Capital Punishment. Right or Wrong?

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a government-sanctioned practice in which a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime. Lethal injection (The practice of injecting one or more drugs into a person (typically a barbiturate, paralytic, and potassium solution) for the express purpose of causing rapid death) is currently the primary method of execution in the 29 states that authorize executions. Sixteen states also have secondary methods of execution authorized by statute. Examples of secondary methods include electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, nitrogen hypoxia, and firing squad. 

“All of the prisoners currently on death row and all of those executed in the modern era of the death penalty were convicted of murder. Historically, the death penalty was widely used for rape, particularly against black defendants with white victims. When the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the Supreme Court left open the possibility of imposing the death penalty for offenses other than murder, such as rape or even armed robbery. However, the Court soon ruled that the death penalty would be unconstitutional for the rape of an adult where no death had occurred. That ban was later extended to any non-homicidal rape by the U.S. Supreme Court decision Kennedy v. Louisiana, and the Court commented that the death penalty could no longer be applied for any crime against an individual where no death occurred. The question of whether the death penalty might be used for crimes against the government, such as treason or espionage, remains unsettled.” (Death Penalty Information Center)

The death penalty is used in 29 states.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and, Wyoming.

It is not used in 21 states.

Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, *New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and, District of Columbia.

*1 prisoner remains on death row.

The death penalty is highly debated as it is viewed by some as cruel and wrong. Morally and ethically, it's a tough debate. Some view it as justice and an equally fitting punishment for the crime of murder. Below are essays for and against the death penalty.


Anti Death Penalty Essay


22, Feb 2019- Unknown Author, “RALPH BAZE AND THOMAS C. BOWLING, Petitionersv.JOHN D. REES, COMMISSIONER, KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL”. United States Supreme Court. 2008, 1

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment. There is no harsher punishment than death itself. Currently fifty-eight nations practice the death penalty. Our nation, the United States of America, is one of the fifty-eight nations that practice the death penalty. Currently the United States will only use the death penalty, if one commits first-degree murder. Individuals that believe in the death penalty believe that capital punishment will deter murderers. In this paper, I will be arguing that the death penalty does not deter criminals and that the United States should outlaw the practice.

Before I make my argument, I would like to provide some background information regarding the death penalty to the readers. The idea of capital punishment was brought over from Britain, when the founding fathers declared independence. Our ancestors loved the idea of the death penalty, since it was a common part of life. Europeans gave the death penalty for various crimes. The first recorded execution in America occurred in Jamestown, 1608. A man named George Kendall was executed for treason. In the earlier colonial days, laws regarding capital punishment varied area to area.

During the nineteen century, the death penalty changed dramatically. Around this time the death penalty started to lose popularity. States no longer committed public executions. All executions were done in private. Pennsylvania was the first state to adopt this trend. Eventually some states abolished the death penalty all together. In current times, fourteen out of fifty states no longer carry out the death penalty. These states are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhone Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

In addition, a series of cases regarding the death penalty went to the Supreme Court. Many tried to argue that the death penalty violated the eighth amendments and that capital punishment is cruel and unusual. In 1972, Furman v. Georgia successfully brought an temporary end to the death penalty for ten years. Eventually the death penalty was reinstated with the execution of Gary Gillmore on January 17, 1977.

As of today, the United States still practices capital punishment. However there are limitations. For example, the government cannot execute the mentally handicap and is not supposed to execute juveniles. The United States currently has six ways to execute, lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, a firing squad and hanging. Methods will vary state by state. Although the United States still practices the death penalty, executions are declining, compare to the past, according to statistics.

Those that are for the death penalty claims that the death penalty will serve as a deterrence and is the only way for retribution against murderers. Both issues are highly debatable and have been a subject of criticism.

Punishment as a deterrence has been a goal for ages. This concept does work, but it should not be applied to all criminals, in my opinion. Pro capital punishment individuals claims that it is an efficient deterrence against criminals. In the article “Death penalty is a deterrence”, the authors claims that by practicing the death penalty, violent crimes will decrease. “violent crime has declined 11 percent, with murder showing the largest decline at even more than 22 percent. We believe that this has occurred in part because of the strong signal that the death penalty sent to violent criminals and murderer. [1] These statistics taken from this article may be inaccurate and should be closely examined. There is a huge amount of conflicting evidence from similar studies done currently and in the past.

