Part 1 – Introduction

As a young adult coming from a conservative family with strong moral beliefs, I believe that the death penalty should be used when sentenced. It is the final punishment that criminals in our world have brought themselves to. That being said there are a lot of different factors that make this form of punishment highly controversial, and I will show this side as well as I can.

Part 2 – Definitions

Death Penalty/Capital Punishment (Noun): punishment by death : the practice of killing people as punishment for serious crimes

  • Capital Punishment. In Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capital punishment.  

Convict (Noun): 1: a person convicted of and under sentence for a crime. 2: a person serving a usually long prison sentence. (Adjective): having been convicted. (Verb): 1: to find or prove to be guilty

  • Convict. In Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/convict.

Capital (Adjective): a: punishable by death

  • Capital. In Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capital.

Racist (Noun): a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

  • Racist. In Merriam Webster Dictionary. Retrieved May 1, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

Part 3 – Opposing Perspectives Literature Review

Opponents of capital punishment believe in a fair trial for convicts when modern technology brings new evidence into light. The breakthroughs with modern technology have the ability to bring new evidence in on long forgotten cases of death row convicts. The opponents of capital punishment believe that it is a racist act and the victims are being put to death because of they are the minority. Opponents of capital punishment believe that capital punishment cases are unfair to the defendant. They believe that there is no fair trial for the accused because the judge and jury are blinded by the thirst for justice when not all the facts are shown. Opponents believe that capital punishment is cruel and that it is not proper punishment. They believe that it is too much of a risk for error and that is torture for the person to which it is being administered.

Capital punishment has been a hot topic in the battling worlds of politics and morals. Opponents of capital punishment believe it is an unfair to the convict and improper punishment. Capital punishment was started in the United States since we began as a whole. It was the ultimate punishment for capital crimes, back then they did not have the justice system we have now. Today we are not able to create a mob and lynch somebody in town square because of their crimes committed. We have a justice system that allows people’s lives to be ended as punishment but this may be an outdated tactic. In the article, The Death Penalty: Why we Fight for Equal Justice, Andrew Cohen editor at The Atlantic says, “In Texas, Georgia, Florida, and in the other states which continue to push capital punishment, the ‘law’ in capital cases now is mostly used as a weapon — not as a shield for the individual against the might of government. It instead far too often a perversion of justice” (Cohen). He points out the fact that we are moving away from capital punishment as a punishment to using it as a weapon for justice of the people. This is not seen as a problem in some areas, but that is not the intent of this form of punishment. The reason capital punishment was outlawed in the first place in 1972 is because the courts realized it was not being used for the proper reasons and as a justice system for the people and of the people, making it unfair to the people. Opponents are seeing this issue return and is a large reason why they believe that it should be ended as a whole form of punishment all together.

People who are sentenced to death have committed a capital crime and it was so bad that the judges and people feel they need to be put to death. The issue here is proper representation for the accused and making sure they are innocent until proven guilty. We have an issue where the thirst for justice clouds our judgement. We do not see the people who are on trial as a person but more as a symbol of all that is wrong in our world and the people are angry about this. Stephen Bright, the former executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, explained these points in his speech, “They are subject to discretionary decisions by law-enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and jurors that are often influenced by racial prejudice. Because of their poverty, they are often assigned lawyers who lack the skills, resources and inclination to represent them capably in capital cases” (Cohen 2014). The accused do not have the ability to have proper representation. They are not able to actually fight for themselves and they don’t have anybody to fight for them. There are flaws in the system that allow people to be put to death when they have not exhausted all of their options.

