Capital punishment has generated considerable controversy across the world, and such debates are not exclusive to the US. The ethical arguments that underlie the debate in the US are also to be found in the global discussions relating to executions. The United Nations (UN) adopts a stance regarding capital punishment that is basically a compromise between the nations that want its total abolition, the countries that are desirous of employing it for serious offenses, and the states that prefer it to be decided by the country involved (Evans).
Subsequent to the end of World War II, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly drafted a human rights bill. This was to be upheld by all the member states of the UN. From the very beginning, the death penalty had been embroiled in controversy. The aforementioned International Bill of Human Rights was proclaimed in the year 1948, by the UN. However, this did not include any reference to the death penalty. It took nine years of debate, for the UN General Assembly to include a statement regarding the death penalty. This transpired in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Evans). As such, death penalty issues have been accorded a place in human rights.
Sentencing a prisoner to death, per se, is an effective way to defend justice, so the death penalty should be legalized in all over the world. The following discussion establishes this contention.
The following discussion depicts the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
In the societies of the world, the list of penalties tend to be execution, loss of liberty by means of imprisonment or other restrictions on movement, corporal punishment, loss of property, mutilation, such as the amputation of the limbs, and loss of opportunities, such as the revocation of a driver’s license. The list of penalties for crime could vary to some extent, on the basis of the society involved. Nevertheless, deterrence would be the perceived objective of any system of penalties. It is in this context that one has to view a system of criminal justice that does not have a deterrence effect (Davis 23). Such a system would be rejected as being of no worth whatsoever.
In addition, several academic studies, conducted in the recent past, have clearly shown that the death penalty has a significant deterrent effect upon murder. The analysts of these studies have declared that between three to eighteen lives could be saved for every convicted murderer who is put to death. In this context, the study conducted by Naci Mocan assumes significance. This study, which was conducted in the year 2003, by Mocan and other researchers determined that every execution would reduce the number of homicides by five. On the other hand, commuting a death sentence would translate into an increase of five in the number of homicides (Lowe). This study disclosed that each execution would deter the committing of five murders, in the future.
Furthermore, Mocan disclosed that from the scientific perspective, the death penalty has a definite deterrent effect. This work by Mocan formed one among a dozen research papers, since the year 2001, which demonstrated the deterrent effect of the death penalty. These reports had examined executions and homicides on the basis of year, state or county with the objective of determining the influence of the death penalty on homicides. These studies had also taken into account other factors, such as per capita income, unemployment data, and the likelihood of arrest and conviction (Lowe).
As such, in the words of Dudley Sharp of ‘The Justice For All’, from the year 1995 to the year 2000, there had been an annual average of 71 executions, which constituted a 21% increase over the 1966 to 1980 epoch. Interestingly, the murder rate reduced from 10.2% in 1980 to 5.7% in 1999. In addition, the contemporary murder rate was determined to be the lowest since the year 1966 (Lowe). The appended graph depicts this data.
Figure 1 Reduction in Murders over the Years
In Texas, safety for the general public has improved with the adaption of the death penalty. The following discussion reiterates the same. The State of Texas, which executes more murderers than any other state, has depicted a very high level of protection for the innocent. The organization Justice for All has disclosed that in the year 1991, the murder rate in Texas was 15.3 per 100,000. This had reduced by 60%, as of the year 1999 (Lowe).
In this country, the most aggressive prosecutions for the death penalty take place in Harris County, Texas. Executions were resumed in the year 1982, and Harris County witnessed a 72% decrease in murders (Lowe). This situation had been succinctly described by Edward Koch, the erstwhile mayor of New York City. He declared that criminals would be extremely circumspect in their criminal activities, when there was the danger of their being put to death, for killing others. For instance, in the Rosa Velez incident, the killer Luis Vera, who had entered her apartment with criminal intent, had stated that he had shot her dead, as there was no risk of his being put to death for that crime (Lowe).
The death penalty has been in existence in the Asian countries, like India and China.
For example, the largest democracy in the world, India, employs the death penalty for certain heinous crimes. For instance, in the year 2001 a murderous terrorist attack was launched upon the Indian Parliament, by Islamic terrorists enjoying the support of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. One of the apprehended terrorists Mohammed Afzal was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. In another case, in India, children had been kidnapped and subsequently murdered by Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit. These criminals were sentenced to death by the Mumbai High Court, and their sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court of India (Datta 20).
Furthermore, the Central Bureau of Investigation of India had sought the death sentence for the Islamic terrorists involved in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. With regard to the rape and murder of Priyadarshini Mattoo, a Delhi University law student, the accused Santosh Singh was given the death sentence (Datta 20). This discussion evidences the fact that the death penalty has been supported by the majority of the countries.