Retribution has also been a goal for punishment. Logically if a killer is put to death then there would be no more killings. American society seems to favor retribution. An eye for an eye has been a law for ages. In a pro death penalty article, the author believes that, “When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime which will be punished in kind.” [2] This ideology has many flaws, mainly with morality issues. For example, if the country is punishing one for killing, what gives the country the right to kill?

Both articles’ fail to present any solid evidence that supports their thesis. “Death penalty is a deterrence” had statistical information, but fail to present how the information was obtained. Depending on the researcher’s information gathering methods, the statistical information could have been different. For example “In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University describes numerous serious errors in recent deterrence studies, including improper statistical analyses and missing data and variables that are necessary to give a full picture of the criminal justice system. Fagan writes, “There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions.” [3] There needs to be solid evidence in order to prove a theory. Those who claim that the death penalty is an efficient deterrence fail to submit conclusive evidence, therefore as a critic, we should dismiss the claim that the death penalty works as deterrence.

In addition, many studies seem to disprove the theory that the death penalty is a good deterrence against violent crimes and murders. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, states without the death penalty have had lower murder rates. In their seventeen-year old study, states without the death penalty showed a 40% decrease in murder rates. In regards to the article “Death penalty is a deterrence”, New York has now abolished the death penalty and their murder rate has gone down significantly compared to when the state was still practicing capital punishment. In fact, in the first year that New York abolished the death penalty they saw a four percent decrease in their murder rates.

The reason why the death penalty does not serve as deterrence is that offenders do not believe they will be caught. Logically, no one would commit a murder, if one knew he/she was to be executed. Deterrence is a psychological process. Therefore, if an offender does not believe that a real risk is present, there will be no deterrence.

The death penalty as retribution no longer makes sense in our current society. By executing an offender, our government, is sending subliminal messages regarding murder. The point of capital punishment is because the United States government wants to express that killing is an intolerable crime. By killing, an offender the government is contradicting itself. In addition, the death penalty can be seen as revenge. We are simply taking an eye for an eye. Two wrongs will not make a right. Killing a murderer will not bring back the murdered. In the 21th century our criminals laws should now reflect a higher standard that an eye for an eye.

In current times, the death penalty can no longer be claimed as an efficient form of retribution. There are huge delays in carrying out the executions of an inmate. Statistics show that there is over an eight-year wait before an execution can take place. In fact, most death row inmates die of old age, before their execution sentence. California’s death row is a great example. Since 1976, only thirteen inmates have been executed. Currently there are around seven hundred inmates in California’s death row. If the trend continues, that would mean most of the inmates would die of natural causes before their execution sentence can be carried out.

Those that claim the death penalty as retribution fail to take notice of the execution process in our criminal justice system. Legally an inmate is allowed to appeal his/her case. Appealing is needed in the American criminal justice system because the process is designed to protect against human errors. An average appeal can take over ten years. There are simply not enough judges to response to all case reviews. For example, the United States Supreme court receives thousands of case reviews annually, but because there are only nine judges in the Supreme Court, only a handful of cases are reviewed. For these reasons, the death penalty cannot be claim as an efficient form of retribution.

Since the death penalty is no longer an affected punishment, I purposed that we abolish the practice in the United States. Throughout America’s history, many have tried to abolish the death penalty. Many were successful in temporary abolishing the death penalty, but most states reinstated the death penalty after judicial review. The most current issue regarding the abolishment of the death penalty was Baze v. Rees. Baze V. Rees, was an attack on the process of execution, specifically lethal injections. Baze argues that lethal injections is a form of cruel and unusual punishment and went against the constitution. That debate ultimately failed, since the judges ruled in favor of the death penalty. “The trial court held extensive hearings and entered detailed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. It recognized that “[t]here are no methods of legal execution that are satisfactory to those who oppose the death penalty on moral, religious, or societal grounds, but concluded that the procedure “complies with the constitutional requirements against cruel and unusual punishment”. [4] Baze V. Rees was a good attempt in trying to abolish the death penalty, but ultimately was unsuccessful because they were attacking the process not the problem. In addition, Baze fail to show any solid evidence that lethal injections may cause pain.

