The issue of the death penalty has elicited debate since the ancient times. People belief in the sanctity of life that human are to live until they die of natural death rather than induced killing and as a result of capital offences. As early as 1293 the Prince of Wales was hanged after he attacked King Edward of England. Since then, there has been the debate of where it is legal or moral to use the death penalty to meet justice of the accused. However, through history there has been declined use of the death penalty in many countries with a few remaining with the practice including the United States of America. In the past years death penalty was a norm. In the 7th Century B.C., death penalty was the punishment that was meted on all crimes in Athens. In Europe criminal were hanged and stoned. Others were hard-pressed to fatality under stones while others were burnt alive. Period before 20th Century crime committed against the authority was penalised by death sentences, and people had no much complain on the morality of the exercise. The established authority in this period included monarchy, the church and the states. Religion was the cause of most death in the past centuries. ‘The Inquisition was a natural Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation, and it demanded death by burning at the stake for many thousands of heretics who refused to bend to the authority of Catholicism’ (Baird and Rosenbaum). In the early 20th Century people questioned the morality of the death sentence. They argued that because the lack of prison made the death penalty a reasonable excuse, the development of prisons called for reduced death penalty for imprisonment for varied time depending on the offences.
Death sentence is the execution of individual by the state as a chastisement of crime. It is the severest sentence that a person can get and also the heaviest that the state can use to deter or prevent furtherance of the crime. It has been used throughout history by state to deter chaos that threatened state power and crime such as spying and military malpractices was punishable by death.
In recent movement, in the U.S death sentence has been condemned as a cruel act against the right to life of mentally retarded persons. Over the past two decades, there has been a call for decency in handling the death penalty. The United state supreme court also found that death sentences as an unusual punishment when applied to juveniles and in crime that does not involve death of the victims such as rape of kids. This development led to the abandonment of death sentences in New Mexico, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and New York States. Nevertheless, the United State public are divided on the subject of death sentences. Some argue for it while other see it as an unnecessary crime committed to individual who might be innocent of the crime they are accused of. The debate is persistent and discordant. This paper discusses the argument for and against death sentence in the U.S and the rest of the world (Baird et al)
Argument against death penalty
Death penalty is immoral when punished on crime that did not end in the loss of life. Crimes such as robbery with violent and child rape should not be penalised by ending the accused life rather they should be punished by other means such as jail term or community service.
Moreover, death sentences are disapproved because it does not serve the purpose for which its proponent argues it does. However, it has been found that occurrences of incidence of murder are accidental and not a habit and thus killing people who kill in such circumstances does not serve to minimise more death in the future (Liptak).
One of the American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, was against the death penalty (Bedau and Cassel 16). He argued that it was immoral to punish murders by killing them. Moreover, a Philadelphia physician who was a friend of Franklin also view the death penalty as immoral and published a pamphlet that argued‘The Punishment of Murder by Death is contrary to divine revelation’ (Bedau et al. 16). Rush began the movement of abolition in America.
The abolition helped in the establishment of a novel law that defined murder into first and second degree murder (Bedau et al. 17). They had to settle for less, but at least they achieved in advocating the immoral of the death penalty. It is argued that, among the murderers, not all of them are dangerous and irredeemable. Abolitionist argue that the majority of murderers have better common sense and reason quite better compared to others. Therefore, not all accused of murder that deserve the ultimate price of death (Bedau et al. 17).
In the period 1870 to 1938, the law of first degree and second degree murder has been exercised with difficulties. A Supreme Court judge, Benjamin Cardozo, argued that the novel law was ‘too vague’ to be used in cases of murder. He said that the law was ‘with its mystifying psychology, scores of men have gone to their death’ (Bedau et al. 17). He made it impossible for first degree murder to be sentenced without sufficient basis to warrant death penalty.
Murder is immoral because crime cannot be punished by another crime. The execution of murderers does promote more crime because statistic has shown that there is always an increase in cases of murder even when people are executed. It is not right, therefore, for some official to perpetuate crime to prevent the furtherance of future crimes. It is worth to note that revenge does not solve society problem, but rather bring division and conflicts. Moreover, life sentences as an alternative remedy for the death penalty enable the prisoners to focus on his or her deeds which in most case they regret of their actions. This helps in reforming the prisoner while given him a chance to life. However, if prisoners are executed they die as a martyr for the things they are killed for. Death penalty is an unacceptable punishment because it is inhuman and against the society values in the 21st Century. It violates international declaration of human right. For this reason, majority of European nations has abolished the practice (Altun and Polat 14).
Legal practitioners argue that the death penalty is not just immoral, but it is unconstitutional (Leone 540). The fundamental basis human right of human beings should not be violated through ending a person’s life. They argue that there are many other avenues that can be used to help deter murder and other crimes, but on punishing offenders by death (Leone 540). Moreover, the process of delivering justice is marred by many challenges which if not properly checked can lead to sentence innocent people for the crime they did not commit.
One of the executions that buffed the Western political thought was that of Socrates in the well knowledge of the Athenian citizens (Delisi and Roark 1). The practise evoked the inviolable right of human that regardless of the action done by the accused and the morality of the action the state does not have the moral authority to terminate people’s life. The sentencing of Socrates was condemned by Plat in the Apology that one does not deserve to die for enlighten fellow citizens. Moreover, Plat argued that the people who ought to be punished are those that help perpetuate ignorance among the populace in order to further their interest in ruling over them.
