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Join Date: Nov 2009
Re: Help grade my English homework! (no, seriously...)
Here is my death penalty one.
The Death Penalty: Is It Morally Wrong?
Is the death penalty morally wrong, or is it an acceptable method of punishment? In a country as advanced as ours, this is a question that has brought significant deliberation among our states and its people. Some states use the death penalty and some have abolished it long ago. Some people think it is a justifiable punishment for convicted murderers and some feel it is too barbaric and extreme. Many people feel it is wrong to kill anyone, no matter the circumstance. In my opinion, the death penalty is wrong for many reasons. It is questionable as to whether or not the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime. I believe it violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment. It is contradictory and unethical to kill as a way to show that killing is wrong. It is not any less expensive, as monetary costs are higher to bring a criminal to execution than they are for lifetime imprisonment. Even for people that believe in the death penalty, it is a fact that there have been cases of wrongful conviction, where the person executed was later found to be innocent. For these reasons and many others, the death penalty should be abolished completely in the United States.
Whether it is effective to deter further crime is questionable. “Half the capital crimes that end up going to court are armed robberies gone bad – the stereotypical convenience-store gunman” (Bloom, 2003). Some people do believe that we will have fewer armed robberies if criminals see prisons full of store robbers waiting to die. One can argue that the death penalty doesn’t deter crime because the kind of person who wants to hold up a liquor store is not going to be thinking, “But what if I kill somebody?” He’s already a desperate man, and he’s not considering consequences. His whole thought process is focused on the short term. For these reasons, I do not believe the death penalty is a deterrence to crime. I feel the better word for what it represents is vengeance. Society feels there needs to be a right for the wrong.
The death penalty is still used in thirty-three states and, surprisingly, murder rates in those states which still use the death penalty are higher than in those that do not. “In 2010, the average murder rate of death penalty states was 4.6 per 100,000 people, while the average murder rate of states without the death penalty was 2.9” (Death Penalty Information Center). In Texas, a state well-known for the death penalty, the murder rate ranged between 5.0 and 6.4 per 100,000 people during a ten year time period. By contrast, Wisconsin, a state which outlawed the death penalty in 1853, had about half that level of murder rate over the same time period. “As of August 2003, Texas carried out 39% of all US executions” (Prejean, 2006). Arguments could be made to debate comparison between Texas and Wisconsin, but their murder rate differences are an indication that the death penalty may not be an effective deterrent against violent crime.
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”. It is the cruel and unusual punishment clause of this amendment that the death penalty is in direct conflict with. I cannot think of anything more cruel and unusual than strapping a person down to a table and injecting them with deadly chemicals, or strapping someone to a chair and running electricity through their body until they are dead. There is no way to execute a human being that would not be considered cruel and unusual. Sentencing a person to lifetime imprisonment at least allows the person to live out the rest of their life, even if it is in confined quarters. Someone who spends their life in prison at least gets the chance to exercise, spend time outside, and can even read books to further their education if they so desire. They have time to consider their actions and become remorseful for their crime. In other words, it is a humane type of punishment. No matter how the death penalty is carried out, it is cruel and unusual in nature.
It is unethical and contradictory to kill as a way of showing that killing is wrong. The philosopher Jeremy Bentham did not believe in “getting even” through pain or punishment. The death penalty absolutely follows the “eye for an eye” philosophy which is the epitome of getting even. Not only is the killing immoral, but society also feels there is some level of final pleasure or relief by allowing the family of the victim to watch the act of execution. It seems contradictory that this is allowed, as it will not bring back a family member, but instead will be yet another tragic event for them to recover from. Bentham’s utilitarian perspective said that retribution for retribution's own sake must be rejected in principle, and that one should not cause more pain than is absolutely necessary. He believed that you should not make a person suffer because their act caused someone pain, and that a punishment should not exceed the bare minimum that would make it effective. Certainly life in prison meets the requirement of establishing a bare minimum to repay an offense. These basic beliefs imply that sentencing a penalty that is the ultimate possibility is more than is morally required.
