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The death penalty has been around for thousands of years. Punishment by death which was common among all ancient civilizations was made a public spectacle. Crowds would gather to observe executions by boiling in oil, flaying alive, stoning, or impaling. In the 1700s, England had over two hundred offenses that could have been punishable by death. However, since the 1800s most death sentences have been a result of a conviction of murder. The United States Supreme Court, in 1972, decided the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment and concluded that capital punishment violated the eighth and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution. This decision did leave open the possibility, however, that execution may be constitutional for certain crimes, such as murder or rape. Many states have passed laws that limit the death penalty to those who commit murder and other specific crimes. Unlike the methods of ancient societies, today’s methods of execution are relatively quick and painless. The most common forms of execution today are the electric chair, lethal injection, and the gas chamber. Although in some cases capital punishment does deter crime, it should be illegal because the consequences of legalizing capital punishment are far too great.
Many proponents of capital punishment argue that it should be legal. They maintain the belief that it is a strong deterrent of crime. Threatening death, they maintain, will have a greater effect on the behavior of that criminal than any other threat. Many criminals, just like the rest of society, do not want to die. Although life in prison may not be the most comfortable way of living, it is still life. Death is thought to be the best deterrent of crime because of the belief that people fear death more than anything else (Nathanson 17). Fewer people will murder in areas that have adopted the death penalty (Nathanson 20). One idea behind capital punishment is that it reduces the threat of murder, therefore saving lives. It is not necessarily to protect society from those who have murdered, but from potential murderers who may follow. Many proponents of capital punishment cite the Bible for their rationale. A common passage used to defend capital punishment is Deuteronomy 19:21: "And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot."
The death penalty does deter crime, but presents the question: Is it moral? Many people know of the scripture from the Old Testament, "…Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Kronenwetter 153). However that was "Moses’ Law" or "the law" of the Old Testament (Fratta n.p.). Understanding that the majority of Americans today that turn to the Bible for answers to questions concerning morality follow what is stated in the New Testament, it does not hold true that the Bible condones capital punishment. As Matthew 5: 38-39 states, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." When a person is convicted of a capital offense society is not permitted to retaliate with committing an act of cruelty and viciousness in return. The New Testament never says that society must, or should, execute evil doers, especially these who have been imprisoned. "…He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:8). Forgiveness is the key. There is no need to commit a murder to right a murder.
A common lesson to children is that two wrongs do not make a right. By legalizing capital punishment, society is sending the wrong message. William Randolph Hearst stated, "Cruelty and viciousness are not abolished by cruelty and viciousness, not even by legalized cruelty and viciousness." (Kronwetter 3). By legalizing capital punishment society is saying "do as I say, and not as I do." Society is being hypocritical; killing a killer is not going to right any wrong.
…Vengeance does not bring our loved ones back.
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Penology, Torture, Human rights abuses, Capital punishment, Stoning, Murder, Cruel and unusual punishment, Religion and capital punishment, Capital punishment in the United States
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