Do They Deserve To Die?
Capital punishment has been in effect since the 1600's (Cole 451). However, in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment, which was unconstitutional according to the Eighth amendment. It was public opinion that the current methods of execution, hanging, electrocution, and facing a firing squad, were too slow and painful upon the person to be executed (Cole 451). The U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision when a "cleaner" way to bring about death was found in 1976. This "cleaner" way is death by lethal injection, which is quick and painless if administered right (Cole 450). Since capital punishment has been reinstituted many people have argued for and against capital punishment. Some say the death penalty is what the criminal deserves while others object to it because death is irreversible. I feel the death penalty is a good form of justice because only about 250 people a year get the death penalty and they are guilty beyond a doubt and don't deserve living with the possibility of parole. The sentencing judge or jury are ordered by the Supreme Court to look for "specific aggravating and mitigating factors in deciding which convicted murderers should be sentenced to death" (Cole 451). Some of these mitigating factors are the defendant's motivation, character, personal history, and most of all remorse (Costanzo).
Every year approximately 250 new offenders are added to death row. In 1994 there were 2,850 persons awaiting execution. Yet no more than thirty-eight people have been executed a year since 1976. This is a ridiculously low number compared to 199 persons executed in 1935 (all from Cole 451). The reason for this slow execution rate is the process of appeals, from sentencing to execution there is about a seven to eight year wait. The convict's cases' are reviewed by the state courts and through the federal courts (Cole 451). With all this opportunity for the case to be turned over or the sentence to be changed it is almost impossible for an innocent person to be executed. Only two people have been proved innocent after their execution in the United States. These wrongful deaths occurred in 1918 and 1949 (Death Penalty Discussion). Since then the justice system has undergone a lot of fine tuning making this extremely unlikely today.
One argument against the death penalty is that it costs less to imprison someone for life than to execute them (Death Penalty Discussion). This is a good point that has a lot of impact on a lot of peoples views regarding capital punishment since they are the ones footing the bill through taxes. I personally would not mind paying the little bit extra just so I know for sure that there's one less murderer on our planet. If the death penalty was done away with, prisoners who should have been executed will be mixed in with other inmates. It would be possible and not too unlikely for them to kill another inmate or possibly a prison guard.
If someone is lined up for execution then they more than likely deserve it. They have caused a great deal of grief to the family and friends of the victim or victims and it seems like the only way justice could be served is for the criminal to die. For the person to simply go to jail seems unfair. There they will eat three meals a day, get to watch cable t.v., and befriend other inmates. They live a pretty decent life in prison and they don't deserve it.
Out of the fifty states in the United States 37 have and use capital punishment. Out of the same fifty states only 18 have life imprisonment with out parole. In the other 32 states a person who should've been executed can be released after as little as 20 years in prison (Death Penalty).
There are certain standards that are followed in giving out capital punishment. The defendant can not be insane, and the mans rea or criminal intent must be present. Also, minors very rarely receive the death penalty because they are not fully mature and might not know the consequences of their actions. Finally the mentally retarded are very seldom executed. The reason for not executing the retarded is that they often have difficulty defending themselves in court, have problems remembering details, locating witnesses, and testifying credibly on their own behalf (all from Cole 451).
If capital punishment were carried out more it would prove to be the crime deterrent it was partly intended. Most criminals would think twice before committing murder if they knew their own lives was at stake. As it turns out though very few people are executed and so the death penalty is not a satisfactory deterrent. During highly publicized death penalty cases the homicide rate is found to go down but it goes back up when the case is over (Bailey).
Thomas Edison, a famous scientist and American hero, helped develop and extensively promoted the electric chair (The Electric Chair). The electric chair was a papular method of execution from the 1930s to the 1970s. The death penalty is a punishment that will remain active for a long time in the future, even with all the criticism. It is a ancient way of dealing with extremely serious offences that plague our country today. Hopefully the appeals process will be shortened, but remain effective, so more criminals can be executed, making prospective criminals think twice.
Bailey, William C., "Murder, Capital Punishment, and Deterrence" 1994. Journal of Social Issues.
Cole, George F., The American System fo Criminal Justice 1995, New York.
Costanzo, Mark "Attorney Persuasion in the Capital Penalty Phase" 1994. Journal of Social Issues.
Death Penalty Discussion, Sept. 12, 1994. Search on Turbogopher under "Execution".
Death Penalty, May 12, 1994. American Civil Liberties Union. Search on Turbogopher under "Execution".
The Electric Chair, Aug 13, 1993.