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Capital punishment is the legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law. The capital punishment debate, in the United States, has been ongoing for almost four hundred years. Opponents of capital punishment cite that its arbitrariness and the execution of the innocent as reasons why they oppose it. Supporters of capital punishment cite its roles of deterrence and retribution as reasons why they support it. Capital punishment should be imposed upon those who purposely take the life of another. A strong voice in opposition to capital punishment comes from an organization called Amnesty International.
Amnesty International works to promote and protect human rights. The abolishment of capital punishment worldwide is one of many issues they focus on. On their website against the death penalty, Amnesty International states, The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishment (Against).
This statement is the foundation for their fight against capital punishment. Their feeling is that the governments that allow capital punishment are playing God, and have no authority to do so. A greater concern is the fear of innocent people being executed. They argue that as long as the law is susceptible to errors, innocent people will be sentenced to death and may be executed before they can be exonerated.
They are not trying to minimize the effects of the crime upon the victims families, but see the death penalty as the legal repetition of the crime itself. Amnesty International points out that there is no conclusive evidence to support the theory of deterrence. The grounds for this argument came from statistical data, gathered by social scientists. They compared homicide rates in places with the capital punishment, to places without capital punishment.
They found there to be no visible influence on the homicide rates (Zimring). Looking at capital punishment as a deterrent can be dangerous for society, because society is holding on to false hope. If they continue to implement capital punishment, people will have lost their lives, but the crime rate will still remain unchanged. They feel people should be spared their lives and separated from society by sentences of life imprisonment. They argue that capital punishment lacks consistency; some are sentenced to death while others, who commit the same crimes or worse, are sentenced to life imprisonment. Theyre view that capital punishment is administered arbitrarily, is supported by the 1972 United States Supreme Court ruling to abolish capital punishment.
The Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Furman v. Georgia, that the state statutes were void of standards, and gave too much discretion to the judge and juries. The Supreme Court found that blacks that killed whites were more likely to receive a sentence of death than whites that killed blacks. Those who received death sentences were financially challenged and could not afford good legal representation. Opponents point out that the trials of death-row defendants are littered with stories of lawyers who were drunk in court, racially prejudice against their clients, or had no experience with death penalty cases (Death). They feel supporters of capital punishment no better than the criminals themselves.
Although there are no specific organizations that rally to support capital punishment, there are people and groups that when asked, do express their views in support of it. One such group is the United States Justice Department. In response to a letter from Amnesty International they say, This administration and this department support the death penalty as an appropriate sanction for the most heinous crimes (USA). When they speak of this administration, they are referring to the Clinton-Gore administration, whose support on the issue of capital punishment, can be seen in a statement made by the National Commission on Capital Punishment, written in the Democratic Party Platform. They say, Those who are for capital punishment, see those against it as treating the criminals like victims (National).
Supporters of capital punishment argue that society must retaliate against criminals. They conclude that the best possible retribution against a murderer is capital punishment. The execution of convicted offenders expresses the value society places on the innocent lives that are taken. These supporters claim that there is no evidence that any innocent people have ever been executed or exonerated since 1900. All the studies conducted by the social scientists, have been shown to contain flawed results. Opponents point out that those released form death row were proven innocent, and that twenty-three innocent people have been executed.
This, supporters say, is a complete falsehood and the studies being used by opponents are merely scare tactics. In the studies and statistics published, they fail to show, of the 69 people released from prison to date, that any of them were innocent, or that any innocent people were executed. Bid and Radelet commented on a study they conducted saying, We agree with our critics that we have not proved executed defendants to be innocent; we never claimed that we had (Justice 169). Being released and found innocent contain two separate meanings, and none of the innocent people released were ever determined to be innocent.
By executing murderers supporters feel, that alone is deterring crime It prevents murderers from being released to killing again. Don Feder, a journalist for the Boston Herald says, When murders arent executed, innocent people suffer. Odds are a killer will be released at some point (Feder). There have been cases in the 1970 s, where convicted murderers were released on parole and found their way back to jail for committing another murder. Opponents want the people to believe that this could not happen, when in fact it has happened. Supporters admit that the long appeal process afforded to the convicted is a problem that the deterrence view faces.
They feel that capital punishment should be more immediate to be completely effective as a deterrent. With advances in DNA and Fingerprint technology, supporters also argue that the threat of innocent people being convicted is non-existent. Supporters argue that the studies done concerning deterrence are not conclusive. They claim there is no real evidence that capital punishment doesnt deter crime. As support to their theory that capital punishment does in fact deter crime, supporters point out that nations in which capital punishment had been abolished, those same nations have been known to reverse and reinstate it in their laws. A prime example of this is the United States.
In 1976, the United States Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment, after laws were passed regulating its use. In conclusion if someone purposely takes a life, they should be accountable for sacrificing their own. When a crime occurs, an important function of the criminal justice system is to administer fair and just punishment. Looking back to the earlier years of United States history, criminals were tried, convicted, and executed swiftly. Deterrence worked because punishment was immediate. There was no crime epidemic back then.
People feared the punishment they would face for their crimes. Today the criminal justice system is lenient on those who dont deserve leniency. Murderers in the prison system are made to feel comfortable. The problem with the criminal justice system today is the lack of fear of punishment. In fact more people die on death row than they do by actual executions. Murderers are made to feel comfortable in prison with three square meals a day, cable television, and free room and board.
If society wants to end this countrys crime epidemic, swift punishment needs to be administered, and the comforts of a prison need to be eliminated. If murderers are executed for their crimes, the murder rate in this country will drop. Of all the countries in the world, the United States has the highest murder rate. Countries that actually execute murderers have the lowest murder rates in the world. It seems like capital punishment works as a deterrent in those countries, and it could work in the United States. It will only work if it is used for its purpose in the law books, to execute convicted murderers.
Works Cited Against the Death Penalty. Amnesty International 2000. 20 April 2001 web Death Penalty. Issues and Controversies on File 1 May 1998. 5 April 2001. web Feder, Don.
Capital Punishment or Dead Wrong. Boston Herald. 10 January 2001. B 2. Justice For All.
Innocent People Have Not Been Executed. Problems of Death. Ed. James D.
Torr and Laura Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. 166 - 171. National Commission on Capital Punishment. 2000 Democratic National Convention. 15 August 2000. 23 April 2001 web org / issues /platform. html . USA: Death Penalty-Time For Leadership. Amnesty International 2000. 22 April 2000 web Zimring, Franklin E.
Capital Punishment. Encarta 2000. 20 April 2001. Against the Death Penalty. Amnesty International 2000. 20 April 200 Death Penalty. Issues and Controversies on File 1 May 1998. 5 April 200 Feder, Don. Capital Punishment or Dead Wrong.
Boston Herald. 10 January 2001. B 2. Justice For All. Innocent People Have Not Been Executed. Problems of Death. Ed.
James D. Torr and Laura Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. 166 - 171. National Commission on Capital Punishment. 2000 Democratic National Convention. 15 August 2000. 23 April 2001. USA: Death Penalty-Time For Leadership. Amnesty International 2000. 22 April 2000.
Zimring, Franklin E. Capital Punishment. Encarta 2000. 20 April 2001
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