Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment Essay
Awarding death penalty to the convicts of capital crimes has always been a topic for heated debates at the international level for a long time since the evolution of civilized societies. Different religions and socio-ethical concerns of some regions of the world criticize the practice of imposing death sentence to culprits for the reason that life is a divine gift of God and men had no right to take it legally or illegally. Certain political and cultural thoughts also decline the proposal for executing the capital punishment for the reason that this system of punishment can cause disastrous implications on economic and ethical values of the society. Even from the perspective of human rights, it has to be seen that death penalty is an absolute denial of the convict’s personal transformation into a good individual. However, there are many arguments that support death penalty with evidences for its deterrence effect in alleviating the occurrences of capital crimes. From the detailed analysis, the support for granting death penalty looks inappropriate for many reasons.
Death sentence initially originated as a mode of punishment to eliminate offenses and to impose the royalty of kings in the early past. Studies by Garland et al indicate that death penalty was exercised by emerging state authorities in the early modern age as a means to their state building efforts (30). The range of crimes that attract capital punishment varies according to the constitution or federal law of different countries. For instance, India and the US consider murder and treason as capital offenses; while China awards death penalty for human trafficking also. Muslim nations have identified sexual offenses, murder and disrespect to Islam as punishable with death sentence. The known-to-be strict Islamic laws were enforced without mercy for the culprit except for the victims pardon. According to Schabas, punishments under the Islamic laws are executed without the spirit of taking vengeance or inflicting torture on the convict (86). In military of most countries, death penalty is attracted by the acts like exhibition of cowardice or insubordination to official commands. The officiating efforts for generalizing capital punishment were initiated by the early British government which awarded death penalty even for excusable crimes like theft or stealing cattle and petty things. Under these circumstances in which there was no specific and unanimous definition for the capital crimes, how can you support this system of punishment in the modern society which had a primitive origin?
Criminal justice system in most countries guarantees individuals to have their time to prove their innocence before the court of law. Although there are arbitrations to evaluate the factors and reasons related to a capital crime, there are various chances for the manipulation of the literature related to each case. In such contexts, several innocent individuals may be incriminated for the vested interest of the real culprits. Apart from this, a major share of failure of justice can be attributed to the failure of defense counsel to produce strong defensive arguments at the time of trial. Greg Wilhoit (as qtd in Vollertsen) has such a saddening story of being wrongly sentenced for an uncommitted crime of murder of his wife for which he had to spend around eight years in prison until he was acquitted. Several such issues in which the adjudicators are forced to declare their verdict on behalf of the given material evidences and witness reports create a fierce outlook of the justice system. As the legal implications of the verdict are confined to the strength of the arguments with solid evidences at the court, the judges may be easily misguided by clever advocates of the prosecution side whereby throwing innocent souls to gallows.
Death penalty cannot easily be conceived as a perfect model of dealing with extreme criminalities in the present context owing to the concern for human rights. Several organizations are of the view that punishment should, by all means, be a corrective measure to redirect the path of a culprit to the socially acceptable way of life. However, there can also be situations where a culprit repeatedly committing major offenses. In such cases, the deterrent effect of death penalty is promisingly enough to guide societies to the path of morality either by fear or by force. Certain studies like that of Marquis reveals that there is contrasting proportion of homicide rates where death penalty prevalent states experienced less murder cases than abolitionist states (194). However, as a counter argument, there can be several situations in which an individual forcibly turning violent or inheriting criminal tendencies from his own family tracks. A momentary act of extreme violence may also attract a person the fitness of capital punishment. Moreover, there are no reliable data to prove that death sentence has ever reduced capital crimes in any community. Considering all these factors, many legal experts believe that death penalty is not the optimum solution for alleviation of capital offenses. In a press release a former prosecutor Stallworth explains death penalty as an ineffective model of punishment which only creates a vicious cycle of violence and instead, he proposes that the measures be taken for preventing crimes before they are committed. Apart from this, the extended trial period and procedures of execution consume a large amount of public fund whereby proving most of such death penalty issues as a gross capital loss to the country. Also, in some cases, the enthusiasm showed by certain prosecutors in the argument for capital punishment to the convicted offenders castes shadows of inferior quality of criminal justice system in many countries. According to a press release, largely prevalent racial bias in case of trials of minority defendants charged with capital crimes increase the chances of them attracting death sentence if the victim belonged to whites (Death Penalty Information Center).
In a single line, the compulsion of the judiciary to award death penalty in any case reflects the constitutional failure to mould the citizens of a country through proper guidance. Moreover, it is important to see that death penalty only serves as a tool for the abolition of an individual rather than his criminal background from the world. The major pros of the death penalty may be the effect of deterrence and the increased social security for citizens; however, when considering the factors of human rights and the wastage of public money for the trial of many cases, it may be seen that this punishment may be reduced to life sentence. Repeated involvements of criminal activities occur only when the culprit becomes psychologically tuned for doing that; therefore, it is the criminal justice system that has to see that such individuals are preventively detained for life.
Death Penalty Information Center. “Editorials: New York Times recommends all states to follow connecticut’s lead.” (2012). Web. 24 April 2012.
Garland, David, McGowen, Randall & Meranze, Michael. “Models of capital punishment: The death penalty in historical perspective.” In America's Death Penalty: Between Past and Present. New York: New York University Press, 2011. Print.
Marquis, Joshua K. “Truth and consequences: The penalty of death.” Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make their Best Case. Hugo Adam Bedau & Paul G. Gassell (Eds). New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Stallworth, Darryl. “Former prosecutor acknowledges death penalty p[erpetuates vicious cycle of violence.” Death Penalty. (n.d). Web. 24 April 2012.
Schabas, William. War Crimes and Human Rights: Essays on the Death Penalty, Justice and Accountability. London: Cameron May, 2008. Print.
Vollertsen, Nancy. “Innocent and condemned ti die: The story of Greg Wilhoit.” Death Penalty. (n.d). Web. 24 April 2012.