Capital punishment is also known as the death penalty. This process involves the infliction of death to individuals as a punishment for certain offences by the judicial processes. This form of punishment has been practiced in the past by almost all the societies. However, a majority of the countries in the world today have abolished it, with only a few countries still following the death penalty sentencing. The deliberations over the propriety of the death penalty can be almost as old as the death penalty itself. It is interesting to note that the philosophical and moral arguments put forward by various individuals supporting or opposing the death penalty have remained remarkably the same since the genesis of the debate. Taking an insightful look in the whole subject would be able to help one identity correctly, decide, and consequently rule on the death penalty and whether it is a right form of punishment.
There are numerous reasons why the death penalty is deemed wrong by many people. One of them is the fact that the death penalty is a form of violence itself to the concerned individuals. The process of killing another human being within the provisions of the law makes the death penalty look like some legalized form of death by the state. This might however be true to some extent, considering the modes and pain that is inflicted to the victims.
Another concept that makes the death penalty not right is the fact that it may result in wrongful deaths of other individuals. Take for instance a case where one has been wrongly accused of murder, the fact that they are given limited time in the prison before being executed makes them lack the avenue, of proving their innocence. The case of Abu Jamal, a journalist who was convicted of murder of a Philadelphia policeman, was initially sentenced to death. However, the presentation of new evidence altered this process. Abu Jamal submitted a petition citing 29 different arguments for a new trial. Of those claims, only one that the jury received faulty instruction on how to deliberate his penalty was accepted (Robertson 67). He was the third Pennsylvania death row inmate to win a new sentencing. Time is of essence, and it can consequently lead to the finding of other evidences that may label a convicted murder innocent. However, with the death penalty, the proving of the cases might come later after their deaths. This is true, considering the fact that it has been witnessed in the past in the United States. Further, the argument that it is the duty of society to salvage life comes in. This argument is despite the fact that the prisoner has committed heinous crimes.
Another reason that may label the death penalty inappropriate is the fact there is always inadequate legal representation of individuals during capital trials. The American Bar association and many scholars have found that what most often determines whether or not a death penalty should be administered is not the facts concerning the crime, but the quality of legal representation of the concerned individual (Robertson 4). It is evident that a large portion of the individuals in the death row receive substandard legal representation throughout their trials. Further, most of the capital crime defendants are indigent when arrested by the state. Therefore, they will end up being represented by court appointed lawyers, who are underpaid and even inexperienced. Therefore, the end result might be an unfair judgment to the supposed offender. In effect, the individuals may end up being legally killed by the state. There are instances where the extreme has been observed. The story of Rodney Alcala a serial killer is one. The victim represented himself in court. Further, the victim expressed various prejudicial acts and treatment he received while in prison in a Santa Ana courtroom. He even claims that he suffered the detriment of an ineffective treatment that made his acute tinea unguium infection worse (Robertson 34).
It is true that capital punishment carries with it a big financial burden. There is a classical economic question that lurks in the background of the whole concept of capital punishment. A single capital litigation can cost more than $ I million (Liptak 11). This money is huge considering that some options and sectors of the economy are offset such as policing, to meet such financial targets. It is evident that the budgeting of these large amounts of money here can be channeled to other direct modes of crime prevention in the United States that may in effect reduce the number of murderers and other capital offenses.
One of the major arguments towards abolishing of capital punishment can be found in the bible in the story of Cain and Abel. The fact that God did not kill Cain after he had killed his brother Abel makes the concept of capital punishment to murderers inappropriate. Indeed, in that instance, God spared the life of Cain. However, the victim was marked as a punished individual for the rest of his life albeit he was left to live. The perspective of the argument is that the death penalty should be substituted with other forms of punishment such as life imprisonment.
Abolishing the death penalty in the United States would also have some direct economic influences to numerous citizens in the country. The fact that most legal experts that deal with that issue as well as those that represent the inmates in death row would lose their jobs is real. This case has been witnessed in various states that have made the death penalty illegal. For instance, the abolishing of the death penalty in Illinois in early March, led to the loss of jobs. An article in the New York Times proves this. It was indeed a bittersweet moment as some of the very people who had previously been in the forefront to abolish capital punishment in the state found that triumph came with a subsequent termination of employment notice (Sulzberger A14).
