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Death Penalty: Pros and Cons Essay

Capital punishment has been the center of much controversy dating back to its origins. Although the roots of capital punishment can be traced as far back as 1697 BC, arguments over its effectiveness and morality continue in the midst of its existence today. There are many people who have come up with arguments for both sides. Most people who believe that the death penalty is a fair punishment use the argument, “lex talionis”, meaning, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an arm for an arm, a life for a life.” (Hooker). While most people who are in opposition use the argument that capital punishment is a cruel and unusual punishment which violates the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution. Today, in the United States, there are approximately 3,624 people on death row. (Pro-death Penalty.com)

Throughout history there have been many methods of executing criminals. Some of these methods are crucifixion, stoning, drowning, burning at the stake, impaling and beheading. But more modern methods of capital punishment are typically accomplished by lethal gas or injection, electrocution, hanging or shooting. The argument over the brutality of capital punishment is at the head of topics concerning it as a whole.

These arguments are also not only centered in The United States but all over the world as well. About 90 nations have denounced capital punishment by abolishing it, but almost an equal amount of nations retain it (MSN Encarta). Capital punishment remains legal in all but twelve states. Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin all do not use the death penalty. (Pro-death Penalty.com)

Many people feel that the death penalty is cruel as well as an ineffective crime deterrent. But the most successful argument that is used against the death penalty is that it infringes the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution. Another argument against capital punishment is that people who are innocent may be killed. Life without parole is one. A lengthy sentence with treatment, with release conditional upon proof of rehabilitation, is another” (Williams). The people who are opposed to taking the life of a convicted murderer do not believe that premeditated, state-sanctioned killing is justifiable under any circumstances.

They also refute the idea that the death penalty deters crime. Some states say that a person will stopĀ themselves from killing or committing a crime if, in the back of their minds, they know that the punishment for their actions could be the death penalty. Statistics have shown that the states that use the death penalty have a higher crime rate than those with out it. The chance that a person who has been convicted of the death penalty is innocent is also a factor. This causes much controversy because innocent lives are taken and it could have been prevented. Lastly, opponents of the death penalty say that when the states execute killers in an attempt to proclaim that murder is wrong, they undermine their own, moral authority.

On the other side of the argument, people claim that capital punishment is a deterrent for future criminals, a proportionate punishment for those who have killed, and it is also said to be less harsh than life imprisonment because it is quick and instantaneous. Ernest Van den Haag contended that human beings are morally responsible for their actions and should therefore be punished accordingly for their crimes (Williams). The definition for justice is “fair treatment” (Stewart). In the case of premeditated murder, capital punishment is the only just punishment. Nothing less of the death penalty would be proportionate to murder. Immanuel Kant argues that “even guilty-ridden killers should die in order to gain release from their anguish.” (Williams) The fact that a convicted murderer has the chance to live while their victim is dead is unfair.

Why is that they are able to take an innocent life and then live to tell about it? Execution is even more humane than sentencing someone to life in prison. Making the prisoner suffer by rotting in jail for the rest of their life is more torturous and inhumane than execution. The people who favor execution also claim that it is the most effective means of crime deterrence. Most people think about the consequences to their actions before they actually follow through with what they are thinking. Capital punishment not only punishes those who commit the crimes, but also prevents future crimes by scaring the would-be murderer with the consequence he would pay for his action. In the end, the main support for capital punishment comes from one Greek phrase, “lex talionis,” meaning, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an arm for an arm, a life for a life.”

When it comes to capital punishment, most people find themselves wondering if it is a fair and effective punishment. Arguments for both sides are very strong. Those who oppose the death penalty fight against it because they think it is unfair and unjust. They also believe that no one should have their lives taken away as a punishment. They also believe that the argument that capital punishment is an effective deterrent to crime is invalid. Because only fractions of people on death row are actually executed, most criminals would take the chance.

They also believe that life imprisonment is as much of a deterrent as the death penalty. People on the other end of the argument believe in criminals receiving equal punishment for the crime that they commit. The only punishment in proportion to murder is execution. The United States government has many regulations regarding the death penalty. All of those rules oppose using the death penalty in an unfair manner, but do not prohibit the death penalty completely so we should try to use the death penalty for those who deserve it.

Works Cited

MSN Encarta Encyclopedia. (2003). Capital punishment. March 3, 2003: http://www.encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/refarticle.aspx?refid=761570630

Stewart, G. (1998). The death penalty. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc.

Williams, M. (2000). Capital punishment. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc.

Williams, M. (2002). The death penalty. San Diego: Greenhaven Press Inc.

www.pro-death Penalty.com (2003).


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