An arm for an arm; a leg for a leg. This is a common theme surrounding the death penalty. While the first recorded death penalty laws date back to the Eighteenth Century B.C. under the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon, punishments carried out by death have been used since the start of time. In the past, death sentences were carried out by means of crucifixion, drowning, stoning, burning alive, and impalement (Introduction). Nowadays, the most common method is lethal injection.
Throughout the world, the death penalty is used to put a stop to crime. It can be seen as a deterrent or a way to put a criminal to justice. A total of 57 countries retain the death penalty in law, although, only 23 nations effectively use it. China holds the number one spot of confirmed executions, with numbers in the thousands. This has caused many protests within China (Introduction). In the United States, the death penalty is currently used by 31 states, the federal government, and the military.
The United States was the first country to establish lethal injection, which is now used by five others (Introduction). Lethal injection is an injection administered as a means of capital punishment (Lethal). The use of lethal injection has arose many debates whether the death penalty is constitutional or not. The arguments against the death penalty are that it doesn’t act as a deterrent to crime, it’s inhumane, it acts as a way out for criminals, it costs too much, and the conviction process is seen unjust, which gives the risk of executing someone who is innocent.
Critics such as Attorney General Eric H. Holder and Semon Frank Thompson believe the death penalty is a failed policy and the risk of putting someone innocent to death is far worse. They also believe the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrent but instead acts as a way out for criminals. Eric H. Holder was a former attorney general of the United States from 2009 to 2015 (Eric), and Semon Frank Thompson was the former Superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary who executed 2 men, which changed his thoughts on the death penalty. These two men are just a small fraction of credible people who don’t support the death penalty (Top).
Studies show that the five countries with the highest homicide rates who have legal capital punishment have an average of 46.6 homicides per 100,000 people. However similar countries with those homicide rates who have abolished the death penalty for all crimes have an average homicide rate of 41.3 per 100,000 people. The five countries who have abolished the death penalty have more than half the number of homicides per 100,000 people than the five countries that still do have a death penalty (FullFact). These rates show how the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrent and that most countries would benefit without it. The only weakness to this data is that it’s very hard to calculate whether its a deterrent or not because the data uses different countries and other outside factors may skew these results.
Those who argue the death penalty is inhumane believe the death penalty is morally wrong and goes against human rights. They believe that the death penalty violates the right to life and also disregards the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatments or punishments (Why). This shows how the death penalty is morally wrong and it goes against some people’s morals. A weakness to this argument is that the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty to be constitutional in 1972 and that the convictions are the only aspect of the death penalty that is unjust (Stassen).
Another argument against the death penalty claims that death is simply an easy way out for those who commit atrocities. An example of this is the Boston bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who did not mind being sentenced to death. Most people believed that the death penalty was the most severe punishment available, but for people like this, living an unimportant life is far worse than being executed (Burek). This is an example of how the death penalty allows criminals to have an easy way out for committing serious crimes . A fault to this claim is that it’s hard to compensate all the criminals with this mindset.Most people agree that the death penalty costs too much for it not being certain if its effective. In North Carolina, the death penalty costs nearly $11 million a year and in New Jersey, the death penalty has cost taxpayers $253 million since 1983. These a just a few examples of states in the US that pay a ridiculous cost of the death penalty (Financial). This shows how the death penalty costs millions of dollars a year for the states that have it and for it not even being certain if it truly works. In opposition of this view, people can argue that life in prison costs roughly the same as the death penalty and it is also a weaker punishment. Lastly, another argument against the death penalty is that the conviction process is seen unjust. In 1972, the death penalty was stopped due to the Supreme Court finding the convictions to be unjust and based on personal whim. They found that the conviction process was corrupt and that it was convicting people just because of who they were (Stassen). These findings show how the death penalty system is a failure and how it doesn’t work appropriately. It also shows how the likelihood of executing an innocent person if far greater because of this corrupt system. A weakness to this argument is that the findings also found the death penalty itself to be constitutional.
