Controversy of Eliminating the Death Penalty in the United States 

Since the beginning of the English Law, there has always been controversy surrounding the execution of convicts. Whether it be a public execution trial or a closed court, there has always been people who do not support the dismissal of a human life.

As we developed our punishment practices over time, we have come to show truly how heinous we have become. The question is how and why have we become this way? How have we, a society, built from unity, become so divided on a decision that we have arrived upon as a collective and carried out through the early sixteen-hundreds to today?

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The death penalty is a controversial topic due to the fact that we as a collective find the death penalty as a cruel and unusual punishment, whereas others find it as a necessity to eliminate heinous threats to society.

On one side of the spectrum, many people believe that the death penalty is effective overall. In the past, many states have found that there has been a connection between the death penalty and a reduction of murder rates. “Majority of studies that track effects over many years and across states or countries find a deterrent effect”(Muhlhausen). Because of this many people believe that the death penalty will deter those who were or are planning to commit capital crimes.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch once said “life is indeed precious and I believe that the death penalty helps to affirm that fact” (taken from a speech; February 1,2013). Many people still believe in rationalizing with the death penalty for the mere fact that it can still be seen as one of the greatest equalizers for society’s greatest monsters.

Derek Hunter, a writer for Townhall, seems to agree with this notion as well, linking it back to today’s rate of criminals on death row seemingly didn’t care as to the consequences of committing crimes, but when convicted retracted that initial thought. With this he noted that there was an increase rate in the one hundredth percentile in recidivism. Hunter even furthers extends his notion as to even say that “No executed criminal has ever harmed another innocent human being” (Hunter, 52).

Another point to bring to light is that even with DNA evidence decreasing the number of innocent people getting incarcerated for false crimes, the duration of time awaiting execution still did not decline. Majority of cases wait twelve or more years for justice to even have an inkling of taking place. Most of the time those who have committed murder, end up living longer than their victims. (Hunter)

The average number of months spent on death row from 1984 to 2006 increased exponentially from 74 to 145. In that amount of time only 1,046 people were executed in the span of 22 years with an average of approximately 48 people executed per year. 43 were from North Carolina. A total of 1,483 executions took place compared to the several thousand still on death row awaiting death. “2.3% of all death sentences, imposed from 1973 through 1989 resulted in exoneration by the end of 2004[from previous studies]” (Gross, 114). When speaking about the death penalty exonerations, it is higher the united states than in any category in of convictions. Less than one tenth of 1% of prison sentences in the United States are death sentences. (DPIC)

Those people on death row are trying to file for appeals to get their sentence reduced for life in prison or possibly a plea bargain if stretching their luck. Often more than not prosecutors will attempt to postpone any sort of appeals in court to see that sentences are carried out in a short amount of time before ordered to make appearances before judges or a grand jury. With that, most of the time such demands are revoked and convicts are forced to comply with their final sentences.

Another point to add is that within the court systems, Chief Justices of the United States, take capital cases more seriously rather than other criminal prosecutions. Every death sentence is reviewed upon appeal and reviewed repeatedly and thoroughly once more. All have lawyers as long as they remain on death row. Many of the victims’ families go through all the initial process of wanting these people punished for what they have done and seek that action until the end. Victims’ families would continue to state that since the felon brought the crime onto themselves by killing an innocent person in cold blood.

The death penalty is also reviewed as a need to keep us safe as a whole for many criminals are far too gone and can be a major threat to fellow inmates and guards who are stationed to keep watch on them. Even more so, the neighboring cities could be taken by surprise from escapees seeking revenge or to just spread more chaos. Hence why felons who have absolutely no chance for redemption, should be ultimately executed. This is a key piece as to why many people argue that the death penalty should be kept.

