Penalty of Death: Barbaric or Justifiable Homicide

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The death penalty, also referred to as capital punishment, is the harshest form of punishment carried out by law enforcement officials. While some countries have abolished it, the United States has reinstated this penalty for severe crimes such as murder.

The concept of “Lex talionis,” mentioned in the Bible, advocates for the idea of “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This belief has been utilized by individuals throughout history, particularly in cases of theft, infidelity, and other circumstances. However, some people take this principle further and argue that it should also be applied to matters relating to life and death. They contend that if someone has harmed or stolen from them, they possess the right to seek revenge by taking their assailant’s life. This debate has stirred controversy in the United States and sparked public discussions regarding both the effectiveness and ethical justification of capital punishment. While we enjoy certain privileges in our own lives, it prompts us to question whether we have the authority to determine the destinies of others, even if they are unfamiliar to us. When someone is convicted of murder, often the prescribed penalty is death.

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Discussing the act of murder and its justifiability is a common topic. People often question whether those who assist in carrying out the death penalty are considered accomplices. Additionally, there is debate over whether the death penalty is a form of cruel and unusual punishment or a necessary tool for fighting crime. In industrialized Western countries, the use of capital punishment has decreased since the 19th century. In 1972, an attempt was made to declare the death penalty unconstitutional in America, arguing that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment (Furman vs. Georgia). However, a Supreme Court decision in 1975 (Gregg vs. Georgia) determined that capital punishment did not violate eighth Amendment rights, leading to executions being reinstated under state supervision. These inconsistencies and indecisions have undoubtedly fueled an intense debate.

The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) mandated the death penalty for various offenses, both civil and religious. According to the King James Version of the Bible, Jehovah required the government to execute murderers, as stated in Genesis 9:6: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” When enough evidence was presented for a person’s crime, the government carried out capital punishment through methods like stoning, impaling, or burning them alive. Witnesses who testified during the trial often participated in the execution.

The government’s main duty is to ensure the safety of citizens and uphold justice. By implementing capital punishment, criminals are made fearful, thus enhancing society’s security. People have a strong longing for a secure environment where children can play freely outdoors and parents can send their kids to school without worry. This allows individuals to live without constant suspicion.

Capital punishment is a crucial and fair form of punishment within the legal system. It entails carrying out the execution of criminals who have committed severe crimes deemed too serious for any other acceptable penalty. Murder, like any other crime, is a violation against society, and it is the state’s duty to administer appropriate punishment for such acts. The prevention of loved ones from enduring such a traumatic experience holds great significance.

Jannice Hunter, mother of Adrien, who was brutally stabbed 47 times by serial killer Nathaniel White in 1992, expressed the anguish felt by all families affected by such tragedies. Mrs. Hunter compared her own visits to the cemetery to see her daughter with Nathaniel White’s mother’s visits to jail to see him, highlighting the unfairness of the situation.

In a similar vein, in 1973, New York’s infamous serial killer Shawcross was convicted for the heartless rape and murder of two children in upstate New York.

After serving only 15 years in prison, he was released on parole in 1988. During a terrible period of 21 months, Shawcross took the lives of 11 more people. These are 11 innocent individuals who would be alive today if justice had been served in 1973 – and their families would have been spared the pain of losing a loved one.

Capital punishment serves as a deterrent to murder and prevents killers from committing more crimes by creating fear of death in potential offenders. People are less likely to engage in harmful actions if they expect negative consequences.

One possible deterrent of murder is the death penalty, which prevents killers from causing harm again. Those who commit murders should face death rather than being imprisoned. Advocates for capital punishment argue that criminals should be punished regardless of whether it deters others. They hope to discourage future heinous crimes by using offenders as examples. The person who commits murder becomes society’s greatest foe.

In order to prevent anarchy, it is necessary to implement laws as a means of establishing governance. However, the foundation of capital punishment lies in misguided education and simplistic beliefs about human behavior. Judges, lawyers, and preachers argue that individuals commit immoral acts due to their corrupt hearts. Nevertheless, unlike other living beings, human conduct is not solely controlled by external influences.

Humans have the freedom to act as they wish, and their choice not to behave in a certain way is a deliberate decision. In the past, this belief was applied to diseases and insanity in men, animals, and even inanimate objects were put on trial and condemned. Although we now know better, this rule has yet to be extended to humans. Despite the general consensus against killing others, there is currently a national debate in the United States concerning the death penalty. The public is divided on whether capital punishment laws are effective as a form of punishment and as a defense mechanism against criminals, while also providing economic benefits for the nation.

Despite abolitionist concerns about the potential loss of innocent lives due to the justice system, advocates argue that the death penalty is both costlier and less effective as a deterrent compared to life imprisonment. However, both sides concur on the necessity of penalizing criminal behavior. This agreement is illustrated in Mead Shumway’s case in Nebraska, where he was found guilty of first-degree murder through circumstantial evidence and subsequently received a death sentence from a jury.

“Please forgive me, for I am innocent,” were his final words as he faced execution. In the following year, the husband of the victim confessed on his deathbed to being the true perpetrator of his wife’s murder. Similar incidents have occurred repeatedly throughout history. In 1992, two prominent individuals involved in capital punishment in the United States uncovered at least 140 cases since 1990 where innocent people had been wrongfully sentenced to death.

Since 1987, a dozen death row inmates in Illinois have been freed due to wrongful convictions (Execution Reconsidered). This alarming figure shows that one in seven individuals sentenced to death row is later proven innocent. These numbers provide strong evidence, highlighting the flaws within the US judicial system that are often ignored. Consequently, innocent people are tragically becoming victims.

