America Needs a Tougher Death Penalty

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is one of the oldest and most

famous sayings in the world. It comes from the Mosaic Law in the Bible and it

is an edict that has ruled millions for thousands of years. Today the issue of

capital punishment has our nation split down the middle. The two sides have

drawn lines in the sand and are emphatically holding their ground. The need for

capital punishment is greater today then it has been at anytime in the past for

several reasons. The crime rate is soaring out of control. Murders are tearing

our people, our cities, and country apart. Many people have the same belief as

Thomas Draper, an author on the book called Capital Punishment, that no society

can abolish crime, so their only hope is to do everything they can to control it.

It is time for the United States to mandate the death penalty for the crime of

murder in all 50 states and to carry out the executions of those sentenced to

death. Capital Punishment is the lawful infliction of the death penalty. In

England, by 1500, only major felonies carried the death penalty: treason,

murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson. The American colonies adhered with

Englands\' view on the death penalty, for there was little they could do about it.

However in the 1750\'s reform movements spread through Europe, and in 1847 they

reached the United States. In 1847, Michigan became the first state to abolish

the death penalty for murder.

Beginning in 1967, executions were suspended to allow the appellate

courts to decide whether the death penalty was unconstitutional. In 1972, the

Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty for murder or

for rape violated the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" (Bedau

1). Four years later the Supreme Court reversed its decision in Gregg v. Georgia.

They held the death penalty for murder and rape was not unconstitutional. The

next year executions resumed, and by 1991, some 2,350 person were under death

sentences in 36 states. About 150 prisoners including one woman, had been

executed. Current capital statutes authorize a trial court to impose either a

life or death sentence only after a post conviction hearing. Evidence is

submitted to establish which \'aggravating\' or \'migrating\' factors were present

in the crime" (Bedau 1). If it is in the courts mind that "aggravating" factors

prevail and hand down the death sentence, then the case is automatically

reviewed by an appellate court. Also in 1977, the Supreme Court held that death

sentences for rape were "grossly disproportionate and excessive." The methods

for carrying out a death sentence in the United States today are hanging,

electrocution, gas chamber, firing, squad, and lethal injection.

Americans feel strongly about the death penalty, but it is something

they know very little about. Their attitudes are based on emotion rather than

information or rational argument. People see the death penalty as something you

are either for or against. This idea is supported by the fact that the wording

of questions about the death penalty in public opinion polls change the

percentages by the smallest amount (Ellsworth). Hugo A. Bedau, author of Facing

the Death Penalty, states that 70% of Americans favor the death penalty for

murder. The people who favor the death penalty, favor it because they have a

goal in mind, the reduction of crime. Whether it does or not will be discussed

later. Thomas Draper, author of Capital Punishment, states that there are

certain people who do not belong in our society. There are some who have

committed such hevious crime that they don\'t deserve to live. Phoebe Ellsworth,

author of "Hardening of Attitudes", took a poll that stated the support declined

through the 1950\'s to a low of 47% in 1966, but increased steadily from 1966

through 1982 and has remained stable in the range of 70-75%. Another poll taken

by Tom Kuntz, author of "Should We Kill Those Who Kill" reflects the public view

on the deterrent effect of the death penalty. According to a poll of 651

registered voters in New York, 57% feel the death penalty does deter murder, 40%

feel it does not, and 3% had no answer. What citizens feel and why they feel

it is up for debate, one thing there is no debating, though, is that they most

definitely feel.

Those in opposition to the death penalty give several reasons for the

United States to abolish capital punishment.