People may argue that the death penalty shouldn’t be allowed anymore. But there is a rational to it. December 14, 2012 was when the mass school shooting of sandy hook elementary school happened in a town of Newtown, Connecticut. A total of 26 students and faculty were murdered in cold blood. “If you were a parent of a six-year old with a dozen bullet holes in his body, would you oppose a sentence of death for the child’s killer?”(Kenny, 29) Assume that the killer never died. Let’s suppose he were to come across as legally sane and just rotting away in a cell. Would those who oppose the death penalty still rally in favor of him?

These are the type of questions that many ask when in a debate on whether or not the death penalty does any justice. Even with cases backtracking to six or sixty years ago, new evidence is being found on these cases that would have changed the fate of many murders that would otherwise still be with us today, if they had not taken their own life or had simply died of old age after being let off the hook. Take the case of Emmett Till (1955) for example. He was a fourteen-year-old African American boy who was forced to haul a seventy-five-pound cotton gin fan and told to walk to a river where he was stripped and beaten. Only to then later have his eyes gouged out and then to later be bound in barbed wire and then shot in the head and thrown into a river. (History channel) All this over some slander as to what event had actually gone down in a local shop with his murder’s wife/sister. His murderers were declined on indictment on the ground of kidnapping. After confessing to his murder one year later to press, they were not tried due to double jeopardy laws. The trial was deliberated by an all-white jury on September 23 and was claimed as not guilty with the failure to identify Till’s body due to the fact that it was unrecognizable. People who had committed such an outright crime had gotten off scot free, even though they had clearly done it. (McLaughlin)

More reasoning as to why the death penalty is a key to run America as a whole is simply because of peace of mind. Many of those whom are affected by such tragic happening to loved ones find that knowing that the person who had done the most damage is no longer living can be very reassuring. Even if knowing that they are in prison, it can still cause traumatic effects on day to day routines. Knowing that someone just killed a completely innocent person and is still to an extent thriving in life can be seen as a means unnecessary. They feel like that it should be an eye for an eye crime. This could be dated back to Hammurabi and his god given codes of law. One of these which explicitly states “If an awīlu (upper class person) should blind the eye of another awīlu, they shall blind his eye. If he should break the bone of another awīlu, they shall break his bone. If he should blind the eye of a commoner or break the bone of a commoner, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver. If he should blind the eye of an awīlu’s slave or break the bone of an awīlu’s slave, he shall weigh and deliver one half of his value (in silver)” (Hammurabi’s Code of Laws, Laws, 196-199). Many people believe that they will find solace in this, so they continue to show support in favor of the death penalty.

On the other side of such a staple argument in today’s news, is the use for such a punishment. Many advocates imposing such thought say that the death penalty is violating the 8th amendment. Speaking in technicality, they are right. The 8th amendment declares cruel and unusual punishments to not be inflicted. Cruel and unusual punishments included branding and burning alive at the stake. It is also stated that punishments should correlate with said crime. We adopted this in 1689, from the English Bill of Rights which principles have been observed following into today’s civilized world. In the early 20th century, opponents of the death penalty tried to bring cases to the supreme court that would declare death penalties as unconstitutional

under the 8th amendment. They were later dismissed. Dating back to when the Philippines were a us territory, the case Weems v. United States (1910) stirred such vyvanse. In the Philippines, lying on public documents meant heavy fines and fifteen years of hard labor. The supreme courts found it was not in line with the punishment and dismissed the case. Thus, setting forth the practice. Then in 1962 the 8th amendment was extended in the states. Ten years later in 1972, the court reviewed the case Furman v Georgia, which the decision was that the death penalty was unconstitutional. Court justice Douglas felt that courts judged the death penalty as unconstitutional only in the manner by which it is to be applied. (Holmes) Furthering this notion with much consideration and comparing many court cases before reaching this jurisdiction. Since claiming such a decision, this led the courts into one of the most controversial areas in American justice that continuously divides our country today. With that being said this is a major point as to why there is so much controversy in the death penalty, but it doesn’t end here.

