death Penalty. It has also been shown that the Death Penalty is racially biased and unfair.

There has been substantial evidence to show that courts have been impulsive, racially biased, and unfair in the way in which they have sentenced some persons to prison but others to death. In 1944 Gunnar Myrdal reported in his book American Dilemma that “the South makes the widest application of the Death Penalty, and Negro criminals come in for much more than their share of the executions” Between the years of 1930 and 1940 the African Americans only made up about 12 percent of the United States’ population, but between those times they also made up about 51 percent of the people that were executed. Juries are more likely to impose the death penalty on blacks than on whites accused of the same offense (Administration Office of the Courts). Of the 145 cases studied by the Administration Office of the Courts it was shown that whites would have received the death penalty at a higher rate since they met the criteria for capital punishment more often. Yet, the case studies revealed that this was not the situation. Is the value of a white life worth more than a person of color
When Capital Punishment is put into a case and the person has been killed there is no way to get back from that if they are later found to have been innocent. If a person is sentenced to life without parole and is later found to be innocent, that person can still be released, but if the person was put to death there is no way of giving life back to someone who’s been executed. For example, a man about 5 years ago was set free after he was in jail for 12 years and after he was 72 hours from being executed. In his case, the prosecutors used perjured testimony and suppressed evidence which imprisoned him. The witness that set him free was a sixteen year old who while imprisoned for a separate murder conviction, confessed to killing the officer whom Randall Adams was in jail for killing. For us to kill those people who have acted outside the boundaries of acceptable human behavior puts us in the same position as they are in, and we also become killers. It is also a view that people must take because the people on death row did not get there on their own, their families and communities share the responsibility of making those people who consider committing the brutal acts they committed, so why should they be the individuals to take the punishment. Executions give society the unmistakable message that human life no longer deserves respect; they are also irrevocable and can be inflicted upon the innocent. Why did the U.S. Supreme Court change their minds about the Death Penalty?

In 1972, the Supreme Court declared that under the existing laws “the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth and Fourteenth Amendments” This was found to be “constitutionally unacceptable” But then in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is not unconstitutional. “The court ruled that these new statutes contained “objective standards to guide, regularize, and make rationally reviewable the process for imposing the sentence of death”.

Although some of the law imposing the administration and regulation of capital punishment might be in violation of the constitution. This idea was best quoted by Hugo Adams Budeau: “Opposition to the Death Penalty does not arise from misplace sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent, and any policy of state authorized killings is immoral”.

So is our Supreme Court trying to “get rid” of human lives, is this why the government proved the death penalty to not be unconstitutional? Scholars against the death sentence assure that all doctrines of religion, ethics, and morality are clear that “human beings must not harm one another, nor should they do to others what they would not have other due to them”. The Death Penalty would be put into a court case based on the appeal and the jurisdiction of the judge?

The only manner in which the Death Penalty may be justified is when those convicted have acted outside the boundaries of acceptable human behavior. But not even then would it have to be necessary to do so, sequential punishments may include life in jail without parole which is not only 6 to 10 time less expensive but also give the accused a chance to make meaningful changes in his/her life, to make contributions to society, to relate to family or to even have a chance to be proven not guilty. I do not think that this is not the way to give life back to innocent bystanders. States also spend resources that could be spent doing other things that will benefit them more than a death penalty.

States such as Florida have spent an average of $3.2 million per person since 1972. California spends almost $100 million per year n capital cases and New York can start looking at something within that range once the death penalty, which was signed into law by Governor Pataki in 1994, takes place. The state has yet to announce how and when executions will be carried out, but the sure thing is that when it does go into effect the cost will come from takes, which were also supposed to be decreasing as passed by the state legislature. The state of New Jersey has also had the Death Penalty for over 13 years and this is costing tax payer money, but why the penalty has if not one person has yet to be executed. If this was the case would they have thought of the expense? Capital Punishment is uncivilized in theory and inequitable and unfair in practice; so why should we stoop to this level of murder?
In the past, capital punishment horrified people, which deterred them from committing crime. In England, the country from which the United States adopted the death penalty, the death penalty was imposed for a rather large number of offenses in an effort to discourage people from committing crimes. Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged “From stoning in biblical times, crucifixion under the Romans, beheading in France, to those used in the United States today: hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection”(Bedau). There were drastic penalties for such serious crimes as homicide. Execution was a suitable punishment for those times. Today, though, the law is not as strict. This leads potential criminals not to fear the death penalty because government today uses more “humane” methods of execution, rather than the brutal punishment that history portrayed.

People who oppose the death penalty say that “there is no evidence that the murder rate fluctuates according to the frequency with which the death penalty is used” (Masur). It is more likely that the convict would be paroled instead of being executed because of the present practice of allowing unlimited appeals. Convicted criminals are not exposed to cruel punishment, but rather given a long waiting period. If the criminal is put to death, it is usually done as mercifully as possible.