Abolitionist argues that the death sentence is no difference to life imprisonment. According to this argument, the proponent of the death sentence to deter crime have no basis because life imprison would do exactly the same as capital sentence. Therefore, it would be immoral to execute criminals whereas they can serve a jail term for life. Elrlich inn his studies argued that the death sentence brutalize society instead of installing law and order. Bowers also argue that the capital sentence increases chances of people committing more murder than deterring such crime.
It has been observed that States that have exercised death penalty has more murder cases than those that do not practice capital punishment. This is also true when the U.S is compared to countries in Western Europe who abolished the death penalty in past years. The United States has higher murder cases and crimes than European countries.
Abolitionist also argues that the death sentence does not serve the purpose for which it is intended. The argument for deterring crime and murder does not satisfy the execution of convict because those who commit murder do so and do not expect to be caught. Therefore, execution does not deter but increases the mortality rate. Murder cases are committed most of the time out of anger or when people experience moment of passion or when one is under the influence of substance abuse and thus act impulsively. Jim Mattox, the former Attorney general in Texas argued that the death did not prevent people from committing more crime because most of the cases that he had experienced had been committed out of influence of alcohol or other drugs (Michigan State University 3).
Argument for the death penalty
The premise for the death penalty since the ancient time is the protection of community values and private property. The establishment of legal systems help in the establishment of legal provisions that recommended death penalty to help in deterring crime. The legal provisions are retained in today’s criminal laws (Leone 539). This argument has maintained that the only way that the authority must ensure that the private economy is protected is punished those who try to disrupt the status quo with murder. According to the proponent of this argument, the capitalist society has grown on this premise that people ought to respect other people property and the only way to acquire property is through hard work.
Proponent of the death penalty argues that only brutal sentences that can stop people committing crime and only a capital punishment that can equal crime committed. Moreover, capital punishment satisfies public conscience, and it ensures that people abide by the rule of law and a trust to Justice (Altun and Polat 1).
John Lockie in his thought articulated conditions that death sentences should be considered. He argued that children and insane people ought to be treated fairly because their action is prompted by other factors and not the human senses. In his article the second Treatise, he detailed theoretical framework for support of the death penalty (Delisi and Roark 2). The death penalty is a morally penalty for those people whom themselves violates the right of other people. The notion that the human being has right to life does not guarantee that people can do crime and get away with it; rather people must be accountable for their actions. According to Lockie, moral right to life is a virtue and a rationalization of people. Lockie further argues that individuals have ‘right to liberty, life and property’ (Delisi and Roark 3). However, people do not claim a right ‘for free.’ Therefore, right are expensive and must be paid for with obligations to other people. According to Lockie, if a person has a right to live he must also have the right, not to other people’s life, but on conditions of self-defence and protection of innocent people. Death penalty is thus morally permissible in the case of where individuals or states are defending the right of self ownership of the citizens.
Lockie argued that a man general is a moral person and morality pre-existed even before the formation of the government. Therefore, people ‘abide by the laws of nature’ (Delisi et al. 7) even in the advent of the state of nature. People, therefore, tend to treat each other in the best way they can and practice norms that respect other people ways of life and their ideas. However, the ability of people to reason invokes a decent way of treating people who do centrally to the norms and customs of the people. Immorality is thus a negative thing to do in the law of nature and is thus morally punishable by death. The lack of reason by evil doers like murderers necessitates their extermination to deter such activities in the society.
Children and mentally retarded people are bounded to be immune from execution because they are not in the capacity to violate the law of nature. They do not have the power to reason of what is expected of them or not. Therefore, in these circumstances Lockie argued that only those people who violate the laws of nature and have power to reason are vulnerable to capital punishment. For a person to qualify as normal and thus qualifies for death sentencing there must be enough evident that such a person has the understanding of the law of nature, and it has been promulgated upon him or her (Delisi et al. 23). For Lockie, such people who are not under any law of nature are supposed to be subjected to other form of punishment other than capital punishment.
Justice requires actions to be done to remedy the action of murder. A crime of murder disturbs the balance of justice and requires that those whole take others people life to be executed to restore justice. It is only when that is done that society live in peace else violence will rule. Furthermore, capital punishment act to warn people that act of murder will be paid in kind. Retribution also borrows from religious teaching that actions that heart other people would be met with the same measure as used in crime. Moreover, religious teaching argues for ‘eye for an eye’ to mean ‘life for a life’ (Michigan State University 5).
Though the execution of individual that have committed murder does not compensate the victim families, it brings to an end the case of which could have troubled the accused and the victim family and help in avoiding that there would be no other victims caused by the accused.
The debate for and against the death sentence is life in most part of the United States. The ratification of the abolition of capital punishment in Eastern Europe has dictated the direction of the debate towards the abolitionist views. This is evidenced with increased reviews of criminal laws in the United States. Moreover, the Supreme Court has directed in a number of cases that the death penalty is an arbitrary act subjected to innocent citizen as well as to those that deserved it. Given the above argument the abolitionist stand have a better chance of drawing the debate to avoid capital punishment. In an ideal society death penalty cannot compare to rehabilitation. It has been found out that criminals have contributed a lot in the society long after they are acquitted from rehabilitation centres. Moreover, history has disapproved the benefit of the death penalty in that it did not prevent people from revolting against dictatorship and oppression of States authority. Furthermore, it has been used discriminatory against a certain group such as African American and minority groups in Europe and Africa.
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