Essay, Research Paper: Capital Punishment

Legal Issues

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Capital Punishment is a difficult issue to address and has been the subject of
highly controversial debate for the past three decades. In 1972, the United
States Supreme Court decided in the Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was
a form of cruel and unusual punishment per the 8th Amendment of the
Constitution. But in 1975, the court reversed their decision and executions
resumed under the state’s supervision. Texas did not have another execution
until 1982. As of July, Texas had 457 inmates on Death Row. We have 5 executions
scheduled before December 15 and another 5 scheduled for January 2000. The Death
Penalty is considered the harshest from of punishment enforced today. The most
common form used to execute this task is Lethal Injection; although hanging,
electrocution, gas chamber and the firing squad are also approved methods. The
big controversy of the death penalty is does it work and is it morally right.
People who favor it say that it is the only way for justice to be carried out
and they think the criminal deserves it. People who are against it say that it
is immoral and had no place in a civilized society. Capital Punishment is
justified by several means. Many supporters of the death penalty believe that
capital punishment deters crime. I believe that is a false assumption. How can
you tell if deterrence has occurred? You can not. Unless the “prospective”
offender reports that the fear of punishment stop them from committing the
crime, you will never know if it works. Recidivism occurs by one who makes sure
they do not get caught. They plan and concoct stories to make others believe
that they are not capable of criminal activity, especially murder. Usually the
person who does get caught is someone who did not plan to commit murder in the
first place. Deterrence can only work when the threat of punishment is combined
with the act being believed as morally wrong. Without the conviction of
morality, the easily frightened will not break the law but the irrational and
fearless will. Apparently though, certain sections of society have become
desensitized to the point that human life has no value whatsoever. Nothing will
hold deterrent value. These people do not think about the consequences of their
actions. But this lack of morals and foresight cannot be used as an excuse for
the toleration of such violent crimes. If we used the death penalty as the law
intended, it could actually reduce the number of violent murders by eliminating
so of the repeat offenders thus being used a method of justice and not just a
method of deterrence. Many people are against the death penalty because they
think innocent people will be wrongfully executed in the name of justice. There
are many provisions taken to make sure this does not happen. These provisions
also ensure that the death penalty is racially bias so there is no
discriminations. The death penalty also has an automatic appeals process that
safeguards the system. This process shortens the time spent on death row, which
is on average nine years and six months. This seemingly shortened sentence could
allow for an innocent person to be executed but statistics show that only two,
1918 and 1949, people have been proved innocent after execution in the entire
history of the United States. Capital Punishment is a method of retributive
punishment as old as time itself. Both the Greeks and the Romans invoked the
death penalty for a variety of offenses. Socrates and Jesus were among the most
famous people ever condemned. Hammurabi’s Code, developed long before the
emergence of Christ claims retribution, “an eye for an eye, life for a life”
is justice. Retribution makes Capital Punishment justifiable because it is an
injustice to tolerate criminal behavior such as murder. Think for a moment that
the death penalty did not exist. Then the only reasonable alternative would be a
life sentence. This would be costly to taxpayers like you and I. Costly due to
housing, feeding, and numerous appeals that the inmate would file. If there is
no threat of death to someone who commit murder, then that person is guaranteed
to be provided with a decent living environment until the next parole hearing.
This shows that they would not get the deserved type of punishment. How would
the victim’s family feel about this? The ACLU was once quoted saying that what
families need is financial and emotional support to help them recover from their
loss and resume their lives. The concept of money replacing your loved one is a
ridiculous idea. What the victim’s family wants is justice, plain and simple.
They want justice to be served, for the offender to be put to death, not any
sort of financial retribution. Justice is all anyone wants or deserves. If it is
cleat that a person is guilty of murder then that person should be sentenced to
death. Placing murderers in prison is not a tough enough sentence. If sentenced
to life in Texas, then they would have a chance of parole. If they happen to
make it back into the community, who is to say s/he would not kill again. One
out of eleven prisoners sentenced to death have a prior homicide conviction.
This means that more innocent people had to die before the murderer was
sentenced to death. If they had been sentenced to die the first time, the
additional victims would be alive. Justice would have been served. The
punishment would fit the crime; the victim’s family and society would be
helped knowing one less murderer is out on the streets. More timely enforcement
of the death penalty would help reduce crime by instilling a sense of respect
for the law. In that sentences are more than just written words on a page.
Crimes carry consequences, which should be understood. Murder is a crime that
involves the loss of life of an innocent human and that act needs to be justly
punished. Not with an “overextended welcome” in a prison but in an effective
manner that lets society know that justice is being duly served. If we were to
take capital punishment away, we would not have an effective justice system and
crimes against innocent people will continue. And that is why it is needed in
America.
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