This is not just a moral issue though, it is a very hot topic political issue. Candidates are judged by the people on their views on capital punishment. They get asked this question on what they believe is right or fair with this topic. In an article, Shifting politics on the death penalty, published by the New York Times they discuss how ideals around the death penalty have changed. The editorial board working for the NY Times stated, “Liberals have long opposed capital punishment, and now more conservatives are speaking out against it as well, variously describing it as immoral, unjust, racist, arbitrary, costly, and ineptly carried out” (New York Times). This issue hits a lot of spots and that is why it is so controversial. The other thing with this issue is that your views can change depending on your experiences. What we are seeing here is that there are a lot of reasons that people are changing their viewpoints about capital punishment. This issue is surrounded by reasons for error and it is not just stationary to one political party, these concerns are shared across the board.

When reading through all of the sources, there are some common opinions on capital punishment. Opinions came in waves and they change throughout time. Around catastrophic events that came from one person causing harm to other groups of people raised the amount of proponents of the death penalty. The Oklahoma bombing of 1955 tipped the scales for legalization of capital punishment again in Oklahoma. This was because the people wanted justice for a crime. Bill Wiseman, an Oklahoma lawmaker at this time became part of a decision that would change the role capital punishment played in our world today. Wiseman was a new lawmaker and after the bombing of 1955 he knew that there was going to be an issue and he had to make a decision that brought capital punishment up to become a leading political and moral issue. Wiseman was interviewed years after the voting happened that legalized capital punishment in Oklahoma. Wiseman was remembered saying in an interview by the washington post, in the Death Penalty Information Center saying, “Oh, Jeeze, I’m going to have to vote for this. I was back and forth on it. You’ve got to understand, I just loved being in the legislature. It was one of those big moments in my life when I had the opportunity to show what kind of character I had and failed miserably” (Death Penalty Information Center). The citizens of our world believe in justice, they want justice and believe this is a good way to achieve this. The problem is the citizens are not responsible for giving out and sentencing other citizens, the leaders and court systems are in charge of that. When those people in the courts are pressured into doing something by citizens who are really passionate this issue becomes something bigger. The thirst for justice from the people is not enough reason to end a life, the courts have a duty to be as fair as possible and that is starting to change because of pressure from the citizens. This was the moment that capital punishment started to become a strict justice for the people and not what it was meant to be.

The politics behind this issue are starting to bleed through and that is causing mistakes to be made in every way. The flaws can add up and become problematic and in some situations they have already done this. Past president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was interviewed after an unfortunate situation went down in Oklahoma. May 2, 2014, Clayton D. Lockett was scheduled to be executed for his crimes. His execution would be by lethal injection. There was a complication during this process and Lockett was not properly sedated and was in pain after the poisonous drugs were injected into him. He ended up dying of a heart attack after being in pain. The president was interviewed on this topic after he was informed of what had happened. President Obama said, “The individual who was subject to the death penalty had committed heinous crimes, terrible crimes. I’ve said in the past that there are certain circumstances in which a crime is so terrible that the application of the death penalty may be appropriate – mass killings, the killings of children” (Joachim). Justice is a tricky subject in that way. There are limitations but it is also something that every person can relate to, especially in the situation of person murdering another person. Some crimes are just so bad that the people see no other way for it to play out, but that decision is not up to the people, or the victims of the crime. The ultimate decision is up to the courts and the judge and what they feel is fair justice. This situation above was an unfortunate situation but it did happen and now we have to look at the situation and figure out how to fix it.

Capital Punishment has existed in the world and in our country since the beginning of its making. There are flaws in any system though and those flaws have been addressed above. There are different solutions that eliminate the flaws that this current system holds. There are always two sides to every story though.

References

Cohen, A. (2011, September 19). The Death Penalty: Why we Fight For Equal Justice. The Atlantic, 1-14. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/the-death-penalty-why-we-fight-for-equal-justice/245101/

Cohen, A. (2014, May 5). The Problems With the Death Penalty Are Already Crystal Clear. The Atlantic, 1-7. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/we-already-know-whats-wrong-with-the-death-penalty/361635/

Death Penalty Information Center. (2019). New Voices Political Leaders. Death Penalty Information Center, Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/new-voices-political-leaders#p-mon