In addition, China is a nation that imposes the death sentence for several crimes. For instance, Liu Han, the owner of Sichuan Hanlong was sentenced to death in China. He was accused of conducting an organized crime group in the Sichuan province. The Hubei court held Liu and his brother guilty and sentenced them to death. In the years 2011 and 2012, Liu became notorious in Australia. Liu’s company had been accused of insider trading during that period. This was during his company’s attempt to enter the mining industry (Ker). This demonstrates the existence of the death penalty, in several of the Asian countries, such as China.
With regard to France, there has been support as well as opposition to the implementation of the death penalty. However, the considered opinions of the convicts revealed that they favor execution instead of life imprisonment.
For example, several French prisoners, sentenced to life imprisonment, have decried the discontinuance of executions. These convicts believe that their punishment is nothing more than protracted execution. This opinion has been reiterated by French human rights groups and lawyers associations (Godoy 1).
Despite these developments, there has been considerable opposition to the imposition of the death penalty, in France. For instance, Levy, a prominent lawyer of Paris, has stated that the abolition of the death penalty in France, has been viewed by many as a major initiative in preserving human dignity (Godoy 1).
With respect to an issue supporting the imposition of the death penalty, the famous columnist, Bob Ewegen described an incident, wherein he was a member of a death penalty jury. One of the members of the jury, Coleen Smith, had to be excused from jury duty, as she had been opposed to the death penalty. Thereafter, she had written in a newspaper column that the other members of the jury were accessories to murder (Ewegen). To this, Ewegen stated that it was incorrect to prohibit the imposition of the death penalty, in all the cases.
Moreover, Ewegen was critical of an editorial run in the Denver Post, wherein there had been a strident call to abolish capital punishment totally. This editorial had been based on the incorrect premise that the death penalty did not have a deterrent effect upon the crime of murder. Those who oppose the death penalty persist in obdurately contending that it does not have a deterrent effect. It has been their irrational claim that no murderer has been deterred from killing others, by the fear of execution (Ewegen).
However, in People v Rodriguez, related to Frank Rodriguez who viciously raped, tortured, and then killed Lorraine Martelli. In the past he had similarly tortured and raped another female. Moreover, he had shot another person, ten days prior to raping, sodomizing, torturing, and murdering Lorraine Martelli. If Rodriguez had been executed after his initial crimes, then such a terrible fate would not have befallen his hapless victim Lorraine Martelli (Justia US Law).
This is a truth that the abolitionists ignore, in their illogical clamor for the cessation of the death penalty. Another flaw in the argument against the death penalty relates to deterrence being the only justification for the imposition of the death penalty. The majority of the Americans believe in justice, which causes them to openly support capital punishment. These people realize that some of the crimes, due to their gruesomeness, deserve the ultimate punishment, namely execution (Ewegen).
In general, politicians have been seen to be persistent in their support for the death penalty. They contend that executions prove to be beneficial for society and the family of the victim (Gillenkirk 5).
All the same, there have been proposals to impose other stringent forms of punishment, instead of the death penalty. For instance, in one case, the members of the victims’ family had beseeched the court to impose a punishment of life imprisonment without parole, upon Siripongs, the murderer. Specifically, one of the victim’s spouse had pleaded that the life of Siripongs was to be spared and that his sentence be commuted to one of life without parole (Gillenkirk 5). Life imprisonment without parole was believed by several people to be more appropriate punishment than execution. In addition, according to them, it saves people from wrongful execution.
In some states like California life imprisonment without parole has been in existence. For example, in the Siripongs case, the government of Thailand had requested for the extradition of Siripongs to their country, to which he belonged, so that he could serve the sentence in a jail in Thailand. Several people had advocated life imprisonment without parole for this criminal. Such punishments had been introduced in the year 1977, in the state of California. Subsequently, around 2,200 murders had been punished with this sentence. Till date, none of these convicts have been released from prison (Gillenkirk 5). Such punishment is quite frequent in the States of the Union.
However, Texas and Virginia do not impose this punishment and prefer to execute the prisoner. To some extent, Americans have indicated a preference for life imprisonment without parole, instead of the death penalty. In addition, there is considerable support for such punishment when it is accompanied by the requirement that the killer should be put to work and the amounts so earned are paid to the family of the victims (Gillenkirk 5). This discussion reveals the fact that many states of the United States prefer the death penalty.
On occasion, the death penalty has been preferred by even the convicts. For instance, in France, subsequent to the abolition of the death penalty, several of the persons sentenced to death, expressed that they would prefer to be put to death. In an open letter, ten prisoners serving a life imprisonment sentence stated that an immediate end to their life would end the prolonged torture involved in a life imprisonment sentence. In the absence of the advent of the abolition of executions, these persons would have been summarily executed (Godoy 1). Even the convicts are in favor of execution when compared to life imprisonment.
Much of the public in the USA are in favor of the death penalty in some cases, despite their general opposition to executions. For example, public support for putting Timothy J McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, to death was prodigious, in the US. All the same, there were quite a few people who advocated the substitution of execution with life imprisonment. This incident brought to the fore, the deep division in American public opinion regarding the execution of murderers (Morin and Deane A09).
