Реферат: Capital Punishment 4 Essay Research Paper Capital

Capital Punishment 4 Essay, Research Paper

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment The United States is one of the few countries left in the world to practice the savage and

immoral punishment of death. Retentionists argue that the consequence of death prevents persons from

committing the heinous crime of murder. It is proven that the death penalty does not deter persons from

committing murder, nor does it serve as an example of the consequences of capital crimes to society.

Furthermore, it is impossible to guarantee that the criminal justice system will not discriminate, or execute the

innocent. And above all, the methods of execution are horrifying and barbaric, as well as the devaluing of a

human life. We must realize that the life of a murderer is worth as much as the life of the victim. Although it is

hard for some to see through the irrationality of the vengeance raging in so many of us, like it is in the supporters

of capital punishment. An indecent justice, one that takes human lives based on ideals of vengeance and violence,

is an immoral system that is unacceptable. The most widely used argument in support of capital punishment is that

the consequence of execution influences criminal behavior more effectively than imprisonment does (Amnesty

International). Although the argument may sound reasonable, in reality the death penalty fails as a deterrent. First,

punishment can only be a useful deterrent if it is rational and immediately used. Capital punishment cannot meet

those conditions. The number of first degree murderers who are sentenced to death is small, and of this group an

even smaller number of people are eventually executed. Moreover, the possibility of increasing the number of

convicted murderers sentenced to death and executed by requiring mandatory death sentences was declared

unconstitutional in 1976 (NCADP). Murder and other crimes of violence are not always premeditated. For

example gang violence, drive by shootings, and kidnapping for ransom are serious crimes that continue to be

committed because the criminal thinks they are too clever to be caught. Most capital crimes are committed in the

heat of the moment during times of great emotional trauma or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when

logical thinking is in no doubt absent (NCADP). In such cases, persons will commit a crime of violence

regardless of the consequences. The majority of the evidence shows that the death penalty is in no way more

effective in deterring murder than life imprisonment. Evidence of past use of the death penalty establishes

reasonable doubt that the death penalty does not deter murder, and there is no evidence to prove otherwise. In a

thorough report on the effects of criminal sanctions on crime rates, the National Academy of Sciences concluded

that it is misleading to justify the use of capital punishment on such fragile and uncertain results (NCADP).

Moreover, there are clinically documented cases that reveal the death penalty actually provoked the capital

crimes it was intended to prevent (NCADP) Including cases involving the so-called suicide by execution

syndrome in which a person who wants to die but fears taking their own life will commit murder so that the state

will execute them. The use of the death penalty obviously guarantees that the criminal will never commit another

crime, for the murderer is dead, but, there is no evidence that capital punishment deters another individual from

committing murder (Glover 139). Furthermore, it is a high moral price to pay when studies have proven that few

convicted murderers commit further crimes of violence. An alternative, one that is far less inhumane, is a policy of

life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (Glover 139). It is commonly reported that Americans approve

of the death penalty. But, more careful analysis of the attitudes of the public shows that Americans prefer

alternatives (Smart). In fact, they would oppose the death penalty if convicted murderers were sentenced to life

without parole and required to make some form of financial restitution. In a 1993 nationwide survey 77 percent

of the public approved of the death penalty, but the poll dropped to 41 percent if the alternative is no parole plus

restitution (Smart). Only a minority of the American public would favor the death penalty if offered alternatives.

