Essay, Research Paper: Capital Punishment

Legal Issues

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An issue that has continually created tension in our society is capital
punishment. Capital punishment is the legal infliction of the death penalty. It
is carried out in the United States in the following harsh ways: electrocution,
hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, and the gas chamber. The death penalty
has imposed throughout history for many crimes, ranging from blasphemy and
treason to petty theft and murder. Ancient Roman and Mosaic Law endorsed the
notion of retaliation; they believed in the rule of "an eye for an eye,
tooth for a tooth." Similarly, the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks
all executed citizens for a variety of crimes. The most known people to be
executed were Jesus and Socrates. Common historical methods of execution
included: stoning, crucifixion, burning, beheading, shooting, and hanging. These
methods are considered cruel and unusual punishment today. There are currently
3,269 people on death row right now. All of these waiting to be put to death by
a fellow human being. If we use these figures to see what the death row
population will be in 2061. There will be an alarming amount of 700,000 at this
rate. There were seventy-four people executed in the United States in 1997.
Thirty of those people still claimed their innocence at death. A report
conducted by the death penalty information center identifies sixty-nine people
who have been released from death row since 1973 "after evidence of their
innocence emerged." The death penalty is wrong and also unfairly
administered. First, females are a very small percentage of death row, although
they commit over twenty percent of murders. Second, there are more nonwhites on
death row. A black man who kills a white person is eleven times more likely to
be put to death for that crime than if it where a white man. Third, it has been
proven that if you have money you can get away with murder. If you are poor,
there's no way out. The possibility of an innocent being convicted of murder and
put to death in America is growing. The risk of executing innocent people far
outweighs any good that can come from capital punishment. Some argue that
capital punishment is a deterrent of crime. Studies show, however, that states
with the death penalty have a higher crime and murder rate than those without.
It is also shown that those states that institutionalized the death penalty has
not had any decrease or change in the crime rate. Finally, there has been no
record of change in the rate or number of homicides in a given city or state
following an execution. Any possibility of deterring a would be murderer from
killing has little effect. Others say it cost more to house a criminal for life
than to have them killed. But, the cost of execution has become increasingly
expensive while the life sentence becomes increasingly more economical. The cost
of execution in Texas is $2,316,655. This high cost includes $265,640 for trial,
$294,240 for state appeals, $113,608 for federal appeals (over six years),
$1,135,875 for death row housing. In contrast, the cost of housing a prisoner in
a Texas maximum-security prison single cell for forty years is estimated at
$750,000. This is also a large amount of taxpayer's money but it is an
investment in the safety and morality of our society. For the past decades
capital punishment has been one of the most hotly contested political issues in
America. This debate is a complicated one. Capital punishment is a legal,
practical, philosophical, social, political, religious, and moral question. The
bible says, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man may his blood be shed."
But, is this really up to us? We decide who lives and dies. The bible also says,
"Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." We are not meant to be the
judges. We cannot make these decisions fairly. These people who are on death row
are criminals, there's no disputing that. They have been tried and convicted. We
are talking about how they should be punished. It is a far worse punishment to
have no freedom and all the time in the world to think about why you lost it.
Are we not murderers ourselves if we condone this? Benjamin Franklin once wisely
said, "Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you
but even with him; forgiving one sets you below him." We are no better than
the criminal as a society by putting them to death. Also, don't we teach our
children it's not right to hit someone even if they started it? To borrow an old
phrase, "Two wrongs don't make a right." It doesn't solve anything to
first set a rule and then use the same thing abolished to inflict punishment.
That does nothing but make us murders ourselves.
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