On the other hand, people who support the death penalty argue it stops crime, provides closure for the victims, life in prison costs roughly the same amount or less than the death penalty in some cases, and that its constitutional in the US (Flamehorse). Some supporters of the death penalty include the President of the United States, Donald Trump and Anne Marie Schubert. They both believe the death penalty is an effective way in punishing criminals for a serious crime. President Trump said that the men convicted of killing two police officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi “will not do any more killing.” This is evidence for the death penalty being an effective punishment. Anne Marie Schubert, a district attorney of Sacramento, believes the death penalty will help the families by putting the criminals to justice (Should). Both supporters are highly credible and make valid arguments in support of the death penalty.Supporters of the death penalty believe the death penalty is an effective way of stopping crime. For example, the death penalty could act as a deterrent to some criminals or it could take another criminal off the streets. This takes away the chance for them to commit more crimes. Evidence to support this is that the country with the highest homicide rates in the world, Honduras, has over 60 homicides per 100,000 people. Honduras doesn’t have an active death penalty (Do). This example shows how by not having a death penalty, it allows criminals to commit crimes more freely. However, a weakness in this evidence is that there are other factors internally or externally that may be the reason for those results in Honduras.Another argument for the death penalty is that the death penalty provides closure for victims. In 1984, Bobby Ross was convicted of killing eight women and was given the death sentence in 1987 for seventeen years. At first he pleaded he was crazy but in 1995 he wanted to speed up the court process to spare his victims’ families a long wait. Ross was executed in 1999 (Schaeffer-Duffy). This is an example in which the death penalty can be very helpful by giving the family ease. Some death row sentences can last up to twenty years, which can be very painful for the families affected by a situation like this. To refute this, people argue that the death penalty is seen as a way out for the criminal, however, there are no real evidence supporting this.
In addition, the death penalty costs roughly the same amount as life in prison throughout the United States. The costs in each state differs depending on the amount of death penalty cases held there. People also argue that life in prison isn’t as strong as a punishment as the death penalty. A study by Dudley Sharp, the Death Penalty Resources Director of Justice For All, claims that LWOP (leave without pay) cases cost $1.2 million -$3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases (Top). This shows that in some cases, the death penalty costs roughly the same or even less than the cost of life in prison for being seen as a far worse punishment. Lastly, the death penalty doesn’t go against the USA’s constitution. One example of this being proven is in the case Gregg v. Georgia. The Court found that the death penalty was not unconstitutional as it could serve the social purposes of retribution and deterrence (Death). This helps prove how the death penalty doesn’t violate basic human rights since the constitution, being a very credible source, believes that its not inhumane to have. In opposition of this view, people argue that in some cases, the methods carried out in capital punishments violate the Eighth Amendment. Based on the evidence shown, the death penalty should be legal and carried out by most states/countries. All the reasons supporting the death penalty are far stronger and counter the opposing views. One of the main supporters of the death penalty is the President of the United States, Donald Trump. This is a highly credible source as he has a position which is very influential in the United States.
On the other hand, Semon Frank Thompson, although being highly credible, has flaws to his story. Thompson was a first-hand witness of what was going on behind the scenes of the death penalty process. He witnessed everything, which ultimately changed his view on the situation as a whole. This is the most credible source available. However the reason for why he quit may be because he wasn’t mentally prepared/ ready for a job like that. This shows how the death penalty is a touchy topic and how emotions may factor into results, creating bias.The argument for the death penalty being a deterrent is stronger than the view it is not. The evidence opposing the death penalty has major flaws in it. It is difficult and inaccurate to truly find data surrounding this argument. There are multiple external and internal factors that affect the results and give inaccurate findings. This flaw is mentioned in every source of data. In addition, many people argue the death penalty is a way out for most criminals. Although this is partially true, not all criminals are the same and the death penalty may terrify them. Without the death penalty, there may be even more crimes, especially in the United States.
Lastly, the cost of the death penalty usually has some differentiating findings on both sides. There were many sources that showed the death penalty costing more than life in prison. Conversely there are multiple sources showing it costing less. This is a weakness to both sides, however, it tends to hurt the opposing view more since its a main argument. With this being said, there would have to be further research done in order to calculate the strength of the death penalty. Data about the homicide rates in different countries and the cost of the death penalty tended to differentiate within separate areas.This shows how more research needs to be done in order to compensate for other factors affecting results to further prove the strengths of the death penalty.