By law it required that the trial and sentencing of the accused must be conducted with the utmost fairness,

especially when incorporating the irreversible sanction of the death penalty. 88 percent of all execution since

1930 have been for murder (Warner). It is evident that courts have sentenced some criminals to prison while

putting others to death, which clearly demonstrates uncertainty, racial prejudices, and simply unfairness. In his

classic American Dilemma (1944) Gunnar Myrdal reported that South makes the widest application of the

death penalty, and sadly Negro criminals are in for much more than their share of the executions (Warner)

Recently a study of capital punishment showed that the current capital punishment system is an outgrowth of the

racist legacy of slavery (NACDP). Between 1930 and 1996, 4,220 prisoners were executed and more than

half were black.(cite) A disproportionately large number of African American have always occupied the nations

death rows, considering the percentage of African Americans in the overall population (Dieter 144). During the

past century, blacks were more often executed for what were considered less-than-capital offenses for whites,

such as rape and burglary (Dieter 145). Furthermore, a large percentage of the blacks who were executed were

juveniles, and the number of executions without having one s conviction reviewed by a higher court was higher

for blacks (NCADP). In recent years, there has been wide belief that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.

However, since the renewal of capital punishment in the mid-1970s approximately half of the death row

population, at any given time, have been black (Smart). When those under the death sentence are examined

more closely, it is apparent race is a factor after all. A statistical study of racial discrimination in capital cases in

Georgia, showed that those convicted of killing a white person were more likely to receive the death penalty in all

indicted cases. Further evidence proved unfairness in capital cases as reported by the U.S. General Accounting

Office. The GAO results of its review concluded that of the 28 studies there was a pattern of evidence

indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty, and that the race of

victim influence was found at all stages of the criminal justice system process (Dieter 144). One can conclude

then, that in the courts of the nation, even today, the murder of a white person is treated much more severely than

the murder of a black person. Therefore, it can be noted that our criminal system reserves the death penalty for

those murderers (regardless of their race) who kill white victims (Dieter 145). Gender and socio-economic class

also aid in the discrimination of who will receive a death sentence to be executed. Only one percent of all those

on death row were women, although women commit about 15 percent of all criminal homicides (NCADP). Only

33 women, of whom 12 were black, have been executed in the United States since 1930. Fairness in capital

cases, requires most especially, a competent counsel for the defendant. Yet, about 90 percent of those on death

row were not able to afford a lawyer when tried. The most common characteristics among death row defendants

are poverty, lack of social community, and inadequate legal representation at trial or on appeal (NCADP). The

above flaws in the actual administration of capital punishment are only one of the clear reasons for abolition. In

the judgement of the fair-minded and unprejudiced capital punishment is a power that cannot be exercised fairly

and without discrimination (Smart). Therefore, we cannot put human lives in the hands of a flawed system, for

society will suffer the consequences, as well as the victims. Unlike all other criminal punishments, the death

penalty is irreversible. Once a criminal is put to death no once can bring back the human life taken if a mistake is

discover after the fact. Although some supporters of capital punishment argue that its advantages are worth the

sacrificing of innocent people, as well as the ideal that there is little chance that the innocent would be executed.

Nevertheless, there is evidence showing that from the 1980s to the 1990s innocent people have often been

convicted of capital crimes as well as executed (Amnesty International). Since the 1900s there have been an

estimated four cases a year in which an innocent person was convicted of murder, in addition to the many that

were sentenced to death (Amnesty International). In many cases a reprieve or commutation arrived just hours,

or even minutes before the scheduled execution (Amnesty International). Those wrongful convictions have

occurred in almost every jurisdiction in the nation. Furthermore, despite the new death penalty statues approved

by the Supreme Court, the numbers of the wrongfully accused have yet to decline. Unfortunately, the innocent

persons convicted of crimes they did not commit are not always saved from execution or released from their

sentences. There are several other cases in which evidence that would have released the convicted was

discovered after the execution, or evidence was blatantly ignored. These examples explain why the judicial

system cannot guarantee that justice will never make mistakes. To retain the death penalty and overlook the

serious flaws in the system is unacceptable, especially since there are no strong overriding arguments to favor the

death penalty (Glover 145-146). Among the flaws of the justice system, we must remember that the taking of a

human life is immoral. The methods used to perform these violent executions are barbaric and unnecessary. But,

prisoners continue to be executed in the United States by any one of five methods; in a few jurisdiction the

prisoner is allowed to choose which fate he or she prefers. The methods of capital punishment in use in mid-

