Capital punishment is defined as the legal infliction of the death penalty. Today, in modern law, the death penalty is corporal punishment in its most severe form. It is irrevocable: it ends the existence of those punished, instead of temporarily imprisoning them. Although capital punishment is not intended to inflict physical pain, execution is the only corporal punishment still applied to adults. The usual alternative to the death penalty is life-long imprisonment. The earliest historical records contain written evidence of capital punishment.
Applied from ancient times in most societies, it has been used as punishment for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. The bible called for the penalty of death for more than thirty different crimes. In England, during the reigns of King Canute and William the Conqueror, the death penalty was not used, although the results of interrogation and torture were often fatal. In the years to follow, the death penalty in the American colonies before the Revolution, was commonly authorized for a wide variety of crimes.
Blacks were threatened with death for many crimes that were punished less severely when committed by whites. Not until the end of the 18th century were efforts made to abolish the death penalty. Quakers led this movement in England and America. Encouraged by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, England repealed all but a few of its capital statutes during the 19th century. Many states in the United States, led by Michigan in 1847, abolished the death penalty entirely. However, since complete abolition could never be achieved, reformers concentrated on limiting the scope of capital punishment.
In 1794, Pennsylvania adopted a law to distinguish the degrees of murder and only used the death penalty for premeditated first-degree murder. Another reform took place in 1846 in Louisiana. This state abolished the mandatory death penalty and authorized the option of sentencing a capital offender to life imprisonment rather than to death. After the 1830s, public executions ceased to be demonstrated but did not completely stop until after 1936. The methods of execution have changed over the ages. The death penalty he been inflicted in many ways now regarded today as barbaric and forbidden by law almost everywhere.
Some ways it was inflicted in the past was crucifixion, boiling in oil, drawing and quartering, impalement, beheading, burning alive, crushing, tearing, stoning, and drowning. These types of punishment today are considered cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States, the death penalty is currently authorized in one of five ways: hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, or lethal injection. These methods of execution compared to those of the past are not meant for torture, they are meant for punishment for heinous crime.
Some questions that arise in the controversial issue of capital punishment is if it is a deterrent for crime or is it more effective than life imprisonment? Defenders of the death penalty insist that since taking an offender’s life is a more severe punishment than any prison term, it must be a better deterrent. Public opinion in America supports the death penalty by a more than two to one margin and this view rest largely on the deterrence of crime from this severe punishment. An example of these statistics comes from the state of Florida.
Support for death penalty changes when alternatives are added. When asked simply whether they favor the death penalty, 80 percent of Floridians said they did. When asked whether they favor death penalty or life without parole, the figure drops to 70 percent, and then to 60 percent when restitution is added to the equation. The cost is also an issue that critics of the death penalty attack. In Florida, it costs $3. 2 million on each death row inmate, compared to about $535,000 for an average of 40 years for each prisoner sentenced to life.
This is a huge amount of tax payers money but the public looks at it as an investment in safety since these murders will never kill again. Those who argue against the death penalty as a deterrent to crime say the following statements. Adjacent states, in which one has a death penalty and the other does not, show no long term differences in the number of murders that occur in that state. States that use the death penalty seem to have a larger number of homicides than states that do not use it. Also, states that have abolished the death penalty and then reinstituted it show no significant change in the murder rate.
And finally, there has been no record of change in the rate of homicides in a given city or state seems to occur following a local execution. The intent of scaring a possible murderer not to kill or kill again because of the penalty of death according to critics has little effect. The current prevailing view among criminologists is that no conclusive evidence exists to show that death as punishment is a more effective deterrent to violent criminal activity than life-long imprisonment. Many moral concerns are brought up by the death penalty used as punishment.
The bible (Genesis 9:6) says, “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man may his blood be shed. ” This classic argument in favor of the death penalty has usually been interpreted as a proper and moral reason for putting a murderer to death. “Let the punishment fit the crime” is its secondary counterpart. Both quotes imply that the murderer deserves to die and it was his own fault for putting himself on death row. Supporters of capital punishment say that society has the right to kill in defense of its members, just as an individual has the right to kill in self defense for his or her own personal safety.
This analogy is somewhat doubtful, however, as long as the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent to violent crimes has yet to be proven. Another controversial aspect of the death penalty is that innocent people are killed even though they did not commit any crime. The executing of the innocent is very rare. From 1900 to 1985, a recent survey found that 7000 people were executed by the means of the death penalty and 35 were innocent of capital crimes.
