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Capital Punishment, Is It Justice? Essay, Research Paper

Many people often debate over the legitimacy over capital punishment, whether or not a person can receive the death penalty as a punishment if he or she commits an act of murder. Some argue that the death penalty is a justly act against dangerous criminals while others argue that the penalty is immoral, playing the role of God, and does not even lower the crime rate one bit. In fact, the death penalty is a severe punishment with some negative outcomes at times, but overall, it was placed in this world to serve the sole purpose of protecting our people from violent and dangerous deviants. When used properly, just for cases in which the murder or crime was so heinous, justice is being served for the victim and the rest of the world is being protected from being the possible next victim.

There are two major authors who describe their views on the act of capital punishment. One man, Robert Lee, shows his side as the standpoint of the man finding justice for the family of victims and hoping for peace among our community without the threat of an escape killer at large. First off, if any man is being placed on trial of a death penalty case, the act, whether it be rape or murder, has been a most gruesome one. Simple murders and one shot killing do not go into the capital punishment courtrooms. The men and women who see these particular courtrooms are those who decided to go out and pre-meditate a killing or defamation (forcing sexual intercourse) of another human being. Lee does not feel that deterrence should be considered the main reason for adhearing the death penalty. It would be unmoral to punish a man merely as an example to other men, “don’t do this or you will be killed like this here man.” If a punishment given to one person deters someone else from committing the same act, then great, that is an extra strengthened to help our community’s peace. The main question should be, when dealing with capital punishment is, has the criminal at hand deserved to receive the punishment of being taken off of this planet. Has he entailed such a gruesome act, and taken an innocent life, and inflicted pain into the hearts of many mourning family members?

As for the price of court costs, lawyers, and appeals, Lee lets us know, it is but the abolitionists’ and defenders of the criminals that are responsible for the interminable legal activities that run up the costs sky high. When people say, “Capital punishment costs our government too much money,” little do they realize, it is the repetitive appeals, time consuming delays, and unprogressive pace of the trial that causes the bills in each case. It is not capital punishment itself running up the bills. Nowadays, the American Bar Association requires two lawyers to be present for each and every stage of the court proceedings and require both lawyers to have experience in the field of capital punishment. This costs more money because the lawyers are state appointed. I do feel though, that when one is dealing with the death penalty and a man’s life is at stake, we must take the input and knowledge of two people so that things wont turn up bias or unfair. Another point mentioned by Lee is that capital punishment is most appropriate so that the innocent community members of society are kept safe. When you only lock a criminal up, they have a chance of getting loose and going to kill more people. If these men and woman are dangerous, they will try to find a way out of jail, and once they do, they have a very high potential of killing or raping again. Clearly, life sentences alone do not adequately protect society, whereas the death penalty properly applied does so with certainty. There is no equality in the courtroom. The facts are, based on their record; black people will always and have always been treated a little worse than white people. We live in a prejudice nation and racism is in any country you visit. World peace has only come about half way, and that is quite a jump. Forget which black did which crime to which white and which white man killed a black man for no reason at all but the fact that he is black. Both men should equally be sent to jail. But when dealing with women, there is an opportunity at hand. Cry your little eyes out. If a woman cries and shows repentance in the courtroom at the day of her trial, it’s been said the woman has a better chance at getting off. Men, on the other hand, have never been known to do that and get away. I personally, did not see what this had to do with Robert Lee feeling that the death penalty is justified, but it is a good point in case. Lastly, a good point made by Lee is that retribution, sometime, can be the only way a family receives justice for what has happened to their loved one. Not necessarily seeing the victim’s killer or rapist die, but to know that that man can never terrorize or harm another one of their family members, or any human at that matter, again.