1997 include hanging, firing squad, electrocution, suffocation in the lethal gas chamber, and lethal injection

(NCADP). The traditional execution by hanging is still used in a few states today. The botch death on gallows

can make for a slow and agonizing death by strangulation if the drop is too short. Or, if the drop is too long, the

head will be torn off. Two states still use the firing squad method, in which the condemned is hooded, strapped

into a chair, and a target is pinned on the chest. Five marksmen take aim and fire (NCADP). During the

twentieth century, electrocution has been the most widely applied form of execution in the United States, and still

used in eleven states. The prisoner is placed in the death chamber and strapped into the chair with electrodes

strapped to the head and legs. When the chair is activated the body strains and jolts as the intensity of electricity

is raised or lowered. It is not known how long the prisoner retains consciousness. in some cases, as with the

electrocution of John Evans in Alabama, it takes more than one jolt of electricity to kill the prisoner. An

eyewitness illustrates the barbaric ritual in which it took three charges at thirty second intervals and ten minutes

before doctors pronounced Mr. Evans dead (NCADP). the witness then goes on to say that the officials were

apparently embarrassed and one official remarked that the execution was supposed to be a very clean manner

of administering death (NCADP). The gas chamber was supposed to be a step ahead of the electric chair. in

the gas chamber method, the prisoner is strapped into a chair with a container of sulfuric acid underneath. the

chamber is then sealed and cyanide is dropped into the acid to create a lethal gas. as with electrocution,

suffocation by inhalation of a lethal gas is not always a quick and clean way of death. in the case of the execution

of Don Harding in Arizona, U.S Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that it took Mr. Harding more

than ten minutes to die. the latest mode of infliction of the death penalty is lethal injection. some believe that this

method is more humane, although killing in itself is plainly inhumane (NCADP). The U.S. Court of Appeals

stated that there is substantial and uncontroverted evidence that execution by lethal injection poses a serious

risk of cruel, protracted death Even a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious

but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation (NCADP). As with the other

methods of execution, death by lethal injection does not always proceed smoothly as planned. In 1985 the

authorities jabbed needles into Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had

been a drug abuser (NCADP). In a 1988 case during the execution of Raymond Landry, a tube attached to a

needle inside the inmate s right arm began leaking, sending he lethal mixture shooting across the death chamber

toward witnesses. Adam Bedau writes that its veneer of decency and subtle analogy with life-saving medical

practice no doubt makes killing by lethal injection more acceptable to the public (NCADP). After witnessing an

execution, Journalist Susan Blaustein said, We have perfected the art of institutional killing to the degree that it

has deadened our natural, quintessentially human response to death.” (NCADP). Most people who observe an

execution are mortified and disgusted. Public executions were common in this country during the nineteenth and

twentieth centuries. One of the last public executions occurred in Kentucky when 20,000 people gathered to

watch the hanging of a young African American male (NCADP). It is that inhumane delight in brutality and pain,

that the supporters of death penalty have cause against, yet they are at the level of the murder themselves.

Society must insist that the law not encourage such violent crime for when the government ceremoniously carries

out the cruel execution of a prisoner, the violent side of human nature is being allowed. Cesare Beccaria, an

Italian jurist said The death penalty cannot be useful, because of the example of barbarity it gives men. Even if

the death penalty was useful it would still be an example of the very brutality and violence the death penalty is

supposed to prevent (Amnesty International). Such methods of human torture and killing is allowed by

retentionists to be hidden in the system we all call justice. Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Godberg wrote, the

deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest conceivable degradation of the dignity

of human personality (Amnesty International). Society not only suffers from the burden of dealing with those

lives which have been lost to an immoral and brutal execution, but society will also suffer from the great deal of

tax dollars spent to put their unjustified ways into action. From the time of arrest to the point of execution, it can