Former president of the American Bar Association (ABA), John J. Curtin Jr., stressed the significance of justice within the death penalty system, expressing that regardless of one’s opinion on capital punishment, a fair system should prioritize justice over taking lives. He urged for justice to be served rather than executing individuals. While some wrongfully convicted individuals on death row have managed to evade execution, there are still many others who are unable to succeed in appealing their sentences. As a result, numerous cases of innocence go unnoticed and innocent lives are tragically lost.

The death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 1972 by Furman v. Georgia in order to prevent wrongful executions through the use of precise sentencing procedures. However, there is still a worrying chance that innocent people may be sentenced to death. The main goal of the American justice system is to protect society and discourage any potential harm.

Despite efforts to ensure fair treatment, flaws in the system have led to criminals being released while innocent individuals are wrongly imprisoned or placed on death row. This ongoing failure has caused citizens to doubt their trust in this institution. The system has a history of falsely accusing and unjustly sentencing people to death without any opportunity for reversal. However, there are safeguards in place to protect those facing capital punishment. These safeguards include requirements that defendants must not be mentally ill and that their intent, whether criminal or genuine, must be proven. An example of these safeguards occurred in September 1998 when the Illinois Supreme Court postponed Anthony Porter’s execution just two days before it was scheduled.

Porter, a person sentenced to death in 1982 for murder, possesses an IQ of 51 which falls under the category of mental retardation. The court required additional time to determine the constitutionality of executing an individual with an IQ below 70. It is worth noting that unlike other states with capital punishment, Illinois does not have a specific law prohibiting the execution of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

In the meantime, David Protess, a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, along with his team conducted a thorough investigation into Porter’s case while awaiting the court’s decision. They meticulously examined police and court records until they stumbled upon another man who had confessed on videotape to committing the murders for which Porter was convicted. Once this confession became public knowledge, the sole eyewitness who testified against Porter retracted their statement.

Illinois Gov. George Ryan pardoned Porter in February 1999 following his over 16-year imprisonment. Additionally, the death penalty is infrequently imposed on juveniles due to their incomplete maturity and understanding of consequences. It is important to highlight that courts demand substantial evidence of criminal intent before implementing capital punishment. Furthermore, mentally disabled individuals are rarely executed as they face difficulties in effectively defending themselves in court, including recalling crucial information, locating witnesses, and providing credible testimonies.

Technological advancements have greatly contributed to crime-solving, with “DNA fingerprinting” being hailed as a groundbreaking solution. In the latest development, scientists have discovered a method to distinguish individuals based on their genetic makeup, which is represented by DNA. It should be noted that each person possesses a distinct DNA configuration that can be found in all cells of their body.

Police often collect bodily materials, such as hair, semen, blood, or fingernails, at crime scenes in order to analyze them for DNA. The purpose is to determine whether the DNA of a person accused of a crime matches the DNA samples found at the scene. If there is no match between the defendant’s DNA and that collected at the crime scene, it becomes more challenging to establish their guilt in the offense. This process helps maintain justice without compromising its integrity.

Another cost-effective option is life imprisonment; however, critics argue that due to inmates filing numerous appeals while they are incarcerated, the death penalty ends up being more expensive.

Government tax money is utilized to cover the costs of appeals cases for death row inmates, as many do not have the means to afford their own legal representation. In California, capital trials are more costly compared to other murder trials due to the involvement of intricate pre-trial motions, extensive jury selections, expenses for expert witnesses, and prisoners’ comprehensive appeals seeking to reverse their sentences. Criminal sociologists argue that death penalty cases are especially complex and expensive since they involve the risk of a prisoner’s life. The state shoulders the financial burden from pretrial motions all the way through sentencing and appeals. Their estimates indicate that each death penalty case incurs a cost ranging from 2 to 3 million dollars.

Over time, multiple studies have been carried out to investigate the deterrence effect of the death penalty on crime. While the findings vary, most do not offer evidence in favor of the notion that capital punishment is superior to imprisonment for deterring homicides. This lack of support can be attributed to the limited frequency at which executions occur, rendering the death penalty an insufficient means of discouragement. Nevertheless, by increasing its utilization, capital punishment would effectively discourage criminal behavior and successfully fulfill its intended purpose of preventing future crimes.

According to deterrence theory, the fear of death discourages individuals from committing crimes since criminal behavior can be prevented if the punishment outweighs any potential benefits. Understanding that their own lives are at risk, many criminals would reconsider engaging in murder. The existence of the death penalty for certain offenses has a substantial effect by creating a negative perception around crimes like manslaughter and instilling fear regarding such acts. Regrettably, instances of unjustified violence requiring justice occur frequently, as seen in events like the World Trade Center bombing and Colin Ferguson’s deadly rampage on the Long Island Rail Road.

Killing a police officer while on duty is seen as an act of war against civilized society, endangering everyone. It is crucial for the government to take necessary measures to safeguard those responsible for public safety. Police officers demonstrate extraordinary bravery by risking their lives daily without knowing the outcome of each situation they face. Furthermore, individuals involved in contract killings, serial murders, victim torturing, and repeat offenses may face both capital punishment and the death penalty.

There is a divide in opinions regarding whether individuals convicted of first-degree murder should face the death penalty. Some argue that executing criminals goes against the principles of a civilized society, while others view it as crucial for dealing with mass murderers and those who commit heinous crimes. It is evident that there is a need to find a solution to stop their dangerous behavior. However, considering the high number of killings in today’s society, it is suggested that first-time offenders should be sentenced to life imprisonment instead. This would not only serve as a punishment but also give both the individual and those around them an opportunity to understand the consequences of their actions.

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Penalty of Death: Barbaric or Justifiable Homicide. (2019, Apr 28). Retrieved from

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