Many modern American abolitionists feel as though that when it comes to the violation of human right, the death penalty is only the peak of the mountain of wrong in our country. “People are still put down like dogs in the land of the free – despite the momentum for abolition – capital punishment represents America’s human rights blind spot” (Love,37). This sadly in a sense is true, most states actually use a three-drug protocol of Pentobarbital – a substance used to euthanize animals. Ohio being one of them that still does this as well as several others. As of 2017, forty-two out of the fifty U.S. states actually use the three-drug protocol. Most states often use Midazolam, Fentanyl, Valium, and Cisatracurium. All by which can be traced back to euthanization of animals. (DPIC)

To further more prove this point as to why the death penalty shouldn’t be held in place in the United States of America, is the amount of money spent just harboring convicted felons on death row. “New Jersey abolished the death penalty in 2007 in large part because the state had spent $245 million over 21 years administering it without executing a single person” (Williams, 45). In June of 2011, California spent over $4 billion on capital punishment starting at 1978. That was approximately $184 million more than the cost of an average life sentence. Hence why it would be more economically beneficial if we just sentence all pending criminal for execution to life imprisonment. “many state – initiated analysis… have found administering capital punishment is significantly more expensive than housing prisoners without parole” (Williams,45).

Continuing onto why life imprisonment would be a lot better, not only economically, but also for a different viewpoint. Many of these victims’ families can barely get through the first year. Most of the time it is financially, where even with the states helping, they could only do so much. Those against the death penalty say top use the money spent on execution on those affected by the one being executed. Another perspective with this is that the victims’ families feel as though much more justice is served not only knowing that the person is locked up but that he is serving life with the time to dwell on all that he has done and not getting an “easy way out”. Survivors of murder victims feel as though that the death penalty prolongs pain and fails to provide resolutions. Contrast to that families feel more justice is served with life-long prison sentences. “No adult sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) anywhere in the Us has ever been released on parole” (Death Penalty Focus).

Throughout the years those who have opposed the death penalty had made some compelling arguments as to why we should shun such practice, for example one being that the execution of innocent convicted felons. This topic was actually brought up this year by our president, Donald J. Trump. President trump earlier this year actually made several speeches as to how he felt about the anniversary of the Central Park Five, a group of then teenage boys who were wrongly convicted at the time of raping a white woman jogging. They were presented to the court after hours of inconsistent interrogations, which were aimed to the sheer fact to make them look as if they were guilty of committing such an attack. They were was a lot of inconsistencies within such a serious case, especially with lack of DNA evidence. Around the time in 1988, Thompson v Oklahoma ruled that it was cruel to execute a person whom was 15 years old at the time. Decisions were soon placed that 16 was the minimum age that someone was to be put to death.

Trump felt as though that these men who were found guilty of a crime that they had no connection to years ago should be sentenced to death, even though they are completely innocent.

Many times, innocent defendants are undetected. It’s also hard to deflect after the fact. Because of such instances, multiple states passed laws which now require a penalty phase or life in prison. This was to try and correct the faults from Georgia law. An example of this would be the Carlos DeLuna case. In 2012, Carlos DeLuna was executed for a crime committed by Carlos Hernandez, a look alike. (DPIC) This case was a staple in the great debate where there were compelling cases of innocence.

After very much considering this from writing in both perspectives, i see the pros and cons within each argument as to why we should or should not keep this implemented in our justice system. I personally feel as though that if we do throw away the death penalty when a major event hits us, we will feel obligated as to say this person did not get punished accurately. There are some cases as to for see such punishments taken into consideration, but for the most part, I feel as though as a whole it is not 100% with killing people who didn’t do that much of a crime.

The death penalty, through and through, is controversial due to the fact that we as a collective find the death penalty as a cruel and unusual punishment, in some cases, whereas others find it as a necessity to eliminate heinous threats to society.

That being said it all comes down to your true feeling on if we should keep the death penalty or appeal to a new set up as to how it shall be executed.

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Controversy of Eliminating the Death Penalty in the United States . (2022, Jan 10). Retrieved from