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Capital Punishment – The Pros and Cons Essay

Capital Punishment is the legal infliction of the death penalty. This is implemented if someone is found guilty of committing a capital offence. This is crime punishable by death. The main crimes that result in capital punishment are murder and treason. There is a difference between murder and manslaughter. Manslaughter is when someone kills another person but the murder is thought to be unintentional and the death penalty is not used for this. Murder is when the killing is intentional and pre-meditated and if found guilty of this crime, you can be sentenced to death.

At the end of the 18th Century, efforts to abolish the death penalty gained momentum. This reform was lead by the Quakers. In the 1400’s, English law recognised seven major crimes; Treason, murder, larceny, burglary, rape and arson. Methods of punishment were; Crucifixion, burning in oil, drawing and quartering, impalement, beheading, burning alive, crushing, tearing asunder, stoning and drowning. The death penalty in the UK was finally abolished in November 1965.

Although, the death penalty was never abolished in the USA and now the death penalty is currently authorised in five ways; hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad or lethal injection

The fundamental questions raised by the death penalty is whether or not it is an effective deterrent to violent crimes and whether it is more effective than the alternative of a long term imprisonment.

People against the death penalty argue that it can be used in a prejudicial way, because more black people are executed than white people. Also, adjacent states in which one has the death penalty and the other does not, show no significant long term difference in the murder rate, and, states that’s abolish and then re-introduce the death penalty do not seem to show any significant change in the murder rate.

Critics of the death penalty have always pointed to the risk of executing the innocent, although, definitely established cases of this sort, in recent years have been rare.

One such case is that of Derek Bentley. Bentley, then nineteen and Christopher Craig, his accomplice, then sixteen, were burgling a confectionary warehouse. Derek Bentley was caught and Craig drew a gun. Bentley said to Craig, “Let him have it”, and Craig pulled the trigger on PC Sydney Mills and killed him. Even though Bentley was in police custody at the time, he was the one charged for the murder and because Craig was only sixteen, he was too young to be executed.

When Bentley said, “Let him have it”, the police said that he was signalling Craig to shoot the police officer, but the other interpretation, which seems more plausible is that Bentley meant for Craig to give the police officer the gun and to give himself up, and it was even revealed later that Bentley was epileptic and he had a mental age of eleven. Finally, forty-four years after his hanging, he has been cleared of murder.

Another case was that of James Hanratty. He has been cleared forty years after he was hung for allegedly murdering Michael Gregston. Hanratty was one of the last men to be hung in Britain – for a crime, which the police later admitted, he could not have committed. This controversial case helped end the death penalty

Although it is in the American constitution not to execute anyone with a mental illness, because it is claimed that they don’t know what they’re doing, there have been many cases where people with mental illnesses have been killed,

One such case is that of Joseph Cannon. He was seventeen when he killed a young girl. He was also diagnosed as being brain damaged and schizophrenic, but he had never received any sort of medical treatment. The first attempt to kill him failed, when the needle “blew out” of his arm as the injection began to flow. The needle was re-inserted and thirty-four minutes later, he was dead.

One more reason why Amnesty International has condemned the United States for having a worse civil rights record than Iran is the case of Robert Carver, another juvenile criminal who was executed in Texas. He too was brain damaged by continual abuse by his parents. His I.Q showed him to be semi-retarded. None of this was presented at his trial for robbery and murder. The jury took just ten minutes to find him guilty and to pronounce that he should die.

More than forty others elsewhere in The United States await the same fate, among them is sixteen-year-old Sharef Cousin, the youngest person on death row.

The classic moral arguments against the death penalty have been biblical and retributive.

“Whosever spills mans blood, by man must his blood be shed.”

This has usually been interpreted as a divine warranted for putting a murderer to death.

“Let the punishment fit the crime.”

This is interpreted as, if someone kills someone kills someone, they must be killed themselves. People also say that if someone kills someone, they deserve to die themselves, but I disagree with this. Even though it costs a lot of money to keep a prisoner in jail for life, if you murder someone you should be punished. I believe that if you kill someone after they commit a very bad crime, that you are putting that person out of their misery and their pain is very short, whereas, if you put them in prison and took away their freedom for the rest of their life it would make them think about and regret what they have done.

We also know that capital punishment doesn’t work for political crimes and in some cases, it can be the worst course of action.

One case is that of the 1916 Eater Rising in Ireland. The Irish rebelled against the British and took over some buildings in Dublin. By doing this,¬†they were causing the normal Irish people a lot of inconvenience, so they didn’t like the rebels much. But then, the British captured the rebels and instead of putting them in jail, they executed all the leaders. The Irish became angry and sympathetic towards the I.R.A and thus, they gained a lot more support from the Irish. The result of this was the Irish War Of Independence of 1918-1921.

Another case is that of Ken Sara Wiwa. Shell, backed by the Nigerian government, ran an oil pipeline through his area. Their land was taken, without compensation, and oil leakages occurred all the time. Ken Sara Wiwa organised rallies and marches, but at one of these marches, a Nigerian policeman was killed and Ken and other leaders of the marches got the blame and were executed for it, even though they didn’t do it. As a result of this, many people boycott Shell and refuse to do any business with them.

I believe capital punishment is a bad idea, because we see that it obviously doesn’t work for political crimes and the statistics show that it obviously isn’t a good deterrent to violent crimes. I also think that if you execute someone for murder, you are putting them out of their misery and the only people who are suffering are the families of both the victim and the person that is executed. I disagree with capital punishment and I don’t think it should be used as I don’t think it is a deterrent to violent crime.

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