One problem with the death penalty, presently, is that crime is not decreasing, but rather increasing. If capital punishment is supposed to deter crimes such as murder, it is not serving its purpose. Even philosophers, such as Beccaria, Voltaire, and Bentham of the Enlightenment Period, argued that “the death penalty was needlessly cruel, overrated as a deterrent, and occasionally imposed in fatal error” (Fogelson 89).

Another problem with the death penalty is the enormous amount of money being spent on implementation. It costs taxpayers millions of dollars more to execute a criminal than to lock him up for life. The number of prisoners on death row has been steadily increasing and will soon meet all time highs. This fact brings up the question of economic feasibility of the implementation, as well as the question of whether the death penalty is actually an effective deterrent to crime.

Currently, Texas leads the nation in both death row population and in the number of executions. Texas has 351 condemned men and 4 women awaiting sentence, and has had 46 executions since 1977. These prisoners spent an average of eight years on death row and cost Texans an average of 2.3 million dollars per case. The legal process a condemned prisoner goes through is very lengthy and costly.

A person is only given the death penalty for certain crimes in Texas. A death sentence is handed down if a person is convicted of the murder of a police officer or fireman, murder during certain felonies, murder for pay or reward, multiple murders, or murder during prison escape. Once a criminal has been sentenced, he or she can appeal the decision.

In addition to the courts appeals, the cost of an average of $180,000 per case, the $150,000 prison cost also escalates the economic burden to the state. This cost does not include the $21,000 execution cost or the $19,500 needed for extra security (Van den Haag). To have a death row prisoner means that the state must provide police, fire, and public safety protection. They also require special housing units, extra guards, food, and around-the-clock security. To cut down costs, several alternatives to the death penalty have been discussed by public officials. One alternative is to sentence criminals to life imprison without possibility of parole instead of execution. Although this plan would save millions of dollars, it would create problems in the prison system. The end result would be killing each other and killing prison guards without the threat of serious consequences.

Some people turn to the Bible to determine what is right, but the Bible can be interpreted as arguing either way. The Old Testament can be interpreted as arguing for the death penalty. This interpretation is formulated from the passage in which God sentences Cain to walk the Earth without food or human contact. Cain killed his brother Able, and therfore was punished by banishment. This type of punishment would be impossible to impose on an individual at this day and age. Those for the death penalty justify the use of capital punishment as a necessary for the preservation of the society of the twentieth century.

The same Old Testament can be interpreted as against the death penalty. The quotation, “Vengeance said the Lord, is mine, and if anyone kills Cain, it shall be taken on him sevenfold,” is most accurately interpreted as anti-death penalty (Berns 11). This statement steers society into allowing God to take care of the sinful individual in His own manner. Cain was banished and considered an outcast just as the prisoner is an outcast from society.

Many questions have been raised as to the effectiveness of the death penalty, and whether it should still be used today. Everywhere in the United States the death penalty has been under fire. The awareness of the people and arguments made by lawmakers has led to an anti-death penalty sentiment in the United States. Arguments in favor of the death penalty, such as “the punishment fitting the crime” and the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent against crime, are made. These ideas are the basis for pro-death penalty views among the population and court systems of America.
Important legal arguments against the death penalty are usually made from what is stated in the Constitution. Many people believe that the death penalty is unlawful because it violates the cruel and unusual punishment clauses under the eighth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution. Another argument that the abolitionist group make is that the death penalty violates the discriminatory clause of the Constitution. Of all executions that took place in the United States between 1930 and 1966, over half of those who died were black.

The controversy over capital punishment began in the eighteenth century and continues today. Throughout the world innocent people are executed in several inhumane forms which the United States should not follow. Today there exists a raging debate on whether the death penalty is economically, morally, and legally justifiable, or still just cruel and inhumane.

The Debate over the merits of capital punishment has endured for years, and continues to be an extremely indecisive and complicated issue. Adversaries of capital punishment point to the Marshalls and the Millgards, while proponents point to the Dahmers and Gacys. Society must be kept safe from the monstrous barbaric acts of these individuals and other killers, by taking away their lives to function and perform in our society. At the same time, we must insure that innocent people such as Marshall and Millgard are never convicted or sentenced to death for a crime that they did not commit.

Many contend that the use of capital punishment as a form of deterrence does not work, as there are no fewer murders on a per-capita basis in countries or states that do have it, then those that do not. In order for capital punishment to work as deterrence, certain events must be present in the criminal’s mind prior to committing the offence. The criminal must be aware that others have been punished in the past for the offence that he or she is planning, and that what happened to another individual who committed this offence, can also happen to me.

But individuals who commit any types of crime ranging from auto theft to 1st-Degree Murder, never take into account the consequences of their actions. Deterrence to crime is rooted in the individuals themselves. Every human has a personal set of conduct. How much they will and will not tolerate. How far they will and will not go. This personal set of conduct can be made or be broken by friends, influences, family, home, life, etc. An individual, who is never taught some sort of restraint as a child, will probably never understand any limit as to what they can do, until they have learned it themselves. Therefore, capital punishment will never truly work as a deterrent, because of human nature to ignore practiced advice and to self-learn. 

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