Death penalty is a punishment which allows a person to be killed legally by the state because the person committed a serious crime. I became aware of the existence of the death penalty when as a young child in Japan, I watched a TV show which was related to the death penalty. The show was mainly about the Japanese way of executing criminals, and the debate that was going on among the professionals made me consider whether executing a person by hanging was brutal or not. At that time my father also told me that criminals were executed by gun in China and by electric chair in the U.S. Even though I was too young to understand the meaning completely, the issue had a great impact on me. . After long term consideration I believe that the death penalty should be legal because it helps prevent violent crime and saves lives of innocent people.
Different countries view the death penalty differently. Here what I would like to talk about is the death penalty in China, Japan and the U.S. These countries are the three largest economies in the world, and they are where I have grown up and live. . Japan and China are based on Eastern culture, and the U.S is based on Western Culture. They have similarities and differences; however, they all have the death penalty. In the U.S. there are two reasons why people support death penalty, and they are retribution and deterrence. The idea of retribution is that a murderer must sacrifice his life because he took someone’s life, and the basic idea is “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” The idea of deterrence is that death penalty can prevent people from committing murder. Both Japan and China subscribe to these two reasons for the death penalty, but seem to be more supportive of the death penalty than people in the U.S. In China there are two traditional sayings which are “Executing one deters one hundred” and “Killing a chicken to scare the monkey.” but Chinese use death penalty more for the “educational value.” In other words Chinese think that having the death penalty in place will cause people to learn how to behave. According to a survey of the college students in the U.S, Japan and China, Chinese students had the highest support for the death penalty, the U.S. students were the lowest and Japanese students were in the middle (Shanhe et al.). I grew up in Japan and China, and this might contribute to the reason why I strongly agree with death penalty.
The death penalty may be a factor in saving lives. People make their decisions based on their costs or benefits; therefore, a person may stop himself from killing someone if he knows he may be executed as a result (Muhlhausen). It is similar to not stealing because there will be a punishment. If the punishment is execution there will be less likelihood of stealing. The stricter the law, the less and less people commit a crime because everybody fears death, even animals. Most criminals would think twice if they knew their own lives were at stake. Second, many studies have shown that executions can lead to a decrease in murder rates; and on the other hand that abolishing the death penalty increases the incidence of murder. Professor Shepherd analyzed data from 1977 to 1999 and found that the combination of death row sentences and executions deterred many types of murders. She estimated that each death row sentence deters approximately 4.5 murders, and each execution approximately 3 murders. A second issue Shepherd examined was the impact of delaying the execution on deterrence. The numerous appeals and stays of execution that criminals request imply that they prefer lengthy death row waits. Shepherd therefore theorized that shortening the death row wait may increase the deterrence, and estimates that for every 2.75 year reduction in the death row wait for execution one extra murder could be deterred. It means that shorter term of waiting execution can save human’s life (Muhlhausen). According to the U.S. Murder Rate and Executions, the murder rate decreases when the number of executions increases. In other words, criminals start to change their behavior with increasing numbers of executions (Shepherd). This leads to the conclusion that having a death penalty law can help to save lives.
Some people believe that racial discrimination has a part to play in the imposition of death penalty. In 2006 RAND Corporation (Research and Development) tried to determine what factors affect the decision to seek a death penalty case. Three independent teams of researchers were assigned to do the research, and their findings were shared with each other so that they could draw some conclusions. The research was very compelling because three independent research teams, using the same data but different methodologies, reached the same conclusion. RAND found that large race effects with the decision to seek the death penalty are likely to occur when the defendants are white and when the victims are white. However, when the heinousness of the crimes was taken into account, these disparities disappeared in each of the three studies. The research concluded that the characteristics of crimes affect the decision of death penalty rather than the discrimination of race.