Joachim, David. (2014, May 3). Obama, ‘troubled’ by flawed Okla. execution, calls for review. The Boston Globe, 1-2. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/05/02/flawed-oklahoma-execution-deeply-troubling-obama-says/fp2SbiEtuS936OZy9NUyWP/story.html

The New York Times Editorial Board. (2015, January 4). Shifting Politics on the Death Penalty. The New York Times, 1-2. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/opinion/shifting-politics-on-the-death-penalty.html

Part 4 – Aligning Perspectives Literature Review

Proponents of the death penalty believe in justice. They believe in having a safe place to live that doesn’t let people walk who are harmful to society. The death penalty has been used all throughout history as a form of punishment for those who commit unspeakable crimes. Capital punishment is there in our justice system so that the people in this country do not need to feel unsafe or feel that this country would release from prison a person who has committed unspeakable crimes.

The amount of people put to death through the process of capital punishment has been lowering every year. Although capital punishment rates are low more than ½ of our population still supports it. The issue we are running into a lot of the time is the amount of people on death row that never get their punishment. An article published by CNN news gave a statistic, “There are currently 62 prisoners on federal death row compared to more than 2,500 on death row in states” (Wolf). This is a very large number if you think about the fact that only 30 states allow the death penalty. There are so many inmates on death row and they end up staying there for the rest of their lives never meeting the ultimate punishment they have earned.

When a man or woman commits a capital crime they have invited in the option of capital punishment into their lives. The people on death row are proven guilty and put onto this list of people in this prison that will be killed for their committed crimes. This punishment within our justice system is there to make sure that the people in that commit horrific crimes are punished and not able to join back into society or to hurt anybody else. George Brauchler, JD, District Attorney of the 18th Judicial District in Colorado, wrote in March 1, 2019, opinion article published in the denver post saying, “The repeal of the death penalty treats all murders as the same. Once a person commits a single act of murder, each additional murder is a freebie. That is not justice” (Brauchler). Capital punishment is enacted so to punish those who have committed awful crimes and to show others that this is not an okay thing to do and you will be punished if you do so. There needs to be a punishment for crimes. Crimes that are unspeakable need to have justice for the victims, and security that that will never happen again.

The justice system in the United States is made to be fair and to protect the citizens in our country. Capital punishment has always been supported by a majority of our country. David Muhlhausen, a senior policy analyst in the center for data analysis at the heritage foundation gave a speech before the subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights, and property rights of the committee on the judiciary of the of the United States Senate. He said, while addressing the subcommittee, “Americans support capital punishment for two good reasons. First, there is little evidence to suggest that  minorities are treated unfairly. Second, capital punishment produces a strong deterrent effect that saves lives” (The Heritage Foundation). The Idea that crime rates will go down because capital punishment is enacted and that will keep people from committing those crimes again is called the deterrence theory. This theory was and continues to be studied to really come to a conclusion if the ultimate punishment does lower the amount of people committing those crimes.

There is a reason that for as long as time the ultimate punishment has been death. There needs to be a reason, a justice system, that is for the best of the people. Paul Muschick, a columnist, reporter, and editor at The Morning Call wrote in his opinion article, “It’s also necessary to have capital punishment because some criminals simply are so horrific that any other punishment, including life in a cage, is insufficient” (Muschick). Punishment for those who are victims of horrendous crimes is necessary in any country. The people need to feel safe and if serious criminals are able to have the ability to be free after a certain amount of time or even to life after taking another life is just not right.

Crimes that are punishable by death known or able to be known by all. Consequences are a part of life. They apply to everyone and everybody knows that actions demand consequences. There needs to be a system where the larger the crime the larger the consequence. Steven D. Stewart, JD, and Clark County prosecuting attorney said in an article titled A message from the prosecuting attorney, “In my view, society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self defense to protect the innocent” (Stewart). The protection of our citizens, the safety of them from themselves. We are responsible for that. We are responsible for our own safety and our own consequences. We need to choose what is best for our country and the people in it that fall victim to awful crimes. There needs to be consequences.