In order to abolish the death penalty in the United States successfully, one would need to make a case to the United States Supreme Court. One would need to submit a writ of either certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition. In addition, one can appeal against the death penalty. If the case were selected, then one would need to argue that the death penalty is no longer a form of justice. The key to winning this case, in my opinion, is to present solid and conclusive evidence. Show the nine justices, that the death penalty is a waste of resources and unconstitutional.

Some may criticize that by abolishing the death penalty, crime rates will increase. Studies have already shown that the death penalty will not deter criminals. Currently there is no solid evidence that proves that the death penalty will deter criminals; however, there is evidence showing that states with no death penalty has a lower murder rate than states with the death penalty. In a recent examination, “researchers concluded that the estimates claiming that the death penalty saves numerous lives are simply not credible. In fact, researchers stated that using the same data and proper methodology could lead to the exact opposite conclusion: that is, that the death penalty actually increases the number of murders” [5] . Conclusive evidence such as the fact should dispel any criticism regarding the death penalty and murder rates.

The death penalty should be abolish. Those that believe in the death penalty, failed to make their case. There is no conclusive evidence that supports their claims. There is evidence however that the death penalty is failing. Executing a death row inmate is no longer an easy task. There can be long delays in the execution process. Inmates are dying before their execution sentence can be carried out. For all the reasons stated above, the United States of America should abolish the death penalty.


Pro Death Penalty Essay

Death Penalty Persuasive Essay

Shannon Rafferty E-Portfolio

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

"The death penalty is an issue that has the United States quite divided. While there are many supporters of it, there is also a large amount of opposition. Currently, there are thirty-three states in which the death penalty is legal and seventeen states that have abolished it (Death Penalty Information Center). I believe the death penalty should be legal throughout the nation. There are many reasons as to why I believe the death penalty should be legalized in all states, including deterrence, retribution, and morality; and because opposing arguments do not hold up, I will refute the ideas that the death penalty is unconstitutional, irrevocable mistakes are made, and that there is a disproportionality of race and income level.

The use of capital punishment greatly deters citizens from committing crimes such as murder. Many people’s greatest fear is death; therefore if they know that death is a possible consequence for their actions, they are less likely to perform such actions. Ernest van den Haag, a professor at Fordham University, wrote about the issue of deterrence: “…capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because         people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts….Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence.” (Death Penalty Curricula for High School)

van den Haag brings forth the argument that capital punishment is the strongest deterrent society has against murder, which has been proven in many studies. “Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder…” (Death Penalty Curricula for High School). In a study conducted by Isaac Ehrlich in 1973, it was found that for each execution of a criminal seven potential victim’s lives were saved (Death Penalty Curricula for High School). This was due to other possible murderers being deterred from committing murder after realizing thatother criminals are executed for their crimes. Ehrlich’s argument was also backed up by studies following his that had similar results. Capital punishment also acts as a deterrent for recidivism (the rate at which previously convicted criminals return to committing crimes after being released); if the criminal is executed he has no opportunity to commit crimes again. Some may argue that there is not enough concrete evidence to use deterrence as an argument for the death penalty. The reason some evidence may be inconclusive is that the death penalty often takes a while to be carried out; some prisoners sit on death row for years before being executed. This can influence the effectiveness of deterrence because punishments that are carried out swiftly are better examples to others. Although the death penalty is already effective at deterring possible criminals, it would be even more effective if the legal process were carried out more quickly instead of having inmates on death row for years.

The death penalty also carries out retribution justly. “Deserved punishment protects society morally by restoring this just order, making the wrongdoer pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done.” (Budziszewski). When someone commits a crime it disturbs the order of society; these crimes take away lives, peace, and liberties from society. Giving the death penalty as a punishment simply restores order to society and adequately punishes the criminal for his wrongdoing. Retribution also serves justice for murder victims and their families. Some may see this as revenge, but this retribution is not motivated by malice, rather it is motivated by the need for justice and the principle of lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”) (Green). This lack of malice is proven in the simple definition of retribution: “retribution is a state sponsored, rational response to criminality that is justified given that the state is the victim when a crime occurs” (“Justifications for Capital Punishment). The death penalty puts the scales of justice back in balance after they were unfairly tipped towards the criminal.

