Death Penalty

The moral concern of whether punishing offenders by death penalty has for a long time beleaguered philosophers and theologians. Supporters of death penalty usually base their arguments on the implication of some scriptural verses and about the far reaching question of whether individuals should forfeit their lives in case they commit murder. Other moral arguments have focused on questioning the legitimacy of executing a juvenile offender or a mentally impaired person. However, most opponents maintain that it does not make sense for the government to kill wrongdoers to show the public that killing is unacceptable.

The persistent debate about death penalty is a concept that has never been conclusively decided. The laws governing death penalty have been in use since 18th century in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. As the America population continues to increase, there is need for the society to come up with other ways of handling career criminals. The society at large should decide whether killing a wrongdoer would make it any better or abolishing death penalty and establishing a suitable program for the future criminals.

Use of death penalty as punishment for the most serious crimes is morally accepted. Although the decision might not go well with honest people and philosophers, there are reasons for taking this stand. According to Bedau (1997), death in electric chair is cruel and unusual which means that it is immoral. This is not true because the criminal being executed has just committed a terrible crime with the full knowledge that what he is doing is prohibited by the law. The use of electric chair on such criminals is morally justified. Other methods of executions like lethal injections which are widely practiced in many states appear to be so soft on criminals who have caused an innocent victim to shed hisher blood. Acts of murder deserve the cruelest punishment like firing squad, hanging, and electric chair.

Death penalty was used to punish crimes like rape, kidnapping, murder and treason in the mid 20th century. This statement indicates that as we become more enlightened and identify the natural dignity of life, there is likelihood that the number of crimes punishable by death penalty will also reduce gradually until it will cover few crimes to the point in which it will be abolished. The people have lost confidence in the ability of the society to carry out justice. The issues of morality have gone to the extent in which parents are condemned when they discipline their children. Such a society lacks the inner moral to differentiate between moral and immoral use of force and is not comment on morality of any punishment.

A crime cannot be considered serious if the punishment offered does not match its severity. The value of human life is only asserted by offering the cruelest punishment for any person found guilty of taking someones life. Capital punishment was put in place to indicate how precious the life is. Murder is a terrible crime and any punishment less than death penalty will be viewed as an insult to justice. Punishing the murderers will ensure justice to the victim and his family.

Through punishment, the society sends a message that it abhors crime, and in an effort to respect the law, it is important that the punishment offered for serious crimes should sufficiently echo the disgust by the majority of the society. It is not in order to measure the effects of punishment as a deterrent, reformative, or preventive. There are crimes which are so serious and outrageous and the society has to decide on the most effective punishment because the criminal deserves it regardless of whether it has deterrent effect or not.

Although murder requires to be punished by death penalty, there should be exceptional to the application of this penalty. Situations which does not deserve death penalty are self defense, accidental death, and in cases of mentally challenged individuals. Death penalty serves as a proper penalty for some crimes, but there is need to address problems which might be facing the judicial system. The worst mistake which should never happen is execution of an innocent individual. Death penalty is morally accepted if the person convicted is really guilty of the crime committed.

Death penalty is justified since it deters crime level. The abolitionist have tried to show several statistics to prove that the level of crime have not subsided since the inception of death penalty.  Death penalty was made legal in 1976 and by then the crime level was at 8.8. Since then up to 1995, the level of crime hovered around 7 to 10. This showed some reduction in the level of crimes. In the year when the number of executions was reported to have reduced, the crime level shot back to the original level. The murder rate have some how maintained which is a clear indication that death penalty has deterrent effects. With the changes which have occurred in the world, was it not for death penalty, the murder levels would have increased so much. Repealing of the death penalty would be morally wrong since many lives will be put at stake by a mere act of pleasing few individuals.

The costs involved in maintaining the criminals in the prison have in the recent past increased tremendously.  The criminals are housed and fed using tax payers money. These people are living because of their work while criminals some of which have committed the worst crimes are being fed and housed freely. This is ethically wrong since the criminals will not care whether they will be caught or not because if found guilty they will be cared for. Abolition of death penalty would mean that criminals would commit crimes without caring for the consequences.

Death penalty has become completely obsolete in the United States.  Though death penalty as a form of punishment has existed since 1800 B.C, the society has become much more informed than the advocates of death penalty era.  The American society was largely influenced by British settlement as the settlers came a long with the culture of capital punishment. During this time, laws on death penalty were founded on religious background. As time went by, society reviewed the application of death penalty. The main concern was on the misuse of the punishment.

There are several reasons which have been cited against death penalty and they include susceptibility to condemn innocent individuals. From 1972, a total of 76 males and 2 females have been cleared having been previously subjected to death sentences in the United States. Almost at the same time 504 death row inmates had been executed, meaning that at least one innocent individual had been executed for every seven executed criminals. Some of the innocent defendants spend several years in the death row before they are declared innocent. There is no clear formula to verify how many innocent individuals have not been lucky and as a result have been executed without proving their innocence. It is also not clear how many innocent individuals are present in the death row and will be executed before evidence of their innocence could emerge.

The second reason why death penalty is considered immoral is its racial biasness. The racial discrimination present in the application of capital punishment in the US started a long time a go. For example, in Virginia during the 19th century, there was discrimination in the application of death penalty where whites had only five categories of capital offences as opposed to seventy for the blacks. Rape was a capital offence when committed by a black but not a white person. Although the severity of racial biasness has reduced, there is still evidence that the race of the defendant plays a critical role in deciding whether death punishment will be passed or not. Most research studies have concluded that with other factors being held constant, prosecutors tend to seek for death penalty and succeed against black defendants as compared to cases involving white defendants.

Death penalty has also been applied subjectively against the poor people. Defendants who have low economic incomes are likely to face death sentence since they lack resources to hire experienced lawyers. This finding indicates how harsh death penalty is in the US. There are several cases where defense lawyers have been found to have slept throughout the court proceedings, or were incompletely unable to handle cases because they were drunk or failed to carry out proper investigation with regards to the defendants background, or even used racial terms to refer to their clients during the court proceedings. Such happenings occur because the defendant is poor to employ a competent lawyer .

When comparing the costs versus the benefits of death penalty, it emerges that its costs outweigh the benefits. Supporters of death penalty have argued that abolishing death penalty based on the fact that some innocent individuals get executed wrongly results in risking many lives because of the benefits of few individuals. Although there will be protection of many lives, there is no justification for the loss of an innocent individual. The deterrent effect of death penalty does not exist since most criminals do not plan for their actions therefore there is no time to think about the consequences.

In my opinion, death penalty is morally permissible for some serious crimes like murder because it ensures justice for the victim. It should stay in use and even the states which had abolished it should bring it back. If all the states had death penalty in their constitution the level of crime would have reduced instead of staying the same. An alternative to death penalty like life imprisonment is ethically wrong and does not ensure justice to the victim. In this alternative, there is a possibility of criminals escaping and going back to terrorize the society. Death penalty also ensures permanent deterrent to executed murder since they cannot repeat the crime once more. To make death penalty more effective there is need to carry out proper investigation so as to avoid execution of innocent individuals.


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