Capital Punishment


Research Paper


CCJ 3024



The topic of death as a punishment is so controversial that people have been debating it for many years. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. But is death the ultimate punishment or just the ultimate revenge? There are many arguments for and against the death penalty and as I researched this topic, I do acknowledge that both sides have a convincing point of view. But I keep coming back to the same question, why do we kill as a punishment for killing?


Some people argue that the death penalty is a deterrent for others. That the mere thought of the electric chair or lethal injection can sway them from committing a crime. But there are no studies that support this reasoning. “Most murders are done out of misplaced passion, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” (http://www.cacp.org/) Beccaria wrote in his Essay on Crimes and Punishment that “the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, was a more effective deterrent.” Social scientists have collected statistical data on the effects of capital punishment in certain jurisdictions. They compare “homicidal rates in places with and without the death penalty.” They found that the presence of capital punishment does not influence the rate of homicide. (www.encarta.msn.com)


According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2002, the murder rate in the South increased by 2.1% while the murder rate in the Northeast decreased by almost 5%. The south accounts for 82% of all executions while the North accounts for less than 1% (deathpenaltyinfo.org) It seems to me that the deterrence argument is used to justify death. Sure it makes sense for those who have not committed a crime because we are thinking reasonably. We understand the effect a crime will have and the punishment that will occur when we chose to do something illegal. But people who are full of emotion, drugs, alcohol, or just not thinking rationally do not consider the possibility of being executed. The deterrence argument does not seem like an argument at all. No shred of evidence supports its theory, therefore making it invalid.


As of 2000, 87 nations authorized the death penalty for crimes such as murder or treason. (http://encarta.msn.com/) Most states with the death penalty choose first-degree murder as a capital offense. But doesn’t the 8th Amendment of the Constitution condemn cruel and unusual punishment? Does the type of murder we perform on a criminal really change the fact that we are taking that persons life? Whether it be the gas chamber, lethal injection, or the electric chair, he is being murdered. We are taking a human beings life for a crime we think is severe enough to do so. Who are we to make this decision? Did we give that person life? No. So why do we have the right to take it away? And if the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, why do we try to make the process of killing someone less painful and gruesome? The lethal injection is used to make us feel like we are not killing and the prisoner is not dying. “Sterilized and depersonalized methods of execution do not eliminate the brutality of the penalty.” (www.encarta.msn.com)


What about the chance of error? “Twenty one condemned inmates have been released since 1993. Many of these cases were discovered not because of the appeals court, but rather as a result of new scientific techniques, investigations by journalists, and the dedicated work of expert attorneys not available to the typical death row inmate.” (deathpenaltyinfo.org) The Stanford Law Review found evidence that suggested that “at least 350 people between 1900 and 1985 in America might have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted, and could have been sentenced to death. 139 were sentenced to death and as many as 23 were executed.”(http://www.religioustolerance.org/) In my opinion that seems like 23 too many. Put yourself in that convicted murderers position. Imagine not only being publicly humiliated, waiting in a cell for your day to come but then being executed because a court room of people considered you guilty. I know this is an every day consequence with all criminals and the judicial process but innocent people are being killed. If these people were kept alive then