Why must Death Penalty be Abolished?
The arguments about death penalty has been and will always be controversial. The main issue that surrounds death penalty, the dispute between the supporters and those against the capital punishment is whether or not it must be abolished. Those in favor of the capital punishment argue that death penalty is the best way of making a criminal pay for his crime on the ground of retribution and deterence while on the other hand, pro-life advocates argue that death penalty is immoral, unethical and is filled with many flaws.
Capital punishment is the legal infliction of death as a punishment for a crime. It is often awarded to offenses such as murder and other heinous crimes which are considered by the state to pose imminent and gross danger to the safety of the society (“Capital Punishment”). Death penalty has been used for a variety of crimes since the ancient times and the United States, together with many countries still retain and impose it today.
There are a number of strong arguments against death penalty. The first and most important one is the possibility that innocent people will be executed for a crime that they did not commit and once this happens, it is impossible to compensate the victim and his family for this miscarriage of justice. A report published in July 1997 said that there are approximately 69 innocent people that have been removed from death row since death penalty was reinstated in America in 1976. Statistics just proves that the danger of punishing innocent people are on the rise. Even though supporters of the capital punishment argue that this number includes cases wherein the defendant won because of a legal error not because of innocence, critics of death penalty put an emphasis on the fact that there seems to be a frequent reversal of the conviction which evidences the flaw in the procedures of awarding death penalty. A law professor in Columbia University observed that the system of incorporating the capital punishment is not functioning rationally or effectively when judged with the standards applied to the processes being implemented in both the private and public sectors (Jost, 945-968).
One other argument that opponents often say is that the death penalty contradicts the constitution. In the landmark case of Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court held that the imposition of death penalty in thirty five states is a cruel and unusual punishment which violates the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Justices, in more than two hundred pages expressed their views bout this subject and only Justices Brennan and Marshall believed it to be unconstitutional. Other Justices focused more on the arbitrary nature of the case and other factors like racial discrimination and poor qualiy of the lawyers appointed for the accused as well as the risk of executing the innocent. The ruling in this case forced the national and the states legislature to reexamine their statues regarding death penalty in order to assure the public that it will not be implemented in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.
Lastly, the most popular argument against death penalty is that it is immoral and unethical. The premise that justice system originates from man’s own emotions is false. History is filled with proof of men’s immoral acts. In World War II, Hitler almost erased the Jews from the map and just recently, the military was caught torturing terrorists in unacceptable methods. The fact is that human imperfection is extremely apparent even in the littlest mistakes that men make everyday. Given this reality about men’s nature, the ability of the humans to make great judgments is very limited and there are times when men think they know what is best but they are wrong. As such, it is entirely unethical and dangerous to leave the decision about human life from another human as well. It is only God who knows what is right and what is wrong. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments one of which says “Do Not Kill”. Therefore, the death penalty is in direct violation of the moral principles of God and it is because if this reason that the capital punishment is immoral (Koyle, 1-2). According to Pope John Paul II, bloodless means must be adopted as long as these means are sufficient to defend the society against criminals because they better correspond to the conditions of the common good and they are more inline with the dignity of the human person. The Modern society, according to the Pope, has ample means of suppresing crimes effectively by rendering the wrongdoers harlmess without denying them the chance to reform. The dignity of human life deserves a second chance no matter what crime the person committed they must be given the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves if this is indeed possible (Latkovic, 80-83).
As of today, the percentage of the Americans that still lean towards favoring the imposition of the death penalty has decreased in the last five years. According to critics, there have been many death sentences that are reversed on appeal and that the flaws in the criminal justice system including the lack of adequate defense counsel generate a dangerous risk of executing innocent people (Jost 945-968). The number or executions in America in the past thirty years reached its peak at 98 in 1999 and then it fell to 59 in 2004 (Jost, 785-808).
In conclusion, death penalty must not be allowed in America. The country has more than enough resources to keep the society safe and as such, it is highly unnecessary to resort to such an inhuman and degrading punishment. Contrary to what the supporters believe in, death penalty does not deter crime, it merely waste money. It must be abolished because it is a punishment that men do not deserve to have nor to give to other human beings. Punishment must be a temporary penalty for a crime and sentencing a man to death is far more than temporary nor is reversible. Giving death penalty will not cause men to learn from their mistakes because it robs them of such opportunity by paying for their mistakes with their lives. There could be no more punishment that is more degrading and afflictive than depriving a person of his life because this life does not beling to us and what one did not give, one cannot simply take away.
Definition of Death Penalty
First Argument Against Death Penalty (Innocent People may be punished because of the flaw in the system)
Second Argument Against Death Penalty (It violates the Eight Amendment)
Third Argument (Death Penalty is Unethical and Immoral).
Furman v. Georgia. (1972). 408 U.S. 238.
Jost, Kenneth. “Death Penalty Controversies”. CQ Researcher. Sage Publications. 23 September 2005. 5(33), 785-808.
Jost, Kenneth. “Rethinking the Death Penalty”. CQ Researcher. Sage Publications. 16 November 2001. 11(40), 945-968.
Koyle, Kevin. “Death Penalty immoral, ineffective, unjust”. The Echo Online. Mount Saint Mary’s University. 2005. Web. 6 May 2010. <http://media.www.themountainecho.com/media/storage/paper565/news/2005/03/16/Forum/Death.Penalty.Immoral.Ineffective.Unjust-895320.shtml>.
Latkovic, Mark. “Capital Punishment, Church Teaching, and Morality: What is Pope John Paul II Sayong to Catholics in Evangelicum Vitae?”. Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. Project Muse. 2002. 5(2).
Legal-Explanations.com. “Capital Punishment”. Legal Explanations.com. 2007. Web. 6 May 2010. <http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/capital-punishment.htm>.