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The Death Penalty 8 Essay, Research Paper
The Death Penalty
The death penalty has always been and continues to be a very controversial issue. People on both sides of the issue argue endlessly to gain further support for their movements. While opponents of capital punishment are quick to point out that the United States remains one of the few Western countries that continues to support the death penalty, Americans are also more likely to encounter violent crime than citizens of other countries (Brownlee 31). Justice mandates that criminals receive what they deserve . The punishment must fit the crime. If a buglar deserves imprisonment, then a murderer deserves death (Winters 168). The death penalty is necessary and the only punishment suitable for those convicted of capital offenses. Seventy-five percent of Americans support the death penalty, according to Turner, because it provides a deterrent to some would-be murderers and it also provides for moral and legal justice (83).
“Deterrence is a theory: It asks what the effects are of a punishment (does it reduce the crime rate?) and makes testable predictions (punishment reduces the crime rate compared to what it would be without the credible threat of punishment)”, (Van Den Haag 29). The detterent effect of any punishment
depends on how quicklythe punishment is applied ( Worsnop 16). Exections are so rare and delayed for so long in comparison th the number of capitol offeses committed that statistical correlations cannot be expected (Winters 104). The number of potential murders that are deterred by the threat of a death penalty may never be known, just as it may never be known how many lives are saved with it. However, it is known that the death penalty does definately deter those who are executed.
Life in prision without the possibility of parole is the alternative to execution presented by those that consider words to be equal to reality. Nothing prevents the people sentenced in this way from being paroled under later laws or later court rulings. Futhermore, nothing prevents them from escaping or killing again while in prison. After all, if they have already recieved the maximum sentence available, they have nothing to lose. For example, in 1972 the U.S. Surpreme Court banished the death penalty. like other states, Texas commuted all death sentences to life imprisionment. After being released into the general prison populaton, according to Winters:
Twelve of the forty-seven prisoners that recieved commuted sentences were responsible for twenty-one serious violent offenses aainst other inmates and prison staff. One of the commuted death row prisoners killed another inmate and another one killed a girl within one year of his release on parole.(21)
This does not mean that every death row inmate would kill again if realeased, but they do tend to be repeat offenders. Winters states “Over forty percent of the persond on death row in 1992 were on probation, parole, or pretrail release at the time that they murdered” (107).
Society has a right and a duty to demand a terrible punishment for a terrible crime. According to Walter Burns, an eloquent defender of the death penalty, execution is the only punishment that can remind people of the moral order that human beings alone live by (qtd in Hertzburg 4). Van Den Haag states that the desire to see crime punished is felt because the criminal gratifies his desires by means that the noncriminal has restrained from using. The punishment of the criminal is needed to justify the restraint of the noncriminal (30). Society has a moral obligation to see that civil government punishes all criminals, which includes enforcing capital punishment. Executing capital offenders helps to balance the scales of moral justice.
The death penalty is religiously permissible according to certain passages in the Old Testament, particularly in the “eye for an eye” teaching advocated in Matthew 5:38. god requires capital justice for premeditated murder, when there is no dooubt of hte accused person’s guilt. This is the one crime in the bible for which there is no restitution possible (Winters 64).
The Constitution of the United States also supports the death penalty. Norton quotes James Madison, author of the Bill Of Rights:
The Fifth Amendment states ‘ “no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due pprocess of the law’ “. The Eighth Amendment states that “‘ cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted’”. (A-14)
Since both of these ammendments were enacted on the same date in 1791, it can be safely assumed that executing someone for a capital offense does not qualify as cruel or unusual punishment as long as the individual has mot been deprived of life without due process of the law. The majority of death sentences are not carried out until all appeals are exhausted, which generally takes several years, if not decades. This long appeals process guarantees that the accused recieves due process. In 1974, lawmakers authorized the death penalty for airline hijackings that result in death and in 1988 thay extended the penalty to certain drug trafficking homicides. The crime bill passed in the summer of 1994 approved the death penalty for dozens of new or existing federal crimes like: treason, genocide #, death caused by train wreck, lethal drive-by shootings, civil rights murders, and gun murders commited during a federal drug felony or violent felony. Thirty-eight states have reinstated capital punishment laws since the U.S. Supreme Court banished it in 1972 and reinstated it a few years later. Executions satisfy the public’s demand that murderers suffer punishment proportionate to thier offense.
If it is wrong to impose the death penalty on murderers, then it would be wrong to forceably take back what a robber took by force. It would be wrong to imprision someone that illegally imprisioned someone else. It would also be wrong for the police to drive over the speed limit to persue someone who was speeding. The death penalty is a deserved and just punishment for murder. It does deter some murders, which saves an unknown number of innocent lives. These reasons are why, through all the controversey, three-quarters of Americans continue to support capital punishment.
The Bible. King James Version.
Brownlee, Shannon, Don McGraw, and Jason Vest. “the Place For Vengence.” U.S. News and World Reports 16 June 1997: 24-32.
Hertzburg, Hendrick. “Burning Question.” The New Reublic 20 February 1989: 4+.
Norton, Mary, et al. A People and a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Inc, 1990.
Turner, Richard. “Death-Penalty Taboos.” Newsweek 30 June 1997: 83.
Van Den Haag, Earnest, and John Conrad. The Death Penalty: A Debate. New York: Plenum Press, 1997.
Winters. Paul (ed.). The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc, 1997.
Worsnop, Richard. “Death Penalty Debate.” CQ Researcher. Vol. 5. 10 March 1995: 193-213.
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