Our next author, Mr. Matthew Stephens takes on the opposing side- an abolitionist of capital punishment. He feels that the death penalty does not deter crime, wrongfully accused people and mentally ill people who know no better are put to death, and that the justice system taking the life of a murder is the same as a criminal committing murder himself. They are both wrong, so one should not fix a murder case by murdering the offender. First of all, it has been estimated that about one third of all death row inmates have been diagnosed as mentally retarded. These folks have an IQ of less than seventy which means they just don’t have the learning or understanding capacity of your average human being. Of these death row inmates, about half of them are illiterate, which means they cannot support themselves with a job, drive a car, maintain a respectable job, or function absolutely properly. These poor people live with everyday problems of just being unintelligent. Speaking of poor, the majorities of people that are sentenced to death are those with a very poor background, people of color and minority, and people who lack adequate legal representation because they have little money. Those with money get off more easily. Colored people are common victims of poverty or a cycle of hate because of discrimination throughout their life. This can lead to hurt and rage, which may lead to the murder committed in the first place. It is a vicious and unjustly cycle. Also, with misrepresentation, a man who has had a God-awful background that led to the crime could be sentenced to death without the jury ever knowing of the horrible things that went on in the life of the deviant at a young age. I know it does not mean it is right, but you must have some forgiveness and pity in your heart for people who were treated unusually cruel at an early age in life. One case mentioned by Stephens is the case of John Young, a young black man, who at the age of 18 was convicted as the killer of three old folks in Georgia. The lawyer forgot to mention that at the age of just three years old, the baby boy was in bed with his bother resting to see a man come in and murder his mom right in front of his young fragile eyes. After witnessing his own mother’s murder, he was placed with alcoholic relatives who raised him without much care and with later turned him out on the street before he could fend for himself on his own. This particular case was just horrendous.

Taking the freedom from individuals who murder others has also been shown to be less costly than executing them through the American court system. Cost efficiency is quite a weak argument when dealing with the value of a human life however, when you put on such a superficial validation as to how the capital punishment cases do waste American dollars, the death penalty just does not hold up. The last fact that abolitionists, like Stephens, says is a reason that capital punishment is not just, is that it truly does not deter the crime rate. It has remained the same for years, regardless of increasing or decreasing executions. Criminals do not fret the idea of death as a punishment when they are about to kill someone. They are thinking about one thing, get rid of this human life or destroy this persons self worth by the act of raping. Murder rates in major states that have many capital punishment cases with executions do not have any less of a crime rate than states such as Michigan, which has no capital punishment procedures at all. Basically Stephens says we must stop playing the hand of God and walk humbly in the way of the Lord rather than committing murder because of murder.

Capital punishment is the administration of death penalty by the state to an individual who committed a crime which, based on its laws, mandates the death penalty. It is capital, because the offense is extremely serious, and it is punishment because it is given in response to some heinous crime committed by the perpetrator. When given this clear definition, I feel that capital punishment is a crucial part of society. I don’t think we should have outrageous numbers of executions, only when it seems that the killer or rapist is unapologetic, seriously deranged, or admits that he would do it again if he had a chance to do the gruesome crime. There ARE people like that out there, and may of them ARE locked away and awaiting trials. We have an overcrowding in jails already, and if we did allow these deviants into the state or federal prisons, who is to say they won’t murder in prison? A man in prison for life may murder a sixty year old man who has been waiting thirty years to finally get out of jail after a nearly life sentence. And what guardsmen are going to be hired to watch these sick deranged men from day to day, on the hour every hour? We don’t want innocent patrolmen getting murdered or injured in any way either. Although neither mandated by law nor required on moral grounds, capital punishment is a 100% effective deterrent against crimes of the criminal who’s death-sentence is being carried out. In all of human history, not one single executed murderer ever committed another crime.

