Capital punishment (death penalty) is the severest form of legal punishment today. There are vast differences in the way people view the death penalty. Some oppose it and some agree with it. There have been many studies trying to prove or disprove a point regarding the death penalty. Some have regarded the death penalty as a deterrent, and some have regarded it as state sanctioned murder and not civilized. The death penalty has been attributed to societies for hundreds of years. More recently, as we become more civilized, the death penalty has been questioned to be the right step towards justice. During the course of this paper I will review the pros and cons of the use of the death penalty as we, Americans, know it. The death penalty is a highly controversial subject. No one knows who’s right or whose wrong-it’s fifty percent speculation and fifty percent research. It’s just a lot of thoughts and beliefs from people who have contributed to the death penalty hype. Who’s right and who’s wrong? That is the question.
In order to list the pros and cons of the death penalty I will discuss a bit about what exactly is capital punishment. This will help better understand why people feel the way they do about capital punishment. Like mentioned earlier, capital punishment or also known as the death penalty is the most extreme of all sentencing options (Schmalleger, 2012). Almost all nations in the world have had the death sentence and had enforced it in many ways. It has been used in most cases to punish those who broke the laws or standards that were expected of them. There are a lot of methods of execution however not all are legal in the United States.
Procedures authorized in the United States now are electrocution, the gas chamber, and the lethal injection. The most common form of capital punishment is lethal injection, with electrocution to be the second most common form (Schmalleger, 2012). When it comes down to sentencing a criminal to the death penalty, many say that it has never been a fair sentencing. Those against capital punishment claim that it has been inflicted on innocent people or that it is costly to execute someone (Schmalleger, 2012). Those for the death penalty claim that the criminals who committed horrifying crimes deserve to die for their actions (Schmalleger, 2012). For the reason being, that anything else other than death does not fulfill as a sanction for the crime (Schmalleger, 2012).
The people who oppose the death penalty have very different reasons than people who agree with it. Those who oppose it feel that no matter how bad of an offense that the criminal has committed, they should not be executed. Arguing against capital punishment, Amnesty International believes that “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.”
It has been said that innocent people have been placed on death row for crimes they never committed and then executed. In my opinion, I find that very true and support this very strongly. From 1973 up to late 2009, over 138 people in 25 different states where freed from death row after being determined that they were innocent for the capital crime they had been convicted of (Dieter). One example of this claim is of James Bain, a Florida man, released from jail after being incarcerated for 35 years. He was formerly convicted back in 1974 for supposedly kidnapping and a 9 year-old boy and raping him in a nearby field (Schmalleger, 2012). What helped him gain his freedom in December of 2009 was the modern technology not available back then. Bain requested multiple DNA test, once approved the results came back negative for him meaning he was not the man who committed the crime. DNA test are now huge towards those placed in death row, it has helped freed many innocent citizens.
When it comes down to the death penalty cases, there are many appeals that are made in court. The cost for a state for these appeals can run into millions of dollars for each individual case (Schmalleger, 2012). The death penalty is much more expensive than life without parole that is a fact. It is more expensive because it requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases (Woodford). This is needed to ensure that innocent men and women are not executed for crimes they did not commit (Woodford). Sometime with this careful long process the risk of executing an innocent person cannot be completely eliminated (Woodford). Those for capital punishment may state that although the official cost dealing with capital punishment is high, no cost is too high to bring justice to the world (Schmalleger, 2012). Some say that capital punishment deters crime from occurring.
However, there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. States that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either crime or murder rates. In my opinion and from what I have read it seems to be that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. I say this because people commit murders in the heat of passion, under the influence or because they are mentally ill, giving little or no thought to the consequences of their actions. Death penalty laws falsely convince the public that government has taken effective measures to combat crime and homicide. In reality, such laws do nothing to protect us or our communities from the acts of dangerous criminals
Arguing for capital punishment, the Clark County, Indiana Prosecuting Attorney writes that “There are some defendants who have earned the ultimate punishment our society has to offer by committing murder with aggravating circumstances present. I believe life is sacred. It cheapens the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again. In my view, society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self-defense to protect the innocent.”
There are still some who states that the death penalty is favorable in the United States. The proponents state that executing criminals will directly help stop the criminal rate in America; also, they declare that when the criminals that are sentenced are killed, the world is one less a murderer than before. Adding on, the argument that the wrong person would be killed is very slim; as a matter of fact, with the development of technology constantly evolving, the chances of the wrong citizen being executed are also constantly decreasing. Although many opponents state that the capital punishment is racist, there are statistics that more African-Americans do crimes than Caucasians.
After analyzing all the information towards capital punishment I became interested in doing some research about capital punishment statistics about the process of decision making when sentencing a criminal. If I were to conduct a case study about discrimination in death penalty sentencing, I would create surveys and interviews with inmates on death row and certain cases that appeared to been sentenced by discrimination. This type of study is hard to investigate for the reason that if the judge or jury based their answer off of the gender or race of the person it would be less likely that they would reveal the truth. My research study would be quantitative because I will be recording data about the rates on death penalty discrimination. It will also be a qualitative study because, a part from the data I will be recording I would conduct interviews with former judges and attorneys that have dealt with death penalty cases and what was the process of deciding the sentence like.
In today’s generation people have very different views on the death penalty. There are many who completely agree with it, and the concept behind it, and there are some who feel it is nothing but a cruel punishment. All in all, the capital punishment is a charge that will always be debated in America. However, the execution is a faster death for the criminal a much easier statement someone can receive. Half of the American population is against capital punishment for the execution of innocent people, discrimination, deterrence of crime and high cost leading to debt for the society. Those for capital punishment agree that this kind of action is what is needed to put a stop to brutal crimes. The criminal deserves to die for their actions and it is the only option to bring justice. The death penalty is and always will be a problem that is arguable from both sides, but, if someone tries to ultimately stop it, it is and always will be impossible.
ACLU. (2007, April 09). The death penalty: Questions and answers. Retrieved from
Baik, E. (2012). Gender, Religion and National Origin: Latinos’ Attitude toward Capital Punishment. Journal of Social Sciences (15493652), 8(1), 79-84.
Hashemi, S. (n.d.). Abolish the death penalty. Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/campaigns/abolish-the-death-penalty?id=1011005
Methods of execution. (2010, April). Retrieved from http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/methods.htm
Dieter, R. (n.d.). Death penalty information. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/home
Schmalleger, F. (2012). Criminal justice: A brief introduction. (9 ed., pp. 272-286). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Woodford, J. (n.d.). The high cost of the death penalty. Retrieved from http://www.deathpenalty.org/article.php?id=42