Proponents of the death penalty say that despite precautions, nearly all human activities, such as trucking, lighting, or construction, cost the lives of some innocent bystanders. These activities, however, are not simply abandoned, because the advantages moral or material, outweigh the unintended losses. Critics have also argued that an alternative can be found to substitute for the death penalty. They feel that the severity of the crime can match the severity of the punishment and does not require the primitive rule of “a life for a life. ”
In the United States, the main objection to capital punishment has been that it was always used unfairly, in at least three major ways. First, females are rarely sentenced to death and executed, even though 20 percent of all murders that have occurred in recent years were committed by women. Second, a disproportionate number of nonwhites are sentenced to death and executed. A black man who kills a white person is 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white man who kills a black person. In Texas in 1991, blacks made up 12 percent of the population, but 48 percent of the prison population and 55. ercent of those on death row are black.
Before the 1970s, when the death penalty for rape was still used in many states, no white men were guilty of raping nonwhite women, whereas most black offenders found guilty of raping a white woman were executed. This data shows how the death penalty can discriminate and be used on certain races rather than equally as punishment for severe crimes. And third, poor and friendless defendants, those who are inexperienced or of court-appointed counsel, are most likely to be sentenced to death and executed.
Defenders of the death penalty, however, argue that, because nothing found in the laws of capital punishment causes sexist, racist, or class bias in its use, these kinds of discrimination are not a sufficient reason for abolishing the death penalty on the idea that it discriminates or violates the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Opponents of capital punishment have replied to this by saying that the death penalty is subject to miscarriage of justice and that it would be impossible to administer fairly.
In the 1970s, a series of U. S. Supreme Court decisions made the death penalty in the U. S. unconstitutional, if it is mandatory, if it is imposed without providing courts with adequate guidance to make the right decision in the severity of the sentence, or if it is imposed for a crime that does not take or threaten the life of another human being. The death penalty was also confined to crimes of murder, including felony murder. A felony murder is any homicide committed in the course of committing another felony, such as rape or robbery.
After the 1972 court ruling that all but a few capital statutes were unconstitutional, thirty-seven states revised and reenacted their death penalty laws. In 1989 the Supreme Court decided that the death penalty could be used on those who were mentally retarded or underage (but 16 years and over) at the time of the killing. A trend that the Supreme Court is following is making a cut back on the appeals that Death Row inmates could make to the federal courts. The current status of the death penalty may change in the near future as President Bill Clinton has announced his support toward the advantages to the death penalty.
I feel strongly toward using the death penalty as punishment for unspeakable crimes. I feel that it is a deterrent for criminal activity because of its severity and it will never allow the murder to murder again and tear apart another family. I do, however, feel that restrictions should be put on its uses. Not all crimes deserve the death penalty. Let the punishment fit the crime. If a criminal performs a premeditated heinous murder he should be put to death. It is that simple. If the convicted offender shows no remorse for his actions, then the decision should be even easier.
I feel that it is important to send a message to all future “thrill-killers” that taking the life of another human is wrong and if they decide to try it, they must face the consequences: Death. A real world example of a case that involved killers who showed no remorse for killing and performed a heinous felony murder was the homicide that occurred in Mandville Louisiana in 1979. Robert L. Willie and Joseph Vaccaro kidnapped Faith Hathaway, beat here, raped her and slit here throat. They continued to rape her long after she was dead.
This type of murder disturbed the entire town and devastated the victims family. When the detective of the case, Mike Varnado, was asked about the death penalty and this crime he said, “What they did to this girl [Faith], they tortured her, they beat her, they raped her, they did not want her money, they just wanted to degrade her, and just dehumanize her and just see how it feels to do this to someone. It was a senseless crime that in my opinion deserved the death penalty. ” Repeat offenders and people who enjoy killing do not deserve to walk our street.
Everyone has the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and no one has the right to take that away from another person. As I said above, I feel very strongly toward the use of the death penalty. The death penalty has changed greatly over the years. It has gone from torture as punishment to death as punishment. Capital punishment today is not meant to torture or be used as a means for revenge. The death penalty is a severe penalty for a sever crime. I feel that it does work as a deterrent for crime because of its severity over any prison term. Capital punishment is necessary for a stable society and should not be abolished.