Contrary to popular belief, costs to taxpayers to bring a criminal to execution are four to six times higher than lifetime imprisonment. This is due to multiple appeals and additional required procedures needed before any state can carry out the death penalty. “It requires two trials – one for determining guilt, another for determining sentencing, usually followed by years of appeals” (Prejean, 2005). With more states having trouble with budgets and deficits, taxpayers should prefer to spend the least amount of money possible to deal with convicted murderers. According to a Washington DC newspaper, “California, who supports the largest death penalty system, with 729 inmates on death row as of August, will spend $1 billion in five years on the death penalty system. In that state, repealing the system and going to life sentences would save the state $130 million annually” (Clark, 2012).
One of the significant moral dilemmas of the death penalty is wrongful execution. The mere possibility of wrongful execution justifies outright abolition of the death penalty. “In recent years, several death-row prisoners have escaped execution after post-conviction DNA evidence proved that they were innocent. Such cases reveal the unreliability of the judicial branch of government and call into question the legitimacy of capital punishment as it is administered in the United States” (Cannon, 2000). Since it has been proven that a certain percentage of condemned inmates are innocent, the death penalty should be abolished.
Professor Lawrence Marshall from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Law School spoke at a Congressional testimony in 2012, when he commented on the fact that many men and women have been exonerated from death sentences. He notes that there are many reasons for error, but the three leading causes of wrongful convictions are eyewitness error, false confessions, and informant testimony. DNA evidence has been used in some cases, but it is not common that DNA is found to identify or exclude a suspect. (FDCH Congressional Testimony, 6/12/2002). Nationally, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 101 innocent men and women have been released from death rows in the United States since 1973. This is an extreme number and holds a strong argument for abolishing the death penalty. If this many people have been exonerated, there are likely more that have been executed in error. In many cases, it is difficult to really know for sure that the right person is being convicted.
In one example in Cleveland, a man who was on death row for 21 years was set free after a judge determined that the prosecution withheld evidence that would have exonerated the man during his initial trial. As you can see from this case, there may be times where evidence is presented in a way to make the jury think they know all the facts when indeed they do not. Juries are required to make decisions based on what is presented to them, yet that may not be the whole story. With a penalty as severe as death, it is unjust and immoral to charge anyone with such a sentence. History shows that there are many reasons that there could be error in facts presented during trial.
The death penalty is morally wrong. Early philosophers could see the principle to not use vengeance for punishment, to not use severe acts as retaliation. You would think that an advanced society would agree. Is our society not concerned with protecting human life? I think that people in many ways are focused on revenge. They feel an “eye for an eye” is a deserving consequence. Does that not in some sense make them murderers? This thought process is inhumane and flawed. It is immoral to kill someone regardless of who you are. I believe that applies to controlling bodies of the government as much as it does to criminals. There are many other less expensive and more humane methods of punishment that can be used rather than the death penalty. Life imprisonment is a much more effective means of punishment. It is time that our society looks inward at what we are turning into. The death penalty is morally wrong and should be stopped in all cases.
Cannon, Carl M. "The Problem With the Chair - A Conservative Case Against Capital Punishment". 52. National Review, Inc., 2000. Print.
"Charge dismissed against US man once on death row ." AP English Worldstream – English [Cleveland, US] 06 09 2012.
Falikowski, Anthony. Moral Philosophy for modern life. Second Edition. Toronto, Canada: Pearson Education Canada, 2005, 1998. 50-58. Print.
Prejean, Sister Helen. The Death of Innocents. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 2005. Print.
"REDUCING THE RISK OF EXECUTING THE INNOCENT ." FDCH Congressional Testimony(2002). Military & Government Collection. Database. 28 Oct 2012. Accession Number: 32Y1726411929.
Williams, Mary E. Capital Punishment. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2005. p. 116. Print.
US Const. Amend. VIII. Print
Samuel Adams once said, "among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life, secondly to liberty, thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can."
Last edited by hogger129; 11-30-2012 at 02:54 PM..