Some people might think that death penalty is inhumane and barbarous. Someone who has lost a loved one to murder may not be pleased to see someone who ruined their lives only getting a few years of imprisonment or, worse, spending a good life in prison. Pervis Tyrone Payne, a 20-year-old retarded man, barely knew his own identity when he murdered a mother and her daughter in front of a 3 year old boy. After raping and killing them, he moved to kill the 4 year old boy. The retarded man pled insanity, got to stay in jail for 22 years, eating three square meals a day, sleeping on a mattress with a blanket in air conditioned comfort and having a roof over his head (Shapiro, 61). Despite the fact that I do not really like the idea of retribution, not only is it hard to forgive someone who commits such a brutal murder, but it adds to the pain of the loss when the person’s life appears to go on easily.
There is further evidence in Sri Lanka that imposing the death penalty has the advantage of “obtaining or restoring justice, deterrence, rehabilitation and protection of the community” (House). For over 30 years there was no death penalty and the numbers of rapes, murders and narcotics dealings increased (Seneviratne). The death penalty is therefore going to be reinstated. Seneviratne believes that it would cause a good effect on Sri Lanka. I would not like to risk having such a situation develop in the country that I live. If imposing the death penalty could prevent such an increase in crimes then I support death penalty.
Lydia M, Child tells a story about a prisoner who committed suicide when he was waiting for his execution. The prisoner could not handle the pressure, and he cut his throat with a knife before the execution. According to Child the move was like a “die game,” and we humans should not do it because it against humans’ morality. It makes me consider how cruel the death penalty is, and that the principle, “an eye for an eye,” is not a good way to punish a murderer. However, if I or someone in my family is murdered, I will have the feeling that I want to kill him. Furthermore, if I see the moment which a murderer kills my lover or parents and they are shouting for help, I will have the urge to kill the murder I would not sit on a chair and consider about humanity. If my own family were involved it might be easier for me to agree with Shepherd’s point that abolishing death penalty is inhumane to the victims.
The death penalty must be imposed carefully. Child also pointed out that death penalty might be a misjudgment and some innocent people might be executed. It is true; therefore, we must judge all defendants carefully. In other words, it could be that the problem is with the trial, not the punishment. Life imprisonment does not take human lives, but it does not mean the judgment can be done irresponsibly. Japanese lawyers often use the “principle of the benefit of the doubt,” and I strongly agree with the idea. Misjudgment should never occur, and I believe this is the best solution to the problem.
Chinese punish a drug dealer more strictly than any other country because the Opium has caused such serious damage in China. England imported Chinese tea, cotton and pottery from China and exported opium as a collateral in 18th century. In 1839 the Opium war occurred, and many Chinese people died because of the drug and war. Chinese learned the fear of drugs, and they treated a drug dealer as a murderer because the dealer indirectly killed others. Since the practice of executing drug dealers was installed, it is almost impossible to obtain drugs in China. This is a good lesson which tells us that a strict rule can protect us from t dangerous incidents. Perhaps if drug dealers were also executed in the U.S., the marijuana trade might be negatively affected.
It is easy to think that a sensible person should not be a murderer and that if you murder a person you should sacrifice yourself. This may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Although it is such an extreme consequence, imposing the death penalty seems to be necessary to act as a deterrent to some people who might be inclined to commit such a serious criminal act.
Child, Lydia M. “Against Capital punishment.” 2009 220-231. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. March 16, 2011.
House, Ron. “The Death Penalty and the Principle of Goodness.” International Journal of Human Rights Issues Dec. 2009, 13.J:680-688. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. March 16, 2011.
Muhlhausen, David B. “The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives,” Heritage Foundation Issues August 28, 2007.
Shanhe, Jiang. Eric G Lambert, Jin Wang, Toyoji Saito and Rebecca Pilot. “Death Penalty Views in China, Japan and the U.S.: An Empirical Comparison.” Journal of Criminal Justice Issues Sep.2010, 38.J:862-869. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. March 16, 2011.
Shepherd, Joanna. “Deterrence Versus Brutalization: Capital Punishment’s Differing Impacts among States.” Michigan Law Review Issues Nov 2005, 104.J:203-255. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. March 16, 2011.
Shapiro, Walter. “What say should victims have?” AskJeeves.com. Online. Internet. 29 April 2000.
Seneviratne, Malinda. “Let’s Get Serious About the Death Penalty” Srilanka Gurdian Issues AUG 2009