As such, many Americans were in favor of exercising a moratorium on the death penalty till such time as it could be unequivocally established that capital punishment was being applied in a fair manner. It was the conviction of a substantial number of people that an individual who murdered another was to be put to death. However, several polls were conducted with regard to the proposed execution of McVeigh, and the response was on the whole to put this criminal to death (Morin and Deane A09).
For instance, the Pew Research Center survey discerned that 75% of the public recommended the execution of McVeigh. Furthermore, the CNN – USA Today Gallup poll showed that 81% of the people were in favor of putting McVeigh to death. Among them were several people who were opposed to the death penalty, per se; but who were in favor of such punishment for McVeigh (Morin and Deane A09). In several instances, the public has demonstrated support for the death penalty, irrespective of their sympathetic feelings towards the condemned person.
As far as juveniles are concerned, opinions regarding death penalty are diversified. However, the support for inflicting death penalty has been increasing over time. Most of the research conducted on the death penalty tends to be limited to the execution of adults. The number of research studies on the attitude towards the execution of juveniles has been very few. In a survey conducted by Moon et al., in the year 2000, involving residents of Tennessee, it was found that more than 80% were in favor of executing adults; whereas, the corresponding proportion for juveniles was 53% (Vogel).
As such, in a survey conducted in Kentucky, in the year 1998, Vito and Keil reported that 42% of respondents recommended the use of the death penalty for juveniles. With regard to the use of the death penalty for any person convicted of murder, the proportion of the respondents in favor of execution, increased to 68.9%. In their 1993 study, Grasmick et al. discerned that 75% of their respondents were in favor of the death penalty for adults, whilst 51% of the respondents recommended execution for the sixteen year old murderers (Vogel).
In the year 1989, Skovron, Scott and Cullen conducted a study in Ohio, with regard to the execution of juveniles above the age of fourteen years (Vogel). These researchers found that 30% of the respondents from Columbus and 25% of the respondents from Cincinnati were strong supporters of the death penalty for juveniles (Vogel). Imposition of the death penalty upon juveniles has been gaining prominence with the progression of time.
The above discussion claims that death penalty deters crime and as such it should be legalized. It has been observed that many countries in the world, such as India, China, and the US have been exercising the death penalty for the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes. In most of the cases it had been contended that staying away from death penalty would lead to a recurrence of the most heinous crimes.
It has been claimed by the proponents of the death penalty that inflicting the death penalty could save innocent lives. Statistics retrieved from research studies in Texas, California, and other states, where the death penalty is in vogue, have revealed the truth that the death penalty deters crime to a considerable extent. Although life sentence without parole was considered by some people, as a better alternative to the death penalty, it cannot be the best suited punishment, in all the cases.
It is the assumption of the criminal law that individuals can be compelled to comply with rules by prescribing penalties for their violation. In other words, the potential criminal will assess the severity of the punishment and the anticipated gains of the criminal act, prior to engaging in crime. In the absence of such a system of penalties, there would be at most a modicum of obligation to remain law abiding.
According to the above research and discussion, it can be concluded that the death penalty has a substantial influence in deterring crime. This research proves that the death penalty has been supported by many countries of the world, since it deters crime and accords justice to the victims. The death penalty, per se, should be legalized.
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Davis, Michael. “A sound retributive argument for the death penalty.” Criminal Justice Ethics 21.2 (2002): 22 – 26. Print.
Evans, Kim Masters. “Capital Punishment around the World.” 2008. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 24 May 2014.
Ewegen, Bob. “Threat of death penalty is often what makes a life sentence possible.” 14 March 1994. Denver Post. Web. 24 May 2014.
Gillenkirk, Jeff. “Commentary; Make Them Work and Pay.” Los Angeles Times 6 December 1998: 1. Print.
Godoy, Julio. “Rights: Death Penalty more Humane than Lengthy Stay in Prison.” Global Information Network 22 January 2007: 1. Print.
International Convention on Civil and Political Rights . New York, USA: United Nations General Assembly, 1966.
Justia US Law. “People v Rodriguez.” n.d. Web. 24 May 2014.
Ker, Peter. “Hanlong's Liu receives death sentence.” 23 May 2014. The Sydney Morning Herald. Web. 24 May 2014.
Lowe, Wesley. The Death Penalty in the United States. 17 January 2011. Web. 21 May 2014.
Morin, Richard and Claudia Deane. “Support for Death Penalty Eases; McVeigh's Execution Approved, While Principle Splits Public.” The Washington Post 3 May 2001: 1. Print.
People v Rodriguez. No. 794 P.2d 965. Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc. 30 July 1990.
United Nations General Assembly. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Paris: United Nations General Assembly, 10 December 1948.
Vogel, Brenda L. “Support for life in prison without the possibility of parole among death penalty proponents[dagger].” American Journal of Criminal Justice 27.2 (2003): 263 – 275. Print.