The Debate Over Capital Punishment: Arguments For And Against

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The debate over capital punishment argues, does the state have the right to pick and choose the people that carry out who get carry out execution for, how do they justify a crime too heinous to prove that the offender needs to be put to death. One side of the argument states that the government does have the right to step in an make the decision based on their beliefs on which criminals are too dangerous and are deserving of the full extent of the law. Whereas the other side stands up and states that the government should not be given the power to decide who lives and who dies based purely from their beliefs and the crimes that were committed. How can someone else's life be put in the hands of someone that simply just has more power or a higher ranked job? This allows the government to decide which offenses are justifiable to be put to death for. There are so many questions facing either side. What offenses must be committed to be put to death? Under which circumstances would it be okay to not apply the death penalty?

Capital Punishment in other words is the death penalty. This means that an offender is sentenced to be put to death after conviction by a court of law. The death penalty is still legal in 30 of the United States to this day. Even though imposition of the death penalty is not always followed by execution, because there is a possibility of life imprisonment for such convicted crime. The death penalty has been around a for many years, even when Draco and Plato were alive in ancient Greece many people were put to death for crimes such as; murder, treason, arson, and rape. Many people were strong believers back in the seventh century all over the world, strictly because they would followers/worshipers of Judaism and Christianity which claimed to find justification for capital punishment in the Bible passage, “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6) They stood behind this even thought they could be put to death for crimes that blood never resulted in shed blood such as adultery, voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person that is not their spouse, and blasphemy, the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things. Many stood behind the statement from the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, “an eye of an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life.” There were several places during this time that would rather banish you or make you pay in compensation for your committed crimes. For example, Japan’s peaceful Heian period (794-1185) replaced every death sentence with deportation to a remote area but executions were reinstated once the civil war broke out mid 11th century. In England during the 17th and 18th centuries the death penalty was never enforced as heavily as the law provided because many of the convicted agreed to banishment or were sentenced to the lesser punishment of being transported to American colonies then later to Australia. During the medieval times the only way you could get out of being put to death is if you were literate. In the 15th and 18th centuries this was the only way out of execution. All they were forced to know how to read was the first verse of Psalm 51 of the Bible, “Have mercy on me, o God according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” This was soon called the “neck verse” because it had the power to safe one’s neck. At this point it allowed offenders to only escape death once, they were branded on the brawn of their thumb, M for murder or T or theft. In 1779 branding was abolished. In other places like Rome capital punishment were taken to many different extremes like being thrown into the oceans and drown in a sealed bag with a dog, rooster, ape, or snake along with you. They also stuck to some more normal way of execution like hanging or crucifixion. While as in China there were many much more painful ways to kill their convicted like sawing the condemned in half of boiling them alive. Eventually by the end of the 20th century the people realized just how unethical this all was, so they implemented lethal injection, electric chair, gassing, and a firing squad.

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Captial punishment has been debated for many years both on its morality and its effect of criminal behavior. Arguments for and against fall under three headings: moral, utilitarian, and practical.

Moral arguments would state that supporters of the death penalty believe that those are willing to commit murder have forfeited their own right to live. They believe that killing of the one who murdered not only provides the victim's family closure, but it also gives strict punishment where strict punishment is due. By contrast, the opposing side believes that killing the ones that do the killing is very counterproductive because of the message that it conveys that because the government is of higher power it is okay to kill the ones that have taken other people’s lives simply because they deem it fit. The opposing side also argue at the fact that capital punishment is also put into place for lesser crimes rather than just murder so they see it as cruel and immoral punishment because no life was taken during the committed crime. They also claim that capital punishment violates the convicted person’s rights to live and it is inhuman. Supporters of capital punishment also state that being executed could potentially deter violent offended to commit such heinous crimes with the fear of being put to death because simply supported do not believe that imprisonment is not a sufficient consequence. Whereas the opposing side could not disagree more, they strongly believe that long-term imprisonment is more effective than the alternative of putting them to death. There are other disputes about where or not capital punishment can be administered in a consistent manner to where if the circumstances were different would they still execute. For example, if someone just woke up one day and decided to go out and kill every female in a ten-mile radius with blonde hair and blue eyes then of course they would be charged to the limit of the law but when the circumstances change to a father murdering his daughters rapist then would the law still be implemented that if your murder then you will be put to death? Those who support the idea of the death penalty believe that is possible to establish laws and procedures that promise only those who truly deserve to be put to death are executed. Opponents provide historical evidence that trying to single out a specific crime that is deserving of death will be discriminatory. They will also point out how often people are wrongfully convicted of crimes that they did not commit so then they would be turn be killing innocent people because errors are inevitable even in a well-run criminal justice system. Along with being wrongfully convicted some people must face the appeal process which forced them to sit and wait for sometimes long periods of time to determine their fate.

Despite the movement to try to get rid of capital punishment more than 30 countries have stretched the list of crimes punishable by the death penalty like importation or being in possession for sale of certain drugs. Countries such as Iran, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines implement a mandatory death sentence for even small amounts of illegal drugs. In some other 20 countries they enforce the death penalty for various crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, or theft of large sums of money. In another two dozen countries sexual crimes are also punishable by death. In only a few countries does the law allow minors to be killed at the time they committed the murder because they are protected by the Convention of the Right of the Child right which prohibits the killing of anyone under the age of 18 no matter the crime. This means that at any age under 18 a child can commit a heinous crime and will not be prosecuted until they turn of age. Another aspect that was brought to attention in the late 1990’s was do mentally impaired suspects get away with it because of their mental status? This being newly brought up in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the execution of both mentally impaired and those under the age of 18 was unconstitutional. This brought up the controversy in how does one claim that they are mentally impaired, so laws were implemented stating that someone with an IQ score below 70 were technically mentally impaired. Also, in the late 1990’s there was a big improvement in technology which allowed further lab tests to be taken which in turn proved many suspect innocents that were once placed on death row for murder or equally as heinous crimes which allowed for releasement.

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The Debate Over Capital Punishment: Arguments For And Against. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
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