Any penalty or sentence that is not sufficient to deter rational people from committing the crime to which it is attached falls below the bottom end of the range of punishment because it is unjust to the potential victim (Pojman and Jeffrey 100). This statement holds so much truth in it. It is important to note that potential crime is prevented by the existing law enforcement practices including governing laws regulations. Therefore, when the worst of criminals feels that they are not being adequately punished, the end result is that they will be back in their usual crime. Harsh laws and regulations such as the death penalty go a long way in ensuring that the potential criminal is kept at bay. Further, it is vital to note that the victims of these individuals and their families may not feel that justice is served when a “lesser’” punishment, for the heinous and inhuman acts to their loved ones is administered to the perpetrators of the crime. Therefore, in this case, the death penalty helps in a big way. Statistics have it that with every one execution of a capital offender, there is a consequent deterrent of up to 18 murders (Pojman and Jeffrey 101).
The negative points in regard to the death penalty seem larger in number than the positives. However, the magnitude and meaning of the few positive points that support the capital punishment act to the worst of the worst criminals are numerous. Abolitionists claim that there are various alternatives to the death penalty (Robertson 20). One of the most considered deflection of the capital punishment is life without parole. However, taking a look at this mode of punishment, we are left with more wrong than good. It has been experienced that the inmates imprisoned using this sentence have at times killed the prison guards, and also other inmates. Further, in cases where the prisoners escape prison, which is possible, the likelihood that they will end up engaging themselves in other murders is high. Dawud Mu’Min a criminal who was convicted of murder and executed proves this. He escaped prison and killed other two individuals (O’Connor 1). It is satisfactory to say that most criminals involved here have their criminalities deeply entrenched in themselves, and more often, believe that they are doing no wrong. Therefore, to avoid these instances, which tend to humiliate the justice system and the government in general, it would be better that the criminals be legally eliminated from the face of the earth.
The minds of the individuals who commit murder and other heinous acts are often not right psychologically and mentally. Often, the nature of the crimes they perpetrate are highly inhuman, some of which cannot even be read on print by others due to the nature of gruesomeness involved. Putting a murderer away for life in prison is outright not good enough. It is evident that laws and regulations change. Further, parole boards and also people tend to forget the past. Therefore, life imprisonment is likely to weather away as well. As long as the murderer lives, there is always a very high chance that they will strike again if a chance presents itself (Robertson 21). The competency of the individuals in the criminal justice system should not allow such kind of dangerous loopholes to exist and interfere with the security and well being of the larger community.
Looking at an example of a crime that is punishable by capital punishment is perhaps the most effective way of driving the point home on the fact that this sentence should not be abolished. Considering the murderous phenomenon that clearly outrages many citizens which is the “drive-by-shooting”. This is mostly a gang-related or drug crime that mostly incorporates the youth. Youthful killers often sprayed bullets into anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (Maloney 2). This is mirrored by the schoolyard shootings that are happening everywhere in the world today. The examples drawn bring up the idea that the age limit defining adults in the determination of their death sentencing should be reviewed. There are very many youths who escape the death penalty because of being minors and later end up being murderers who might get away in their adult lives. The prototypical case that justifies capital punishment would be that of Lawrence Singleton. This is the man who in 1979, raped a 15 year old girl, Mary Vincent in California and then chopped off her limbs with an ax. This is just one of the cases which call for capital punishment. The degree of the inhumane nature involved is large. Therefore, to terminate the laws legalizing capital punishment would not be in the best interest of the citizens. The death penalty should be enacted by all the states in the United States as well as other countries in the world today.
O’Connor, J. “Mu’Min v. Virginia.” Cornell University Law School, 30 May 1991. Web. 7
April 2011. (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/90-5193.ZC.html)
Robertson, Diane. Tears from heaven, voices from hell: Pros and Cons of the death penalty.
London: iUniverse, 2002. Print.
Pojman, Louis and Reiman Jeffrey. The Death Penalty: For and Against. New Jersey: Rowman
& Littlefield Publishers, 2000. Print.
Liptak, Adams. “Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate.” New York Times, 18 Nov.
2007. Web. 8 April 2011.
Sulzeberger, A. G. “Illinois Workers find that a Death Penalty Ban Abolishes their Jobs, too.”
New York Times, 2 April 2011. Web. 8 April 2011.
Maloney, J. J. “The Death Penalty.” Crime Magazine, 25 July 2001. Web. 8 April 2011.