Arguments For and Against the Death Penalty

Imagine, a person walking down a dimly lit hallway with their hands and feet chained with heavy shackles that restrain them from taking strides no longer than a foot. This person has just finished their last meal and is being lead by security guards to a confidential room where only a selected number of people are allowed in. He is seated into a wooden chair and asked “Any last words you’d like to say before we continue? ” This is the fate of a criminal on death row. The death penalty is a controversial topic that has been put up for debate. The debate has been going on for many years and yet there is no end in site.

Most likely, one has seen the topic splattered across the front page of the morning newspaper. If not, then they must have been fooled by the death penalty’s many nicknames including execution and capital punishment. Those are only a few of the disguises the death penalty uses to conceal itself in the public eye. For as long as there has been capital punishment, there was always the dispute that came along with it. The question is: should the death penalty be abolished? This is a matter of opinion but there are a vast number of reasons why the death penalty should not be outlawed.

The death penalty is the best method of punishing atrocious criminals while still fulfilling a moral standard. First of all, the death penalty deters crimes. The opponents contest that many murders occur in the heat of passion or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Thus, the threat of death does not affect these individuals and could not have been a deterrent for them (Update). When one is in the heat of passion or under the influence, he or she is unable to control their rash actions let alone have time to consider the consequences they may face.

However, the arguments that support the death penalty as a deterrent outweigh that of the opponents’. Paul Zimmerman, a senior economist with the Federal Communications Commission, used state-level panel data from 1978 and onwards to measure the deterrent effect of execution rates and methods (Sunstein). Zimmerman found that an execution deters on average of fourteen murders (Sunstein). Also, between 1972 and 1976, the Supreme Court conducted an effective moratorium on capital punishment and an extensive study to estimate the deterrent effect (Sunstein).

They made a before and after murder rate comparison of when the death penalty was suspended and reinstated in states. After abolishing the death penalty, 91% of states had an increase in homicides and 67% of states had a decrease in the murder rate when capital punishment was restored (Sunstein). Besides the fact that there is evidence to back up the theory that capital punishment is a deterrent, logically the death penalty is a threat. Capital punishment is the act of taking the life of a criminal in return for their crime (Tucker). For this reason alone, the death penalty strikes fear in the eyes of potential killers.

People are more afraid of death than a prison sentence. Therefore, the death penalty is a warning to potential killers that they will be punished vigorously. The death penalty ultimately gives the potential killers an incentive not to commit the crime because of the prospect that they may end up dead. The death penalty is not cruel and unusual. The rivals of the death penalty strongly believe that capital punishment violates the 8th amendment (Death). They dispute that executions are painful and torturous towards the condemned prisoner (Death).

In 1990 and 1997 flames erupted when the leather face masks of the prisoners caught fire during electrocution (Death). In another incident in 1995, a Florida prisoner let out a muffled scream as he was executed (Death). Prison officials often say that it is not unusual to see smoke rising from the bodies of those put to death. (Death) Another point the opponents of the death penalty bring up is that capital punishment is unusual because 95 nations have already abolished the death penalty due to its breach of human rights (Tucker).

These nations include France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Venezuela, and Peru (Tucker). Conversely, pro-death penalty people say that capital punishment does not breach the 8th amendment (Eddlem). Cruel, the death penalty is not. The killer was cruel for killing the victims. The death penalty is only a reprimand for the most vicious criminals who show no respect to others’ lives. Plus, the Old Testament encourages vengeance. The phrase, “… an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… ” is a justification that the death penalty is moral (Eddlem).

The person who takes life is compelled to give his life in return. Capital punishment is anything but unusual. In the 18th century B. C. , the death penalty was included in the Code of Hammurabi (History). Hammurabi made the death penalty a punishment for 25 different crimes (History). Vlad III Dracula, from Southern Romania, made the death penalty famous (History). He’d spear criminals against the wall on sharpened stakes and allow the body to slowly slide down the stakes to cut every vital organ (History).

