Death penalty is a capital punishment whereby the criminal offender is sentenced to death through execution. Only criminals considered to have committed capital crime are put under death penalty. Nonetheless, over the years many countries have abolished the practice referring to it as inhuman. However, there are countries like the USA and China still practicing the act to date claiming that other criminals will be scared to commit similar crimes in fear of death penalty. The topic is of interest to me in that I would like to know why some countries still practice death penalty and why others abolished. Personally I view death penalty as inhuman and that it is better for capital offenders to be life imprisoned than executed. They could be given a chance to live because humans are made to make mistakes. Therefore, the death penalty should be banned and other form of punishments should be embarked to judge capital criminal offenders.
In “ancient Greece’s death penalty dilemma and its influence on modern society” by Robert Blecker explains the history of death penalty, and reasons why abolitionist are against the act. The abolitionists term the act as being cruel, inconsistent and do not value human beings. They further claim that death, as a punishment is not equitable to any punishment regardless of the size of the crime. According to Blecker, the death penalty should be abolished since it goes against human culture (Blecker 60). He further adds that for the past 30 years many countries are in a big dilemma on how to punish people who have committed capital crimes.
From 1200-800 B.C homicide was termed to be more personal than a capital crime. The victim’s family without the involvement of the law punished a person who had committed murder through death (Blecker 60). The victim’s family either killed him or took a monetary exchange equitable to the crime committed. However, in ancient Greece they claimed that monetary value is not comparable to the blood of a human being. Therefore, a capital criminal offender just punishment was death. For instance, in Athens once, the family of the victim went public, the offender was considered a pollutant to the society and anyone had a mandate to kill the offender once spotted.
Nevertheless, over the years many European countries have abolished capital punishment and have embraced life imprisonment for capital offenders. The US however, still practice the act for any individual found guilty of capital offenses. Constitutional debate on death penalty has been going on for years, with some philosophers dismissing the act (Blecker 61). The law is required to be careful when the decision is made to execute an individual. Certain considerations should be made on whether the victim of the death penalty is a juvenile or not, or whether the individual is mentally stable. In addition, the abolitionist also recommends that one time criminal offenders should not be on death penalty, because given a chance they can change. On the contrary, Blecker also discussed the issue of morals with regard to death penalty (Blecker 64). He argued that most people are against death penalty terming it as immoral and inconsiderate. Nonetheless, moral norms differ from one society to another, thus some communities view death penalty as the right way of punishing capital criminal offenders. Some philosophers argue that death penalty was established for the soul purpose of revenge and retribution. Therefore, death penalty should be practiced based on reasonable facts rather than revenge and hatred (Blecker 65).
The article is more about death penalty in ancient Greece. Thus, the article gives in detail the history of death penalty and how the society views the issue. Additionally, the article also gives the changes that have taken place over the years with regard to death penalty. The article’s strong points include the origins of death sentence and the view of abolitionist. Robert Blecker is a professor of law in New York law school.
“Ending the death penalty” by Dale Recinella is an article on the reasons why death penalty should be abolished. After the US embarked on using death penalty on criminal offenders in 1976, innocent inmates were also executed. The author therefore discusses on the ways death penalty can be abolished to ensure innocent souls are saved from execution. For the death penalty sentence to be abolished, Recinnella recommends the Supreme Court justices to change their position on constitutionality of capital punishment (Recinella 13). The Supreme Court is bound to errors and when errors are made innocent, people can be executed if no proper defense is made. Moreover, the judges and the jury are also bound to making a decision that is not just and true. Therefore, life imprisonment is much better because if one is proven to be innocent the sentence can be reversed but execution is not reversible.
The Catholic Church has intervened, and advocates to ensure death penalty in US ends. The church educates that death penalty should not be applied unless there is no other way to protect innocent life in society, but their teaching is not yet applicable in US. The US legal precedents, doctrines and statutes disallow courts from hearing late-discovered proof of innocence, and mitigation makes it impossible to satisfy the first need of the catholic catechism. Moreover, the US Supreme Court does not put church doctrines in perspective. The church argues that the scripture commands, “do not execute the innocent” Ex 23:7. Thus according to church, the US death penalty is wrong because it unnecessarily develops the risk of executing the guiltless (Recinella 14). Nonetheless, people argue that the Supreme Court should not be influenced by teachings of the faith. However, through its teachings, the church has been able to establish its mandate in catholic dominated states and the death penalty sentencing has been dropped. For instance, New Jersey was the first state since 1976 to eliminate death penalty through legislation.
America is evolving standard of civility, which spots the advancement of a mature society with regard to death penalty, which has been largely influenced by the growing presence of the Catholics. If the Supreme Court puts into consideration, the grievances of the church the death penalty could be abolished in the United States (Recinella 16).
