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Death Penalty Essay, Research Paper

In 1976, the death penalty was reinstated in the United States. Since then, the execution of criminals has been reactivated in state after state, using methods such as electrocution, lethal injection, and firing squads. These legal killings have been the center of an American debate that surfaced with the conviction and sentencing of Timothy McVeigh for the Oklahoma City bombing. I believe that reinstating the death penalty was wrong.

First off, let us bring up the popular claim of death penalty defenders, that the execution of one criminal for his crimes will scare others from committing a crime. But think about our history for a moment, and you will see this to be defective logic. The death penalty has existed on our world in many forms since time began, and in many countries avoidance of “cruel and unusual punishment” is not a consideration. But we have seen the world crime rate climb, with crimes becoming more and more terrible and violent than ever before. It should be obvious to all that our current methods are not working, and are in desperate need of improvement.

Another argument that persists amongst the bloodthirsty is the ?financial benefits? of the death penalty. The very suggestion of using saved tax dollars to support the pro-death penalty argument should be a nauseating idea to all concerned. Were you aware that it costs around three million dollars per execution? Those with political yearnings take advantage of this unfortunate understanding; they all think the convicted are living it up in American prisons, splurging the taxpayer’s money as they watch cable TV and ?pump iron? in weight rooms. But prisons are not the lap of luxury. To claim that these so-called “excesses” that is costing the people could be strong and solid by allowing the death penalty to remain on the books. It is not only disgusting and inhumane, but ridiculous as well. The average number of about 300 executions carried out each year does not compare in the slightest to the imprisonment rate of murderers; the total executions doesn?t even make a dent in the budgets of our states.

There is the issue as viewed from a religious standpoint. The anti-death penalty position is officially the stance of the Catholic Church, affirmed by Pope John Paul II in his March 1995 encyclical, when he stated that conditions that would justify the death penalty are practically nonexistent. According to the 1995 Gallup survey, all major Protestant denominations except Southern Baptists officially oppose the death penalty as well. What most clerical scholars do agree on is that the judicial system must be improved to prevent the possibility of putting even one innocent person to death. After all, one of the oldest examples of a society executing an innocent man was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

But let us look at the religion that has always incorporated into criminal proceedings, Christianity. In the bible God stated, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” But it is commonly argued that the famous passage in the bible that reads, “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” should be interpreted as supporting revenge. True, it could be read that way, but if they are going to believe the bible supports the death penalty, they would also have to believe that Christ?s death requires them as believers to forgive their fellow man his sins. I personally find this ?convenient faith in only the relevant? and ?flexibly translated sections of the bible? offensive.

The tendency to hide the revenge aspect of the death penalty behind the idea of the convicted decision being beyond reform is common. The people, who are said to be ?beyond reform? that are not sentenced to die, but are given life without parole. There is no reason for the death penalty in this case except pure revenge — someone must pay dearly for those deaths, and that is the sad bottom line. Because of the vicious nature of the crime, no one cares if he is the right man or not; whoever the FBI landed on in the Oklahoma Bombing case would have been sentenced to die, no matter who. I really do feel for those who lost relatives and/or friends to the bombing. I know how I would feel if it had been my family members who died. But we others must remember to keep our heads in situations like these, and not get caught up in the insanity that follows. (An easy statement to have from my comfortable position; I only hope my beliefs would be strong enough to withstand such a personal tragedy.)

How do we look our young impressionable children in the eyes and say, “This man killed, so we now kill him”? We cannot send the mixed message that our justice system is both a reformatory vehicle and a spiteful one. If I were a relative of one of the victims in Oklahoma, I would want to personally introduce McVeigh to the flames of damnation. But we cannot, no matter how great the pain of others, allow our courts to allow revenge rather than justice.

Advocates of the death penalty contradict themselves at almost every turn; we ask god in song and prayer to “bless America”. Yet American law flings one of god’s highest right back into his face. “Thou shalt not kill” That passage apparently does not apply to twelve people on jury duty, but if those same twelve people gathered and arranged to kill a neighborhood drug dealer, they would be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. We have legislated convenient permission to commit murder into our laws, and covered it over with formal court procedures and “humane” lethal injections and the precursor of a trial. It still boils down to the decision to kill one man because he killed others.

The death penalty is wrong, not only because it is hypocritical, but because we must learn, slowly but surely, to overcome the brutal traditions which disease the human race; wars, prejudice, and yes, the burden of the death penalty upon others. I grant you, reader; this does have a ring of naivet? to it. But why shouldn’t our country aspire to ?utopian standards?? In the words of Gandhi, “An eye for an eye–and everyone is blind.”

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