There are a lot of things that play into the ending of a life. This is not a single punishment or something that just happens. There are trials and evidence and so much more that goes into the process. That is because of the simple reason that it is in a justice process and it is as fair as it can be. It is made to be fair and to provide justice to those who deserve it the most, the victims.

References

Brauchler, George. (1 March, 2019). Brauchler: Coloradans should have the final say on the death penalty (and I’d hope they keep it). The Denver Post, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.denverpost.com/2019/03/01/brauchler-coloradans-should-have-the-final-say-on-the-death-penalty-and-id-hope-they-keep-it/

Muhlhausen, David. (27 June, 2019). The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives. The Heritage Foundation, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from
https://www.heritage.org/testimony/the-death-penalty-deters-crime-and-saves-lives

Muschick, Paul. (28 June, 2018). Pennsylvania’s death penalty system should be strengthened, not abolished, amid newly raised concerns. The Morning Call, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.mcall.com/opinion/mc-opi-pa-death-penalty-executions-recommendations-muschick-20180627-story.html

Stewart, Steven. (5 April, 2017). Message from the prosecuting attorney. The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/death.htm

Wolf, Byron. (7 December, 2018). Trump Keeps Bringing up the Death Penalty. CNN Politics, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/06/politics/trump-death-penalty-china-criminal-justice/index.html

Part 5 – Conclusion

Capital punishment should be used as a part of our justice system as it was intended for. If criminals continue to live out their lives in prison and never get punished, the victims suffer, and the citizens of the state are forced to pay to keep those criminals alive and in prisons. The people who have rightfully earned this punishment deserve to meet their end for their committed crimes.  

The crimes that are punishable by death are well known. Perhaps the most knowledgeable one is murder. When you take away somebody else’s right to live for no justifiable reason then you should no longer have the right to live yourself. What does taking away the deal penalty do for us? It makes it so there is no other punishment besides prison. It creates a justice system in which, no matter how large or serious your crime was, you still get to live. George Brauchler, a District Attorney in Colorado said, “The repeal of the death penalty treats all murders as the same. Once a person commits a single act of murder each additional murder is a freebie. That is not justice” (Brauchler). The death penalty makes certain that the criminal will never have the ability to hurt anybody ever again. They will not be able to kill an innocent citizen, a prison guard, or a fellow prisoner. Any murderer should not have the ability to kill again. The death penalty ensures that.

Innocent people are killed all the time, the crime of murder is committed so often that there is almost no shock to such awful news anymore. People are killed all the time and the people that do such things need to be stopped and not allowed the opportunity to do so ever again. LA Airport Peace Officers Association wrote in an article about the death penalty, “The prisoners currently on California death row have murdered more than 1,000 people. Of those 229 were children, 43 were peace officers, and 294 were sexually assaulted and tortured” ( LA Airport Peace Officers Association). Having the death penalty and using it as it is set up to be used now will save lives. As of October 2018, there were 740 people on death row in California (Death Penalty Info Center). That means that many of them killed multiple times. That does not have to be a problem. The prisoners not only kill innocent people but other prisoners as well so where does the line get drawn? We need to put a stop to an individual’s murdering ways for good.

The death penalty has an average waiting period of 15.5 years according to the Death Penalty Info Center. Prisoners stay in prisons for a decade and a half awaiting their punishment. There are 2,721 people on death row right now. That is a large amount of individuals for a lot of years. To hold prisoners in confinement for 15.5 years is no cheap task. These criminals and all of their committed crimes live out their lives with a  place to sleep, food, shelter, and other prisoners. They do this for 15.5 years before they meet their end. Ever prisoner on death row costs taxpayers $90,000 more dollars than the average prisoner. This is an extravagant amount that we are paying to keep these criminals alive when they have already been sentenced to death. The victims families are paying taxes to keep awful people alive that have hurt so many people (Death Penalty Info Center).