Recinella is a lawyer in Florida and also the author of “biblical truth about America’s death penalty”. He serves as the catholic lay chaplain for Florida’s death row inmates and is against the law of executing inmates. The author’s argument is effective since he tries to fight against the law of death penalty and advocates for life imprisonment for capital criminals.
“The global debate on the death penalty” by Sandra, Babcock is an article about the debate on the elimination of the death penalty around the globe. Sandra argues that judges, legislators and ordinary citizens have persisted on ending death-sentencing saying that the act has been going on for years, but crime has not reduced. She further argues whether death penalty could be termed as “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment” (Babcock 1). Over the years, many countries around the world have abolished death penalty terming it as inhuman; instead, criminals have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The gap between the United States and the rest of the world is growing year by year with Rwanda being the latest country to abolish death penalty. Currently only seven nations still carry out the act that is china, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan, Yemen and Vietnam. In Africa, only four countries out of the fifty-three carried out execution in 2005, which included Uganda, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Asia too has embarked on abolishing death penalty even though in the past they claimed the act was just, and a reasonable punishment. Majority of American courts are now putting into consideration international law when faced with capital criminal offenders (Babcock 2).
Further, the international law provides that death penalty should be obligatory for the “most serious crimes”. Therefore, the United States Supreme Court argues that death penalty should be applied in quite exceptional cases. In addition, execution of persons who did not kill is inhuman. The United Nations have vowed to protect people facing death row with minor crimes like robbery. Nevertheless, in the United States individuals with multiple felonies are likely to be put under death penalty. Additionally, in states like Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and North Carolina permit obligation of a death sentence in some cases involving raping a minor even though, the victim may not be dead. Cases like this will face great grievances in future (Babcock 3).
Arguments are also underway on execution of mentally disturbed individuals. The Supreme Court does not allow the execution of the mentally ill prisoners, but some courts execute them claiming they are mentally competent. However, the mentally ill persons are not legally required to be executed instead they can be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Racial and geographic disparities has also affected on how death penalty is applied. In the United States, a black American is likely to be sentenced to a death penalty than Native Americans. Research has shown that race matters when it comes to death sentencing. In most states dominated by black Americans death sentencing is high compared to other states. The defendant skin color and facial expression also affect the ruling decisions (Babcock 4). Five justices of Supreme Court are considering international norms in assessing the application of death penalty comports with basic human dignity. In addition, it is against contemporary standards and decency.
Sandra Babcock is an associate clinical professor and clinical director of the center of international human rights at Northwestern university law school in Chicago. The author is trying to convince the Supreme Court the standing of the world when it comes to death sentencing.
“Death penalty debate” by Patricia Smith is about the reinforcement of the running debate over capital punishment. The author discusses about the people who are against death penalty and whether it truly discourages future crime, it isolates against minors, and points out the chance of executing innocent people. Those people in support of death penalty point out that when a crime really warrant more than life imprisonment without parole, for instance mass murders or actions of terrorism. Illinois became the 16th state to abolish death penalty (Smith 12). This has raised issues whether criminal records will reduce in the future. Over the years, death penalty has reduced considerably and more people are arguing for the abolition of the sentencing. Majority argue that death penalty should be applied to be people who have committed treason or capital punishment.
Smith notes that death penalty dates back to 1976, when European settlers introduced it. In 1900, Hanging was the most used method; nonetheless, in 1950s gas chamber method and electrocution were adopted. Arguments arose claiming that the methods were inhuman and merciless, therefore in 1976 death row was introduced by lethal injection (Smith 13). Death penalty has become an issue since then, talks are underway for ending the act because many term as it as inhuman. In addition, some are executed innocently when enough evidence lacks. Additionally, capital offenses are expensive and they take years before judgment is made. Therefore, it is better to put an individual to life imprisonment that executing them (Smith 15).
Death penalty is an inhuman and an inconsiderate punishment. Therefore, the law should be considerate when sentencing individuals. The above authors have presented arguments on how they view death penalty. Additionally, they also present arguments on the history of death penalty and the views of the world with regard to the issue. Death row punishment should therefore be abolished unless when the defendant has committed treason or heinous crime.
Babcock, Sandra. The Global Debate on the Death Penalty. Human Rights. Spring. 2007. 34 , 2, 1-5.
Blecker, Robert. Ancient Greece’s death penalty dilemma and influence on modern society. USA TODAY. 2006, 60-65.
Recinella, Dale. Ending the death penalty. America. 2008. 198, 14, 13-16.
Smith, Patricia. The Death Penalty Debate. New York Times Upfront. 2011. 143 , 13, 12-15.