VENGEANCE OR JUSTICE?
Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during
moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been
suspended.in such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequence to themselves as well
as to others.
The strongest argument of all is the deep pain and grief of the families of victims and their quite natural
desire to see punishment meted out to those who have plunged them into such agony. Although our first
instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standars of mature society demand
a more measured response. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that
demonstrate a complete respect for life even the life of a murderer. If however, severe punishment can deter
crime than long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any rational person from committing a violent crime.
Some would argue that the death penalty will teach society at large the seriousness of crime, but teaching
to respond to violence with violence, only breeds more violence. The fact is that fear of death penalty has never
served to reduce the crime rate. The states who have the fewest murders are Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North
Dakota - and they abolished death penalty. The states which have the most murders are Nevada, Alabama, Texas,
Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Virginia - all of them enforce the death penalty. The same is true when the
U.S. is compared to countries similar to it. The U.S. , with the capital punishment, has a higher murder rate than the
countries of Europe or Canada, which are abolitionists. Conviction of the innocent does occur and death makes a
miscarriage of justice irrevocable. Two states: Maine and Rhode Island abolished the death penalty because of public
shame and remorse after they discovered they executed some innocent men. Recently, journalism students in
Illinois were asigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system had
rejected his legal claims. The students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were
able to find the true killer, who confessed to the crime on videotape. The innocent man who was released was very
fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.
Many victims' families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of
their loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain. For example, Bud Welch's daughter, Julie, was killed in
Oklahoma city bombing in 1995. Although his first reaction was to wish that those who committed this terrible crime
be killed, he ultimately realized that such killing " is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie..." .
Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion, but it has no place in our justice system! The notion an eye for an eye,
or a life for a life, is a simplistic one which our society has never endorsed. We do not allow torturing the torturer
or raping the rapist. Taking the life of a murderer is a similarly disproportionate punishment, especially in the
light of the fact that U.S. executes only a small percentage of those convicted of murder, and these defendants
are typically not the worst offenders but merely the ones with the fewest resources to defend themselves.