Dracula enjoyed executions and would have feasts in front of the dying corpse (History). He was said to be the inspiration of Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire, Dracula (History). The death penalty remained popular during the era of King Henry VIII in 1509-1547, who killed 72,000 people during his reign including 2 of his 6 wives (History). Every nation has had the death penalty in their law books at some point in history and remains in the statute books of half of the nations all over the world. How can the opponents call the death penalty, which has been around for centuries, unusual?

In conclusion, the death penalty is not cruel as it is only a punishment for the actions that the criminal has carried out and it is not unusual since it has been in the history of mankind for many centuries. Capital punishment today has eliminated nearly all mistakes. Still, the opponents of capital punishment say it is permanent, thus the argument against it is that humans make mistakes because it is in our nature (Dead). The court’s mistake is not reversible, unless, of course, the human race has found a way to bring back the dead.

On the contrary, supporters argue that recent technological advances in science have also made it possible to determine whether a suspect is innocent or not (Eddlem). The new technique is called DNA testing (Eddlem). Yes, the courts have placed innocent lives on death row before, but the figures that the opponents have reported are very much exaggerated (Eddlem). The contenders of capital punishment have said two out of three death sentences reviewed were seriously flawed and that about 68% of death sentences are of innocent victims (Eddlem).

That is not true. When the opponents used the word “flawed” they do not mean two out of three of the death row inmates put to death were of innocent lives (Eddlem). These figures include any case needing review from a lower court. (Eddlem) DNA samples found at the crime scene can be compared to that of the suspect to validate whether the suspect was involved in the act (Eddlem). A small number of convicts have been released due to DNA evidence proving them innocent.

Since 1976, not one person executed in the United States has been later proven innocent by later DNA evidence. (Eddlem) Hence the possibility for error in the court system is nearly eliminated. Capital punishment is not racist towards minorities. The 1987 Supreme Court case McCleskey vs. Kemp confronted the racial inequalities on death row (Death). Warren McCleskey, the defendant, was a black man who was convicted of killing a white policeman (Death). He challenged the sentence as racially biased and that he was deprived of the 14th amendment of equal protection (Death).

His lawyers showed statistics that in over 2,000 Georgia murder cases, black murderers who killed whites were more likely to be executed than whites who killed blacks (Death). Further research shows that in 1976, when the death penalty was reintroduced into the United States, 84 black convicts have been executed for the murder of a white victim and only 4 white convicts have been executed for the murder of a black victim. But the flaw to the opponent’s argument is that they neglect to mention that blacks statistically commit more murders and whites are the most common victims in crimes (Death).

The U. S. Bureau of Justice reports that between 1976 and 1999, blacks have committed 51. 5% of the murders in the United States (Eddlem). Plus the U. S. Bureau of Justice informs: “Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, white inmates have made up the majority of those under sentence of death” (Eddlem). Whites have continued to encompass the majority on death row in 2000 (Eddlem). There were 1,990 white inmates, 1,535 blacks, and 68 others. In the same year, 49 out of the 85 put to death were white (Eddlem).

Plus, the fact of the matter is that white people are 2. 6 times more frequently killed by a black person than a black person to be killed by a white person (Eddlem). Black people just tend to commit more crimes than the white population. Thus, how can the system be racist if it is only serving justice? The death penalty is a controversy that has plagued the United States court system for many years. The United States has allowed each state to decide whether to prohibit the death penalty or to permit the harsh sentence.

Currently, 38 out of the 50 states have capital punishment (Death). Even so, the public seems to support the death penalty rather than reject it. According to a 1997 Newsweek poll, 74% of people defend capital punishment for the reason that it eliminates the chance that the criminal will murder again. (Death) As the quarrel rages on, I agree with the 74% of Americans that are pro-capital punishment. The reason being that the death penalty is a deterrent, serves justice, not cruel and unusual, the mistakes are now nearly nonexistent, and the death penalty is in no way racist.