[James fieser] We also have to assess the 'proportionality of happiness' factor in determining if capital punishment is justifiable in a particular case. That is to say that if the execution of a prisoner will save the lives of many people capital punishment can be approved in such cases. Let us for instance take the example of a captured terrorist or a suicide bomber. In this case it is fairly obvious that the destructive potential of these people would be greater and consequently their execution entails greater safety, protection and happiness for the society. Under these circumstances capital punishment stands clearly justified. Finally, the cost factor is also used by abolitionists in supporting their argument. While the legal cost of executions maybe high they are insignificant when compared with delivering justice.
The deontological theory on the other hand is concerned only with the rightfulness of an act irrespective of its consequences. So the deterrent value of the capital punishment is not taken into account. Kant, the chief proponent of the deontology theory advocated punishment as a 'categorical imperative' and the 'principle of equality' [Allen Stairs]. In his article, Koch the former Mayor of New York, and a proponent of capital punishment also quotes "natural law properly authorizes the sovereign to take life in order the vindicate justice. (Edward I. Koch) in other words, all the people who are found to be guilty must be punished. (Retributive justice). Anything that threatens the social order or the moral structure of the society must be dealt with severely. Behavioural codes are in place in a society and the freedom of the individual is circumscribed within these boundaries. Violation of the basic rights of others is a serious crime and perpetrators of crimes like murders deserve appropriate punishment. When the living rights of innocent people are at stake retributive justice is a matter of dutiful obligation on the part of the judicial system. (Edward I. Koch)
Capital Punishment stands justified even on moral grounds. If killing is unjustified, then even killing for self-defence cannot be justified as well. Since the murderer has so blatantly violated social norms and took away the life of an innocent person he has thrown away his right to mercy and must therefore face justice. The possibility of an innocent person being wrongly judged and executed remains the only serious issue against capital punishment. The fact that since 1977 more than 120 innocent victims released after being awarded capital punishment gives reason for concern. [DPIC]. However, it is certain that the advancements in forensic science would eliminate such problems in the future. (for example, DNA tests)
Punishments are imposed to reduce the probability of crimes happening and for restoring social order. The assessment as to whether Death penalty is essential or if it can be substituted with non-lethal alternatives is complicated. Ethical, moral and spiritual considerations are to be evaluated in deciding upon whether or not capital punishment is necessary. Sympathetic considerations must not allow an escape hatch for convicted heinous criminals who have seriously undermined social order and harmony by breaking the law. Sometimes the perpetrator is in flagrant violation of ethical and moral laws (like terrorists and serial killers) and hence under these circumstances the moral dilemma, even if it arises, is only superficial. Capital punishment, thus, cannot be totally dismissed as unjust, and in the interest of greater well-being of the society it is permissible to award death penalty in such situations.
1) James Fieser, "Capital Punishment," Accessed on 3rd June 2007, available at http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/c/capitalp.htm
2) Dudley Sharp, "Death Penalty as a Deterrent," Accessed on 3rd June 2007, available at http://www.dpinfo.com/death_penalty_as_a_deterrent.htm
3) Kenneth Cauthen, " Capital Punishment," Accessed on 3rd June 2007,
Available at, http://www.frontiernet.net/~kenc/cappun.htm
4) Death Penalty Information Center, "Facts About Death Penalty," Accessed on 3rd June 2007, available at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/FactSheet.pdf
5) Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Capital Punishment Statistics," Accessed on 3rd June 2007, Available at, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm
6) Allen Stairs, "Kant on Retributive Justice," Accessed on 3rd June 2007, Available at, http://brindedcow.umd.edu/140/kantcap.html
7) Koch, Edward. "Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life." The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon, 2000
8) Wesley Lowe, 'Pro Death Penalty', Accessed on 3rd June 2007, available at http://www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html
9) Edward I. Koch, 'The death penalty: can it ever be justified', New