Essay, Research Paper: Capitol Punishment

Legal Issues

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We can not afford to disregard the importance of capitol punishment and the
crimes that deserve it. People have used a number of arguments to support their
position regarding the death penalty. Among the arguments employed have been
deterrence, cost, retribution, incapacitation, rehabilitation and mistake. It
has been suggested, though, that a person's position on the issue of capital
punishment is not determined by a rationale evaluation of the arguments for and
against the death penalty, but is an emotionally based, moral opinion, that may
be based on vengeance. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court ruled that
capital punishment, as it was then being administered, was being applied in an
arbitrary and capricious manner which constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
In its decision, the Court noted that the death penalty statutes were vague and
ambiguous, providing little guidance to juries in deciding whether to apply the
death penalty. Psychological research supports the idea that increased ambiguity
in legal instructions can lead to discriminatory verdicts by mock juries. states
required juries to consider the mitigating and aggravating factors of the crime
before assigning a sentence of death. Other states, such as Texas, require that
a jury be convinced that all three of the following requirements have been
satisfied before imposing a sentence of death (1) that the defendant intended to
kill the victim; (2) that it is likely that the defendant would commit other
violent crimes in the future and (3) that the defendant did not commit the crime
as a reasonable response to any provocation by the victim. As a justification
for capital punishment, deterrence is used to suggest that executing murderers
will decrease the homicide rate by causing other potential murderers not to
commit murder for fear of being executed themselves ("general
deterrence") – and, of course, that the murderer who is executed will not
kill again ("specific deterrence"). The desire for vengeance or
retribution is the desire to see persons suffer, or be punished, for their
actions. The principles of retribution suggest that a murderer should be
executed because he or she "deserves" or "has earned" the
sentence of death. Those who base their opposition to the death penalty on moral
grounds argue that life is sacred and killing is always wrong. people also have
questioned whether we as individuals or as a society have the right to decide
that another must die. Those who support the death penalty defend it as a
cost-effective alternative to life imprisonment. A 1982 study in New York
concluded that the average capital murder trial and the first stage of appeals
costs U.S. taxpayers 1.8 million dollars. It is estimated that this is less than
it would cost to incarcerate someone for one hundred years. In arguing for the
death penalty, prosecutors have relied upon arguments such as: executions are
necessary for deterrence; a sentence of death is legally appropriate; the nature
of the crime was extremely abhorrent; the defendant deserves to be executed; and
that the defendant lacks worth. By contrast, the defense arguments include:
execution is based on the desire for vengeance and is therefore morally wrong;
execution itself is equivalent to murder; the penalty of death is too severe;
and that executing the defendant will not bring back the victim or end the
suffering of survivors. Support for Capitol Punishment in the Bible A. Capital
punishment was commanded by God in the Old Testament. 1. It preceded the Mosaic
Law. Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in
the image of God He made man. 2. It was based on the dignity of man, i.e. man's
transcendent value. Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be
shed, for in the image of God He made man. 3. It was commanded in the Mosaic
Law. a. Twenty-one different offenses called for the death penalty in the Old
Testament. b. Only three include an actual or potential capital offense, by our
standards. c. Six are for religious offenses. d. Ten are for various moral
issues. e. Two relate to ceremonial issues. 4. "But King David wasn't put
to death for his capital crimes." a. David understood what justice demanded
in this case: "As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves
to die." 2 Sam 12:5 b. If God chose to set aside punishment, that doesn't
mean the punishment is unjust when it is executed. God was the one who required
capital punishment in many instances. B. Capital punishment was assumed in the
New Testament. 1. God ordains governing authorities: a. Jn 19:11 Jesus answered
[to Pilate], "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given
you from above." b. Rom 13:1-2 Let every person be in subjection to the
governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those
which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has
opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive
condemnation upon themselves. c. 1 Pet 2:13-14 Submit yourselves for the Lord's
sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or
to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of
those who do right.
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