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?Death And Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life,? By Edward I. Koch Essay, Research Paper

The Affirmation of Life

The essay ?Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life,? by Edward I. Koch, is a rather conservative outlook of the death penalty from a member of the Democratic Party. It first appeared in The New Republic, a magazine that is known for its controversial articles. In the essay, Koch effectively argues the fact that capital punishment is not only a deterrent for crime, but also affirms the sanctity of life.

Since this essay was found in The New Republic, Koch most likely wrote this essay to high society, politically minded people that were deciding if they should support the death penalty or not. Koch also wrote this to people that supported the death penalty but weren?t exactly sure how to convince others of it. That?s why Koch gives the possible arguments against capital punishment and then a detailed counter argument for capital punishment.

Koch organizes his essay well. He begins by telling the readers about the execution of Robert Lee Willie. Robert Lee Willie told his executioners that they were no better than he, if they continued the execution. Koch goes on to state that Robert Lee Willie only then understood the sanctity of life. Then the author placed his thesis on the third paragraph because he wanted to first show the reader that when faced with death, even the criminals see the sanctity of life. Then Koch states in his thesis that life is

indeed precious, and that even after examining the arguments of his opponents, he still supports the death penalty.

Koch continues by stating each common argument, then answering them in detail by using sub-arguments, summaries of research, and testimonies for factual evidences. In the sub-arguments he plays on the reader?s logic. For example, when Koch was stating that capital punishment strengthens the value of human life, he insisted that if you lower the penalty for rape, that it would be a clear signal that you lessen the regard for the victim?s suffering and humiliation, and applies the same logic for murder. This statement, and others like it, where written to cause the reader to agree with him simply because logic dictates it.

Other effective arguments in this essay are summaries of research. Numerous times Koch states political and religious sources and even sourced the greatest thinkers of our time. For example, the author states that the political leaders Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin endorsed the death penalty, and even Lincoln executed deserters in the civil war. Koch notes that the greatest thinkers, Kant, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Mill, agreed that ?natural law properly authorizes the sovereign to take life in order the vindicate justice.(Koch, 342)? Koch covers every aspect of human culture with these examples. The author aligned himself with religion, logic, morality and the greatest national leaders of this country, and the greatest thinkers of all time; it would be almost foolish to contradict these arguments.

The author relates stories of the people that died by the hand of a murderer and about the murderers themselves. Koch uses the example of Rosa Velez, who was murdered when her home was burglarized by Luis Vera. Why did he kill her? Because he knew that he wasn?t going to face the consequences. If he knew the penalty was his own life, Rosa?s life may have been spared. He uses this story because it is a down to earth example of how the death penalty might have turned a situation for the better.

Another story used by Koch was of Lemuel Smith. While serving a life sentence in prison for kidnapping, robbery, and murder, Smith lured a female corrections officer into the chaplain?s office, killed her, then mutilated her body. Koch made the point that a man?s punishment can?t get any worse serving a life sentence. Prison does not rehabilitate the prisoner

The tone of the essay was appropriate for the topic. The author was not simply trying to be argumentative, even though Koch did have the style of an argument. Koch was logical, straightforward, and to the point. Most of his arguments were fact or dealt with extremely easy logic. The essay had a logical order, so it was easy to read and made perfect sense to those reading it.

Koch used logic, emotions, and morality to appeal to his audiences. He plays on your emotions by stating horrific crimes that were not punishable by simply serving time in prison. He then uses logic by saying that the only way to stop these crimes from reoccurrence, is to stop the criminal or make the punishment so extreme that they think twice before doing it in the first place. Koch also reflected on the morality of the death penalty. He stated that even though the death penalty seemed to be wrong because it is a

state sanctioned murder, it wasn?t murder. The state has the powers to dispense justice. An example that Koch used is taxation. If someone tries to force someone else to give them money, under the pretence that they would be punished, it is extortion. If the state does that, its taxation.

Koch not only effectively argues that life is precious and capital punishment defends the sanctity of life, but also the fact that the greatest minds of the world and greatest political leaders of our time endorsed it. The author proves that capital punishment is a necessity to stop the murders, though even the death of a murderer is tragic.


Koch, Edward. ?Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life.? The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon, 2000

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