Opponents of the death penalty also claim that capital punishment is immoral because it is, in their view, nothing but vengeance. The assertion is a categorical lie; any attempt to blame the victim is a despicable act of social barbarism. Capital punishment is not vengeance, but a consequence of a heinous crime committed by the criminal. Consequence, yes, vengeance no. The execution of the criminal for his crimes could be called vengeance, if the courts permitted the victim’s relatives and friends to carry out the death sentence using instruments of torture, identical or similar to the ones which were favored by Dominican and Jesuit priests during the Inquisition. Now, that would be vengeance. In fact, current methods of execution are quite humane, or rather quick and not nearly as painful as a slow murder or a slash of the neck after being raped. Our Justice System’s approach to implement capital punishment was, and still is, utterly absurd. The introduction of the use of hanging, the electric chair, gas chamber, guillotine, and fatal injection, certainly provides ample proof of an eclectic assortment of equipment, that is judicial stupidity. What would a reasonable person do to learn about efficient ways to destroy human life? The only tools I feel as a possibility of being executed would be the simplest, being put to sleep. After all, as Lee makes his strongest point, in my opinion, the purpose of the death penalty is not to seek revenge for a loss of a human life, but as a way to prevent future lives from being stolen away. Lee tells it so well when he makes his point that the innocent members of the community need to be kept safe from offenders that may break loose from prison. No harmful injections, no painful electric jolts right before you fry, and no pacing ten steps and then snap, you hear a single bullet fire off. A simple being put to sleep, possibly the person should feel him or herself sliding under, so he knows to prepare himself for his final resting time. The weakest point made by the author, I believe, is the point Lee makes on how it costs less to keep a man in jail for a life sentence. He states that for-life sentences cost less than the total cost of a median amount of about ten years and hundreds to thousands of tax paying dollars to keep appeals of criminals. This really isn’t about money, but about morality and keeping the people who have caused God-awful memories in the minds of the innocent people out of this lifetime. I have never been affected by a death-row inmate, for one has never taken the life of any of my loved ones, yet I feel strongly and deeply about this topic. If anyone were to forcefully take the purity of my innocent and young sister or the life of my strong hearted and caring mother I would have pretty much no feelings for that deviant other than he gets whatever the law dishes out for him/her. I would never wish to have the court system put that individual to death, and even hope that they possibly find the grace of the God more than the government could ever give.

In closing, anyone who objects to capital punishment should create a Will & Last Testament and deposit it at their lawyer’s office. The Will should specify that in case they are murdered, raped, or tortured-their murderer, rapist, or torturer-should not be executed. Members of the Jury considering the case should be given access to the written wishes of the deceased. That is one small possibility that runs through my mind.

In a semi-recent article, published by the Denver, CO newspaper, Rocky Mountain News, a new bill had been passed in the U.S. that effects the way a trial is run when dealing with death penalty cases. Under a new bill passed by the House of Representatives, trial judges became the new decision-makers in whether a convicted murderer should be sentenced to death or not. Prior to this bill’s passage, the decision of whether the convict would live or be sentenced to death was made by a panel of three judges. A previous 1995 legislature stripped the death penalty decisions from twelve-person juries and gave it to the trio of experienced judges. Yet, that method has been criticized lately because in two instances, a judge from outside the district voted for life-in-prison sentences in heinous murder cases. Mr. McPherson supported having the trial judges decide the cases because they are elected professionals and are accountable to people. He also said that method would most likely shorten the time it takes to try a death-penalty case. In my previous essay, it was said that capital punishment trials can linger on and take years. With this new and immediate way of giving a sentence, time spent for each trial can be cut down by a lot. And the truth is, “People lie. They’ve derailed the death penalty,” McPherson said, referring to cases in which jurors said during selection that they could impose a death sentence but later said they could not. This just shows that your everyday average U.S. citizen can have some great difficulty with taking on the task of deciding whether a man should walk or take the chair. Rep. Don Lee, of Littleton, CO unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to allow the jury to make a recommendation on life or death, and then the judge would make the final decision. Only ten jurors would have to agree, and the judge could reject their recommendation, but the judge then would have to issue a written explanation as to why he denied it. The amending of this new bill to a juror/judge combined decision allows a professional leader to make the final say, but also allows juries, an important piece of our American courtroom to be part of the decision making as well. This ties in with the text once again because making the right decision as to whether a person is dangerous and heinous enough to actually be sentenced to death is crucial. There can be no foul ups, and with a mixture of both sides having input, and the judge being the supreme say, there is a pretty good chance of trial efficiency. Unfortunately there is no follow up on whether the state of Colorado chose to pass the amended bill, or keep the brand new bill in place. All that was said is that if the bill makes it to the Senate, Senate President, Ray Powers is hopeful to pass it to another committee for hearing. I will do follow up on this article at a later date to see how the state of CO handles their capital punishment at the near-ending millennium.


Williams, Peter J., Courts Under Pressure. New England Publishing House. Ny, NY. 1998

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