There are people getting hurt, violated, and killed. Innocent people are having to pay the ultimate price because another person decided they don’t want that person to live anymore. Something needs to be done. We cannot sit aside and let people die and wait to do something until it affects us. For some reason, unknown to us, some people find it necessary to kill other people and we can try to end this urge in those people but the second they actually take another life, they no longer are free. That is when they become a danger to others and we must protect those people. Steven D. Stewart, JD, and Clark County Prosecuting Attorney said, “In my view society has not the right – but the duty to act in self defense to protect the innocent” (Stewart). We need to take a stand, we need to draw the line. There is no reason at all that a person who deals drugs has the same, life in prison sentence as a person that killed multiple people. It is not right and we need to put forth the effort to protect people that deserve it.

Opponents of capital punishment make a large argument. They fight for life of those who have been accused, and they believe that those people do not deserve to be put to death even though they may have put others to death. They may be getting the death penalty for justice of the people and not for the horrendous actions of their crimes. In the article, The Death Penalty: Why we Fight for Equal Justice, Andrew Cohen editor at The Atlantic says, “In Texas, Georgia, Florida, and in the other states which continue to push capital punishment, the “law” in capital cases now is mostly used as a weapon — not as a shield for the individual against the might of government. It instead far too often a perversion of justice” (Cohen). Although justice does play a role in sentencing a criminal to death, it is not the only factor at play and not even the most important. The reason a criminal is sentenced to death is because their committed crimes were so horrific that there was no other suitable punishment that could protect the people. Cass R. Sunstein, JD, and Professor of Law at Harvard University Law School wrote in Stanford Law Review Article along with Adrian Vermeule saying, “On certain empirical assumptions, capital punishment may be morally required, not for retributive reasons, but rather to prevent the taking of innocent lives” (Sunstein & Vermeule). The reason criminals are killed for their crimes is for justice for the victims but to keep them from committing any other crimes and hurting any other people. There is no reason for a criminal to be able to kill more than one person, that is on the justice system, they need to stop those people.

The death penalty may seem like a harsh punishment but the reason that it is there, and has been there for years, is because it is the only way to ensure that criminals who have been sentenced to death will never hurt anybody again. Keeping those criminals in prison for life is a great cost to taxpayers. We need to be doing all that we can to protect our innocent citizens. Opponents of the death penalty may think that it is used as a weapon and is unfair to the criminal, but there is a line, if you cross it, you know your punishment. The death penalty is the ultimate punishment, some people have done so much wrong and hurt so many people that there is no other way to keep others safe from that person. Capital punishment has been a part of our country for its whole existence and should continue to play its role in our justice system.

References

Brauchler, George. (1 March, 2019). Brauchler: Coloradans should have the final say on the death penalty (and I’d hope they keep it). The Denver Post, Retrieved April 15, 2019, from https://www.denverpost.com/2019/03/01/brauchler-coloradans-should-have-the-final-say-on-the-death-penalty-and-id-hope-they-keep-it/

Cohen, A. (2011, September 19). The Death Penalty: Why we Fight For Equal Justice. The Atlantic, 1-14. Retrieved March 5, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/the-death-penalty-why-we-fight-for-equal-justice/245101/

Death Penalty Info Center. (3 May, 2019). Facts About the Death Penalty. Death Penalty Info Center, Retrieved May 4, 2019, from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/documents/FactSheet.pdf

LA Airport Peace Officers Association. (11 May, 2016). Reform, Don’t Repeal the Death Penalty. LAAPOA, Retrieved May 14, 2019, from https://laapoa.com/2016/05/reform-dont-repeal-the-death-penalty/

Sunstein, Cass & Vermeule, Adrian. (April 2010). Is Capital Punishment Morally Required?. Stanford Law Review, Retrieved May 13, 2019, from https://www.stanfordlawreview.org/print/article/is-capital-punishment-morally-required-acts-omissions-and-life-life-tradeoffs/

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