Death Penalty Is A Fair Punishment For Murder Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Death Penalty

All indications are that capital offenses are on the rise and the response to this phenomenon has been a cry to impose capital punishment as retribution. Certainly the issue is one of the most hotly debated in the world today; both for consideration of its humaneness as well as efficacy as a deterrent. For the purposes of this assignment we will examine the issue from both sides with the intent of persuading the reader of the necessity of the death penalty.

The United States legal system currently allows for executions; although not all states practice capital punishment. It is a charged moral issue that regularly invokes heated debates both for and against the death penalty. Since the inception of executions, ethicists have used religion, emotion and practicality as the basis for their arguments. Since 1976 when capital punishment was reinstated in the United States one of the reigning views is that executions are morally acceptable and our country has an obligation to maintain these statutes that will allow the continuance of capital punishment (Radelet et al., 2006).

Originally capital punishment followed the colonists here from Britain and each state legislature voted on the application and manner of the death sentence in their states. Common crimes that would warrant this severe penalty included - but were not limited to -rape, murder and treason. Today, only one of the 3100 inmates currently facing the death penalty and sitting on death row are there because they were convicted of murder. However, in this analysis we will assume that the entirety of death row prisoners is there for the same offense; and the analysis of how they merited said punishment will center on Kantian ethics, Natural Law Theory and Mill's Utilitarianism Principles (Radelet et al., 2006).

Let us begin with an application of Mill's Utilitarianism Principles to the moral validity for and against the death penalty. First, in many instances the consummation of the execution allows the victim's family to experience closure by knowing the life of their lost love one has been vindicated by the state. Here the 'Greatest happiness principle' as expressed by Mill and Utilitarianism comes into play. Accordingly the just punishment of forfeiting the life of the convict in response to taking the life of another should afford the family a sense of 'pleasure' from the punishment received. Too, Utilitarianism adheres to the notion that 'the ultimate purpose of punishment is either to promote or decrease unhappiness' (Scheid). Specifically, families of victims who were murdered will experience a sense of happiness realizing the perpetrator will not be able to harm another person.

Utilitarian consequentialism offers that the crime of murder has wrought such a deep level of pain to the family of the victim that the death penalty is the only release to afford them any sense of relief let alone a level of pleasure and happiness (Radelet et al., 2006). There are those that would reject this argument; feeling that prison should be the ultimate punishment despite the taking of a human life. But the death penalty is designed in some small way to provide survivors of the murdered to move on with their lives knowing that the murderer has forfeited their own life in kind. In fact, one purpose of capital punishment is to assuage the emotions of the loved ones. A sentence of life in prison may simply not be enough for victim's families.

Indeed, capital punishment varies across jurisdictions and states which complicate attempts to have a reasoned discussion on either the constructs or perspectives of such. Moreover, it exacerbates efforts to create a uniform decision on whether it should be abolished or implemented universally (Songer and Unah, 2006). What can be agreed upon is a general understanding of its reference; that being the lawful punishment of death for a variety of offenses. Perhaps the only thing that experts do agree on is the understanding that the application of the death penalty elicits contradictory perspectives and divergent opinions dating back to the earliest days of mankind and all along the continuum of human history. It should not be surprising to note that proponents of executions believe the benefits outweigh the negatives (Songer and Unah, 2006).

Another powerful argument in support of the death penalty is the idea that it serves as a deterrent to others who might be inclined to commit a crime. In other words, potential criminals will think twice before committing a crime realizing that the consequences of their immediate actions outweigh any possible benefits. There has been ample research to support the theory that human beings are equipped with the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong. If this is true then when a person commits a crime it is an act of free will. He or she is deliberate choosing to engage in a behavior that is criminal and will elicit consequences. Therefore, the death penalty can be considered an effective disincentive to criminal behavior by creating a fear of this consequence in the mind of the potential offender (Songer and Unah, 2006).

The third argument in favor of the death penalty is simply that it eliminates evil from society in a manner of permanency not available through any other avenue. In this way, if a convicted murderer is executed then it is certain that this individual cannot repeat the crime or pose a threat to humanity. In other words, civilization as a whole is a safer and better place when a convicted murderer is put to death (Blecker et al., 2003).

Still another argument is purely financial. In state after state we see the burden of housing and caring for prisoners over the course of a lifetime breaking community and state treasuries. The taxpayers are weary - worn-out actually - from seeing their hard earned dollars spent to support lawbreakers of the worst kind. In the case of criminals on death row rehabilitation is not even a consideration - only years and years of payment for public defenders to lobby the courts for new trials and stays of execution. Enacting the death penalty is a fiscally paltry sum in comparison to the outlay of public monies made available to the lowest denominators of society (Blecker et al., 2003). Therefore, from a purely financial point-of-view society has a right to divvy out limited tax dollars to the resources they feel is most deserving - and that is not generally the convicted murderer. The death penalty, then, is a cost-effective alternative. Worse yet, criminals that are allowed to languish in prisons create a concern that escape from custody is a real possibility and these convicts can then revisit havoc on an unsuspecting and undeserving community. If the death penalty is employed in a timely fashion this decreases such concerns (Blecker et al., 2003).

The retribution theory argues that criminals are deserving of a punishment proportional to the offense for which they have been convicted. This is an academic position that invokes contradictory perspectives; but fundamentally it is a rational stance that runs parallel to other pro-death penalty arguments in that retribution is a natural human emotion. Actually, retribution is a common and accepted judicial concept differing from revenge in that it does not emanate from hatred but is nothing less than an expected societal response. The criminal is deserving of said punishment as referred to by 'lextalionis'.

Moreover, it is not reasonable to expect law-abiding taxpayers to support criminals unendingly through taxes that pay for their food, shelter and security. It is nonsensical. Of course, society does not want these criminals loosened on society; and they have been convicted of heinous crimes so application of the death penalty is the only recourse available to society. Again, this ensure that the criminal will never escape - an experience that is not without precedence - and in so doing wreak more underserving havoc on innocent citizens. More frustrating is that the courts and appeal process favor the criminal and take their personal history into consideration while the victim's families are not afforded such regard. Fair play would dictate that the criminal has been given many and more opportunities in life than was given the victim and the line must be drawn where retribution is taken by society.

It is a travesty when the convicted murderer is allowed a series of last wishes, final visits, and creature comforts when the victim was not allowed the same opportunities (Blecker et al., 2003). At some point common sense would state that enough is enough; a trial has been held, a verdict read, appeals exhausted and the death penalty imposed and it is not a process that should be allowed to drag on for decades.

Conversely, there are critics who vehemently deny that the death penalty deters crime. Some believe it to be as costly to maintain due to the plethora of legal proceedings it incites vs. The cost of a life sentence. The greatest concern is that a convicted murderer may later be set…

Sources Used in Document:

References

Blecker, R., Kirchmeier, J., Erlbaum, W., Drehle, D.V. And Fagan, J. (2003). Rethinking the Death Penalty: Can We Define Who Deserves Death? - 24 Pace Law Review 107.

Gross, S.R. (2000). Still Unfair, Still Arbitrary - But Do We Care? Keynote Address, 26 Ohio Northern University Law Review 517.

Martin, E.F. (2000). Tessie Hutchinson and the American System of Capital Punishment" 59 Maryland Law Review 553.

Radelet, M., et. al. (2006). 7 Univ. Of Colorado Law Review 549.

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