Capital Punishment: Deterring Murder and Just Retribution

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Capital Punishment deters murder, and is just Retribution. Capital punishment, is the execution of criminals by the state, for committing crimes, regarded so heinous, that this is the only acceptable punishment. Capital punishment does not only lower the murder rate, but it’s value as retribution alone is a good reason for handing out death sentences. Support for the death penalty in theU.S. has risen to an average of 80% according to an article written by Richard Worsnop, entitled “Death penalty debate centres on Retribution”, this figure is slightly lower in Canada where support for the death penalty is at 72% of the population over 18 years of age, as stated in article by Kirk Makir, in the March 26, 1987 edition of the Globe and Mail, titled “B.C. MPs split on Death Penalty”.

The death penalty deters murder by putting the fear of death into would be killers. A person is less likely to do something, if he or she thinks that harm will come to him. Another way the death penalty deters murder, is the fact that if the killer is dead, he will not be able to kill again. Most supporters of the death penalty feel that offenders should be punished for their crimes, and that it does not matter whether it will deter the crime rate. Supporters of the death penalty are in favour of making examples out of offenders, and that the threat of death will be enough to deter the crime rate, but the crime rate is irrelevant. According to Isaac Ehrlich’s study, published on April 16, 1976, eight murders are deterred for each execution that is carried out in the U.S.A. He goes on to say, “If one execution of a guilty capital murderer deters the murder of one innocent life, the execution is justified.” To most supporters of the death penalty, like Ehrlich, if even 1 life is saved, for countless executions of the guilty, it is a good reason for the death penalty. The theory that society engages in murder when executing the guilty, is considered invalid by most supporters, including Ehrlich. He feels that execution of convicted offenders expresses the great value society places on innocent life.

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Isaac Ehrlich goes on to state that racism is also a point used by death penalty advocates. We will use the U.S. as examples, since we can not look at the inmates on death row in Canada, because their are laws in Canada that state that crime statistics can not be based on race, also the fact that there are no inmates on death row in Canada. In the U.S. 16 out of 1000 whites arrested for murder are sentenced to death, while 12 of 1000 blacks arrested for murder were sentenced to death. 1.1% of black inmates on death row were executed, while 1.7% of white inmates will die. Another cry for racism, as according to Ehrlich, that is raised by advocates of the death penalty is based on the colour of the victim, for example “if the victim is white, it is more likely that the offender will get the death penalty than if the victim had beenblack”. This is true, if you look at the actual number of people who are murder. More people kill whites and get the death penalty, then people who kill blacks and get the death penalty. The reason for this is that more whites are killed, and the murders captured. Now if we look at the number of blacks killed it is a lot less, but you haveto look at these numbers proportionately.

Percent wise it is almost the same number for any race, so this is not the issue. In a 1986 study done by Professor Stephen K. Layson of the University of North Carolina, the conclusions made by Ehrilich were updated, and showed to be a little on the low side as far as the deterrence factor of capital punishment. Professor Layson found that 18 murders were deterred by each execution is the U.S. He also found that executions increases in probability of arrest, conviction, and other executions of heinous offenders. According to a statement issued by George C. Smith, Director of Litigation, Washington Legal Foundation, titled “In Support of the Death Penalty”, support for the death penalty has grown in the U.S., as the crime rate increased. In 1966, 42% of Americans were in favour of capital punishment while 47% were opposed to it. Since the crime rate United states has increased, support for the capital punishment has followed suit. In 1986, support for capital punishment was 80% for and only 17% against with 3% undecided, but most of the undecided votes said they were leaning toward a pro capital punishment stance, if they had to vote on it immediately. Let us now focus on Canada.

The last two people to be executed, in Canada were Arthur Lucas and Ron Turpin. They were executed on December 11, 1962. The executions in Canada were carried out by hanging. The death penalty was abolished in Canada in the latter part of 1976, after a debate that lasted 98 hours. The death penalty was only beaten by 6 votes. If we look back to 1976, the year the death penalty was abolished in Canada, threats of death, werebeing made to Members of Parliament and their immediate families from pro death penalty advocates. Most members of parliament, voted on their own personal feelings, as opposed to the views of their voters.2 The same was the case in British Colombia, where accepting of the death penalty, if it was reinstated 1987 , by the federal government was discussed. The M.P.s were split, 17 out of 29 were for the death penalty. This showed, that even the majority of the M.P.s were in favour of the death penalty in B.C. Support for the death penalty in British Columbia at the time was almost 70%, but the M.P.s felt that it was up to them to vote how they felt was right, and not to vote on which vote would give them the best chance for a second term.3 In 1987, the Progressive Conservative government wanted to hold a free vote on the reinstatement of Capital punishment, but Justice minister Ray Hnatyshyn, who was opposed to it, pressured the M.P.s, into voted against the bill. Ray Hnatyshyn, was the deciding factor, if not for him, it was widely believed that the reinstatement of capital punishment would have gone through, and the death penalty would be a reality today.

Capital punishment is such a volatile issue, and both sides are so deeply rooted in their views that they are willing to do almost anything to sway all of the people they can to their side. We personally feel, and our views are backed up by proof, in the form of studies by the likes of Isaac Ehrlich’s 1975 and Prof. Stephen K. Layson’s, that was published in 1986, and polls that have been taken both in Canada and the United States over the past few years. All of these studies and surveys show that capital punishment is a valid deterrent to crime, and obviously the public, and society as a whole are in favour of it. The death penalty makes would be capital offenders think about weather committing a crime is really worth their lives. Even if capital punishment did not deter crime, the simple fact that it will allow society to “get even” with murders. Capital punishment also insures peace of mind because it insures that murders will never kill again

.—Works Cited
From: Take Notice, (Copp Clarke Pitman Ltd., 1979) page 163
From: Article written by David Vienneau published in the March 24, 1987 edition of the “Toronto Star”, titled, Debate Agonizing for MPs.
From: Article written by Kirk Makir, published in March 26, 1987 edition of the “Globe and Mail”, titled, BC MPs Split on Death Penalty Debate.
From: Article written by Hugh Winsor, published in April 29, 1987 edition of the “Globe and Mail”, titled, Debate on Death Penalty placed on hold.


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