The morality of the death penalty has been hotly debated for many years. Those opposed to the death penalty say that it is immoral for the government to take the life of a citizen under any circumstance. This argument is refuted by Immanuel Kant who put forth the idea that, “a society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral” ( It is immoral to not properly punish a person who has committed such a horrendous crime. The criminal is also executed humanely; in no way is he subjected to torture or any form of cruelty. All states that use the death penalty use lethal injection; the days of subjecting a prisoner to hanging or the electric chair are long gone in the US. Inmates are first given a large dose of an anesthetic so they do not feel any pain (Bosner); this proves that the process is made as humane as possible so the inmates do not physically suffer. Although the issue of morality is very personal for many people, it is important to see the facts and realize that capital punishment does take morality into account and therefore is carried out in the best way possible.

The eighth amendment to the United States Constitution prevents cruel and unusual punishment. Many opponents of capital punishment say that execution is cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violates the Constitution. As was stated earlier, the recipient of the death penalty is treated humanely and is not tortured in any way, shape, or form. After the anesthetic is administered the person feels no pain; the only part of the process that could be considered painful is when the IV is inserted, but that is done in hospitals on a daily basis and no one is calling it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the death penalty as constitutional in cases they have presided over. In the case of Furman v. Georgia the court stated, “The punishment of death is not cruel, within the meaning of that word as used in the Constitution. It implies there is something more inhuman and barbarous, than the mere extinguishment of life” (Lowe). The Supreme Court has not found capital punishment to be unconstitutional, and therefore this argument for abolition is invalid.

Another argument put forth by death penalty abolitionists is the possibility of executing an innocent person. Many people that argue this overestimate how often this happens, it is an extremely rare occurrence and has not happened since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976. Steven D. Stewart, the Prosecuting Attorney for Clark County Indiana, very effectively refutes this argument:

“…No system of justice can produce results which are 100% certain all the time. Mistakes will be made in any system which relies upon human testimony for proof. We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes. Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases. However, the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976…The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal wreck should make automobiles illegal…”

Stewart points out that death penalty cases are held to a much higher standard. Due process in these cases takes much longer so that the court can be absolutely sure that the person is guilty before sentencing him to execution. This helps to eliminate any errors that could lead to executing the wrong person. He also points out that although there is a small possibility for mistakes to be made, this does not mean capital punishment should be abolished. If everything that had the potential for harmful mistakes were outlawed, society would be extremely crippled.

It is true that there is disproportionality when it comes to the races and classes that most frequently receive the death penalty. It has been proven that minorities and those with lower income levels are overrepresented on death row. This is not due to discrimination; this is due to the higher rate at which these groups commit crime ( It has been argued that poverty breeds criminality; if this is true then it makes sense that those at a lower income level would more frequently be sentenced to execution than those at higher income levels ( It has also been proven that minorities are disproportionately poor, and therefore they would also be more likely to receive the death penalty. Ernest van den Haag said it best: “Punishments are imposed on persons, not on…economic groups. Guilt is personal. The only relevant question is: does the person to be executed deserve the punishment? Whether or not others deserved the same punishment, whatever the economic or racial group, have avoided execution is irrelevant.”

It does not matter what race or economic status a person is, if he is guilty he must receive the appropriate punishment, which in some cases may be the death penalty.

Capital punishment can be a difficult topic to approach because people tend to have extreme views on it. The death penalty is an asset to society; it deters potential criminals as well as serves retribution to criminals, and is in no way immoral. The arguments against the death penalty often do not hold up when examined more closely. It is important that the nation is united on this issue, rather than having some states use capital punishment while others do not. The death penalty can be an extremely useful tool in sentencing criminals that have committed some of the worst crimes known to society. It is imperative that we begin to pass legislation making capital punishment legal throughout the United States so that justice can be served properly."


I highly recommend these resources below if you are interested in learning more about Capital Punishment and/or determining your opinion.




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