Death penalty is a highly controversial subject in the world because of various ethical and legal dimensions involved in it. Some people believe that death penalty like severe punishment is the only option available at present to prevent hard core criminals from killing innocent people. At the same time many others are of the view that for a civilized society like ours, death penalty is not a fair mean of punishment. Even though America is one of the most civilized countries in the world, death penalty is legal in most of the American states.
Following an unsuccessful attempt by a foreign passenger to set off explosives on an airplane in the U.S., public outrage led to pressure to extend the federal death penalty to such crimes. The President has asked for an opinion regarding the constitutionality and the appropriateness of the death penalty for crimes that do not involve actual killing. I am working as one of the staff of the Attorney General of the United States. The Attorney General has asked me to draft a memo that spells out the policy arguments on both sides of the issue and then make a recommendation. This memo is prepared to submit to the president of United States which analyses both the sides of death penalty issue and argues against death penalty. Moreover, this memo provides recommendations to the President about the alterative options to death penalty.
“The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights” (Death Penalty, 2009). Unlike many other modes of punishment, death penalty cannot be reversed once it is executed. The core philosophy of American criminal justice system is that not even a single criminal should be punished even if thousands of criminals escaped. Under such circumstances, it is quite possible that an innocent person could be given death penalty based on circumstantial evidences. It is possible for smart criminals to fabricate evidences which are pointing towards innocent people at the crime spots. Thus, instead of original culprit an innocent person may face death penalty. Life is the most important thing in this world and so science or technology succeeded in creating an artificial life form in a laboratory set up. In other words, the secrets behind life are still unknown to us. Only the creator has the moral authority to make changes in his creations.
Capital punishment is the most an expensive way of punishing a criminal; so it should be prohibited. It is estimated that the cost needed for executing a death penalty is around 70% more than other punishments because of the necessities of the services of expert advocates, forensic testing, witnesses, investigating officers etc.
In 1989, the state of Florida executed 42-year-old Ted Bundy. Bundy confessed to 28 murders in four states. During his nine years on death row, he received three stays of execution. Before he was put to death in the electric chair, Bundy cost taxpayers more than $5 million (Capital Punishment – The Costs Of Capital Punishment, 2011)
The purpose of death penalty is to avoid threats from hard core criminals to innocent people in future. The innocent people or the tax payers forced to spend millions of dollars for punishing a criminal which is illogical especially when we consider that the objectives of death penalty can be obtained through cheaper options like life sentencing.
Death penalty is not suitable for a civilized society like ours since it reduces the gap between the criminal and criminal justice system. A criminal who kills a person and the criminal justice system which execute a criminal are doing the same activity of taking the life. Even though the circumstances are different, the outcomes are the same. Delfino & Day (2008) have pointed out that “In the United States, death penalty is said to serve two principal social purposes: retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders” (Delfino & Day, 2008, p.1). Taking revenge for a crime is not a good philosophy to current generation. America is a Christian dominated country which follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this world to give forgiveness to the sinners and also rescue them. He has changed many of the Old Testament teachings and introduced new philosophy of life though New Testament. Forgiveness is the core of New Testament and a country which has majority of Christian believers can never justify death penalty.
Jessica Stern written against giving death penalty to terrorists who commit minor crimes, in New York Times dated February 21, 2001;
One can argue about the effectiveness of the death penalty generally. But when it comes to terrorism, national security concerns should be paramount. The execution of terrorists, especially minor operatives, has effects that go beyond retribution or justice. The executions play right into the hands of our adversaries. We turn criminals into martyrs, invite retaliatory strikes and enhance the public relations and fund-raising strategies of our enemies (Stern, 2001)
The above opinions should be taken seriously when we analyses the death penalty issue. It should be noted that terrorists like suicide bombers are ready to sacrifice their lives and there is no point in giving death penalty to such criminals. Suicide bombers often believe that sacrificing their life for their beliefs as a sacred act. Giving capital punishment to such criminals may motivate others with similar beliefs to perform crimes of similar nature.
There are many controversies surrounding capital punishment. Many people believe that the black community is getting more capital punishments than the white community even if both of them engage in crimes of similar nature. In other words, racism is accused in capital punishment topic also. “About 52% of death row inmates are Black or other minority, versus 17% in the general population” (The death Penalty, Capital punishment, 2002). These statistics show that the courts showing tougher stand while dealing with cases involved by black community. Majority of the Whites who commit serious were able to escape from laws because of majority of whites in the criminal justice system or courts. By prohibiting death penalty, double standards or racism accusations in criminal justice system can be avoided up to certain extent.
To conclude, I strongly believe that life sentencing is the better way of punishing criminals who committed serious crimes than giving capital punishment. Capital punishment is not suitable for a civilized society and it is much more expensive than other means of punishment. Moreover, such punishments can motivate others for doing the same criminal activity again and again. In short, capital punishment should be given only at extreme intentional murder cases. It should be avoided in the cases of murder attempts or suicide bomb attacks.
Capital Punishment – The Costs Of Capital Punishment” (2011). Retrieved from
Delfino M and Day M.E. (2008). Death Penalty USA: 2005 – 2006.
Publisher: Mobeta Publishing (January 3, 2008)
Death Penalty (2009) Amnesty International USA. Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/death-penalty/page.do?id=1011005
Stern, J. (2001) Execute Terrorists at Our Own Risk. NEW YORK TIMES February 28, 2001
The Death Penalty, Capital Punishment. (2002) Retrieved from http://www.speakout.com/activism/deathpenalty/