Capital punishment is the severest form of legal punishment today. In this research paper, I intend to state the history of the problem, the two sides of the issue, state possible solutions, and evaluate those solutions. There are a lot of methods of execution. Procedures authorized in the United States now are electrocution, the gas chamber, lethal injection, and the firing squad, which is used only in Utah. The main options for capital punishment, though, are lethal injection and lethal gas (Snell, 1998). Examples of the death penalty forbidden by law are crucifixion, boiling in oil, drawing and quartering, impalement, beheading, burning alive, crushing, being torn into bits and pieces, stoning, and drowning.
Hanging, the firing squad, beheading, and stoning are options used in some countries but are outlawed in the United States. Most of the countries applying these methods are followers of the traditional practices of Islam. Even the Bible prescribed death as a penalty for more than 30 crimes. By the end of the 15th century, treason, murder, larceny, burglary, rape and arson were all grounds for capital punishment. By 1800, over 200 more crimes were acknowledged, increasing the amount of death penalty cases each year to more than 1000. Interest in abolishing the death penalty didn’t become a concern until the end of the 18th century.The Quakers led a reform in England and America. Several States abolished capital punishment entirely including Michigan in 1847. Countries such as Venezuela and Portugal abolished capital punishment in the late 1800’s. There are many statististics involved with the arguement of capital punishment. This year alone, there has been 567 criminals executed and the total amount of criminals remaining on death row is 2,448 (Murray, 1999). Another statistic is that fourteen States required a minimum age of the death penalty at 18, while sixteen States said capital punishment was an option between the ages of 14 and 17 (Snell, 1998). This brings up the issue of, if the death penalty is accepted, what should the age limit be? Capital punishment is a research paper topic full of debate and controversy. The history of the death penalty dates back to 1750 BC and it’s still making history today.
After looking up capital punishment on the Internet, the majority of information I found was in opposition to capital punishment. One argument brought up is the cost of putting someone to death. This year, in Denver, more than 2.5 million dollars was spent on the death penalty. The costs include $717,000 on attorneys who defend suspects, $353,000 was for defense attorneys’ private investigators, $591,000 was for expert witnesses, and $61,000 was for mental health exams (Foster, 1999). It is said that it costs more to enforce capital punishment than it is to put someone in prison for life. Another argument is if the people on death row are innocent, it would be wrong to put them to death. “One innocent person is freed from death row for every seven who are executed,” (Murray, 1999). Statistics shwo that fifty-eight percent of voters are concerned that an innocent person might be executed. Death Penalty opponents point to a statistic that shows eighty-two cases of people who were sentenced to death but were later freed
(Murray, 1999). Opposers also feel that there are issues within the death penalty such as race, wealth, sex, and religion. They believe that the system values white lives more than black lives, the wealthy more than the poor, and men more than women (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997). On the topic of religion, they point to the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not murder.” There are many organizations whose goals are abolishing capital punishment. Among them are People for Abolition Faiths Against the Death Penalty (PFADP), National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), National Petition to End the Death Penalty (NPEDP), and Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP). These organizations have devoted their time, efforts, and lives to abolish capital punishment and feel very strongly on the issue.
Advocates of the death penalty feel that executions are the appropriate punishment for certain criminals committing specific crimes. Public opinion is pro-death penalty (Foster, 1999), but there isn’t really a specific group of people who are advocates.
Someone’s belief depends mainly on religion, morals, and how one was raised. Advocates state that with no death penalty and only life without parole, there is no punishment for criminals sentenced to life if they kill others or escape. The worst that can happen to them is life in prison, which is what they’ve already got. Their punishment can’t be increased so they will never be punished for these crimes. 99.9% of convicted capital murders argue for life without parole instead of death. One study showed that criminals, by a 5:1 ration believed that capital punishment was a great enough punishment to prevent them from murdering their victims (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997).
Besides coming up with their own arguments for the death penalty, advocates generally turn around the oppresses ideas. For example, opponents claim that 82% of the murder victims in death penalty cases are white while 13% are black (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997). Advocates wonder why, if capital punishment is racist, 56% of criminals executed are white and only 38% are black. Also, while opposers bring up the Fifth Commandment as an argument against capital punishment, advocates use “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,” (Genesis 9:6). The also say that if “no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves,” (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997). Advocates feel that by executing the murderers, you prevent them from murdering again. The feel they “must choose the option that may save innocent lives…”and if “we don’t execute murderers, we are sacrificing innocent lives,” (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997).
There aren’t many solutions to capital punishment because if they really were solutions, capital punishment wouldn’t be a problem. CUADP is an organization, mentioned earlier, that focuses on alternatives to the death penalty. One alternative is that “persons convicted of capital murder should serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before the possibility of consideration for parole,” (CUADP, 1999). Another is that a portion of the prisoner’s earnings while working in prison should go to pay for his/her life in prison.
There are other solutions to capital punishment, such as life in prison, but then the issue of overcrowding in prison is brought to attention. Another solution is making the cost of capital punishment so expensive and time consuming that the public won’t support it (Foster, 1999). This has already been used in arguments against the death penalty, just as it was in my research paper. A solution to lower the number of death penalty cases, but not completely abolish it, is a three-judge panel. A three-judge panel is a panel of three judges that replace the jury. Legislature in Denver, Colorado created this system after July 1, 1995 (Foster, 1999). Advocates of the death penalty don’t have a solution to the death penalty because it is their solution. They feel that if all murderers would instantly die after murdering, they would kill only if they wished to die themselves.
In this section I intend to evaluate a few of the solutions to capital punishment from above. The issue of life without parole can be argued by cost. Right now, it is said that capital punishment is more expensive (at least 2 million dollars) than life without parole (1 million dollars for up to fifty years). Although, it is estimated by advocates that it will cost $1.2 million – $3.6 million more than equivalent death penalty cases (Death Penalty and Sentencing Information, 1997). Life in prison also makes overcrowding an issue, like I mentioned earlier. Every year, the prisons get more and more crowded. The three-judge panel system has its flaws too. “There has been four to five times more death penalty cases since the three-judge panel has come into being,” (Foster, 1999) This could be good or bad depending on your viewpoint of capital punishment. The three-judge panel also increases the cost of the cases. A solution that I came up with was to allow the victim’s families to decide whether or not the death penalty should be an option. After evaluating this, I decided that it would be wrong because most of the families would just be looking for anyone to be punished for the crime as long as it was someone. Being distraught, they might overlook any evidence pointing to innocence. I feel that if all evidence shows that the convicted person is the murderer with 100% certainty, capital punishment should be enforced. If there are any doubts at all, it should be life without parole or a very long sentence. As said earlier, capital punishment is full of debate and controversy. It will probably never be made completely legal or be completely abolished because it depends on morals and opinions.
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