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The Death Penalty (Persuasive) Essay, Research Paper

Susan Sarandon, who starred in a film about capital punishment called Dead Man Walking, had an interesting conversation with her daughter about the film. Sarandon was explaining to her young daughter how capital punishment works: First Billy kills Steve, then the government kills Billy, to punish him for killing Steve. To this the young girl replied, well then who kills the government?

This little girl unwittingly stumbled into one of the most controversial topics in the world, capital punishment. In this speech I will give some background about capital punishment then using statistics and facts I will share why I believe that the death penalty is wrong.

I realize that some of you may disagree with me, and that s understandable, all I ask is that you listen to the facts before you decide to side with me or not.

Before hearing the arguments about capital punishment one must understand some of the history and basic information. Capital Punishment according to webster is imposition of a penalty of death by the state.

The earliest recorded capital punishment was 1750 B.C. From the fall of Rome to the beginnings of the modern era, capital punishment was practiced throughout Western Europe. The modern movement for the abolition of capital punishment began in the 18th century with the writings of Montesquieu and Voltaire. Some of the first countries to abolish capital punishment included Venezuela (1863), San Marino (1865), and Costa Rica (1877).

As of the beginning of 1992, 44 countries had abolished the death penalty, while 16 other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Israel, retained capital punishment only for treason and war crimes. There are 106 countries and territories that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes (burglary etc.), including many countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, as well as the republics of the former Soviet Union.

Since the 1970s, almost all capital sentences in the United States have been imposed for homicide. There has been intense debate among Americans regarding the constitutionality of capital punishment. Critics charge that executions are violations of the cruel and unusual punishment provision of the Eighth Amendment; supporters of the death penalty counter that this clause was not intended to prohibit legal executions. Many people fail to realize that in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was no longer legal. It abolished the Federal and state death penalty laws of the time, but it left the way open for Congress or state legislatures to enact new capital punishment laws in the future. A number of states enacted new capital punishment laws soon after the ruling.

In Gregg v. Georgia (1976), the court allowed capital punishments to resume in certain states. Since then, 38 states have reinstated the death penalty.

In order to determine whether or not the death penalty should exist, we must determine if it is fulfilling its intended purpose. The death penalty is used for two main reasons: to deter crime and to bring criminals to justice. Whether or not it brings the criminals to justice is debatable, but I won t go into that in this speech. Many people believe that the threat of death also deters people from committing violent crimes such as murder, but the statistics tell a different story: let s take a closer look.

To see if capital punishment actually does deter crime, authors John Sorenson, Robert Wrinkle, Victoria Brewer, and James Marquart examined executions in Texas between 1984 and 1997. They speculated that if a deterrent effect were to exist, it would be found in Texas because of the high number of death sentences and executions within the state. But the authors found absolutely no evidence of a deterrent effect.

A similar study was done in Oklahoma and it yielded even more surprising results. There was a significant increase in stranger killings and non-felony stranger killings after Oklahoma okayed the death penalty.

For the 15 year period in which California carried out an excution every other month (1952-1967) murder rates increased 10% annually. Between 1967 and 1991, when there were no executions in California, the murder rates increased only 4.8% annually.

In another study, the Bureau of Justice- reports that the South repeatedly has the highest murder rates in America. Maybe not coincidentally, the south accounts for 80% of all executions. The northeast, which has less than one percent of all executions in the US has the lowest murder rate. Is it merely coincidence?

Overall in the nation the non-death penalty states have a murder rate of 3.5 of every 100,000 people. The death penalty states have a murder rate of 6.6 of every 100,000. The homicide rate in death penalty states is nearly double the rate in non-death penalty states.

I could continue to list study after study that shows the death penalty does not deter crime, but I think you are getting the point. Capital punishment is a complete failure in crime deterrence, in many cases it has the c opposite effect. It causes crime rates to rise rather than fall. We would normally think that if someone is facing threat of death, he might think twice about killing someone, but it doesn t work that way in actuality.

Crime deterrence is not the only area in which the death penalty fails. Many people think that simply executing a murderer is a good way to save money. After all, if he s dead you don t have to pay to keep him alive in prison. So it should naturally follow that execution is cheaper than giving a life sentence. It doesn t. Here are some facts to prove it.

-North Carolina pays 2.16 million per execution over the costs of a non-death penalty murder case with a life sentence. Most of this extra cost in incurred in the courtroom. Death penalty cases are often appealed over and over, costing the taxpayers millions each time.

-The Death penalty cost s California 90 million annualy beyond the ordinary costs of the justice system- 78 million of that total is spent in trials.

-Florida averaged about 3.2 million dollars per execution from 1973-1988. That s 57 million dollars for 18 executions.

Even some death penalty supporters agree that it is costly to execute people. Prosecutor Phil Haney, who often pushes for the death penalty, says that if he could be sure life in prison really meant life in prison, he would be for abolishing the death penalty. It s a matter of economics, he said It just costs too much to execute someone.

Not only is the death penalty useless in stopping crime and saving money, it also is racially biased. (put overhead up) I was astonished when I saw these stats. It s absolutely sickening to think that even in this day and age, you are nearly 80% more likely to be executed for killing a white man, than if you had killed a black man. The system is racist. There is no nicer way of saying it.

Since 1976 only 11 white men have been executed for killing black men. In that same amount of time 145 black men have been executed for killing white men. Is that justice? No, it s racism.

With all of these facts about the ineffectiveness of the death penalty, lets take another look at the logic behind the death penalty. Killing is wrong. Killing is so wrong that if you kill someone else, the Government will kill you. No one is allowed to kill anyone else, except for the Government, it s perfectly fine for them to kill people. It makes no sense. Are rapists punished for their crimes by being raped? Are burglars punished by being robbed? No.

I propose that the death penalty be abolished. I also would like tougher sentencing laws for murderers. They should not be allowed parole under any circumstances.

In conclusion I have shown statistics to prove that the death penalty is ineffective in deterring crime, saving money, and being fair to minorities. It s time for a change. I don t expect you to agree with me completely, I only ask that you look at all of the information about capital punishment before you decide to support or oppose it. The truth is out there. It s our job to look for it.

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