be estimated that a single death sentence costs between one to three million dollars per case (NCADP). Some

studies have figures as high as seven million per case. Life imprisonment, including incarceration, costs roughly

five hundred thousand dollars. The millions of dollars spent on the unnecessary killing of one individual cuts into

funds for more important needs, such as public safety and education (NCADP). Justice often insists that the

death penalty is the suitable punishment for brutal crimes. According to Bedau, By its nature, all punishment is

retributive (Amnesty International). Therefore, a punishment can be satisfied without killing. Moreover, the

death penalty could only be used for the crime of murder and not for any of the several other crimes that have

recently been considered as capital crimes such as rape, kidnapping treason, drug trafficking, and espionage.

Execution is an unnecessary punishment for murder. Albert Camus wrote, For there to be equivalence, the

death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a

horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for moths. Such a

monster is not encountered in private life (Warner). It is also often argued that death is what murderers deserve,

and that those who oppose the death penalty violate the eye for an eye principle or the ideal of making the

punishment fit the crime. If this rule means that punishments are unsuitable unless they are like the crime, then the

principle is unacceptable, Moreover, such an ideal would mean that we must rape the rapists, torture the

torturers, and inflict other degrading punishments on the convicted (Nathanson 133). Furthermore, we would

have to betray traitors, and kill multiple murderers again and again which are obviously impossible to impose.

Since we cannot reasonably punish all crimes according to this ideal, it is irrational to impose execution as a

required punishment for murder. Criminals do deserve to be punished, and the severity of punishment should be

appropriate to the harm they have caused the innocent. But the severity of punishment must have limits limits

enforced by both justice and our common human dignity (Barzilai). Governments that enforce these limits do not

use premeditated, violent homicide as a tool in society. There are people who have lost a loved one to murder

that believe that they cannot rest until the murderer is executed, but not all of those inflicted with such a loss feel

the same. Coretta Scott King said, as one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder

and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital

offenses. An evil deed is not remedied by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of

human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder (Barzilai). Victims to the loss of a loved one do not

need to reduce themselves to the evil level of the murderer, but those families need to replace their anger and

hate towards the criminal in a more healthy manner for both the offender and the survivors. Although it can be

easier said than done, the right to live belongs to all of the members of society regardless of what crime one has

committed. it is not the right of the government, nor the right of any individual to inflict such cruel and hateful

punishments onto another human being, for we are like them. Beyond the statistics we can see a brutal and

unnecessary punishment. There must be limits to the power that a government has, as well as the power

individuals in a society have. We degrade the murderer, yet the supporters of capital punishment reserve the

passion to kill. As sane people with a respect for human life and dignity, we must not turn into the barbarous

murderer some of us fight to kill. According to Stephen Nathanson, we must set an example of the behavior we

find acceptable in society. He goes on to say that even though this person has done wrong and even though we

may be angry, outraged, and indignant with him, we will nonetheless control ourselves in a way that he did not.

We will not kill him (137). We must not contradict the principle that murder is wrong, including the murder of a

criminal. We must not kill, nor must any government hold the power to take a human life, no matter what the

crime. Bibliography Amnesty International. Against the Death Penalty. http:www.amnesty.org Barzilai, Harel.

The Death Penalty. www.hartford-hwd.com Dieter, Richard. The Practical Burdens of Capital

Punishment. Mappes 144 149. Glover, Jonathan. Deterrence and Murder. Mappes 138 141. Mappes,

Thomas A., and Jane S. Zambaty. Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy. Unites States: The McGraw-Hill

Companies, Inc. 1997. Marshall, Thurgood. Dissenting Opinion in Gregg v. Georgia. Mappes 121 124

Nathanson, Stephen. An Eye for an eye. Mappes 132-138. NCADP. www.ncadp.org Smart,

Christopher. Innocence Found on Death Row. weeklywire.com Warner, Ralph. Killing Carelessly.


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