death penalty


The debate on the death penalty is a unique and controversial one, however after reviewing the relevant arguments associated with the debate the conclusion is quite clear. The death penalty should be retained. People throughout history have used the death penalty as a means of punishment, and the United States should continue to do so. However the United States should do so in a qualified way. The death penalty should be retained in a manner where the executions aren’t considered to be a form pf cruel and unusual punishment, and the system of conviction is functioning at a level where innocent people are not being wrongly convicted. With these two qualifications, I cannot possibly see how there can be any objection to the continuation of capital punishment.

One of the most important aspects of the death penalty is the “idea that certain criminal acts be paid for by death.” This idea of justice is the central reason for justifying the death penalty. The criminal pays both society as a whole and the individual family of the victim. Professor Ernest van den Haag writes, “that to do justice is primarily to punish as deserved, and only secondarily to punish equally.” Certain crimes, such as murder, are deserving of the punishment of death. There are several other reasons as to why the death penalty should be retained as well, however the idea that it provides a sense of unparalleled justice for certain crimes is the most important.

Another reason is that the family of the victim would receive a greater sense of closure and healing from the knowledge that the killer of their loved one is to be executed. The family of the victim is being faced with extreme grief and sadness over the loss of their loved one. In many cases the legal system doesn’t seem to be just, in their mind, especially if it allows the killer to sit in a jail cell, while their loved one is lost forever. Their hearts and minds grieve longer while the killer is still alive, with the threat that he/she may be released or escape. The execution provides the ultimate sense of closure for the family of the victim, no longer do they feel the killer got away with a lesser sentence then the deceased, and they can begin to move on with their lives.

Throughout the history of the world there has been incredible support for the use of capital punishment in many societies, and religions. In ancient Greek society Socrates was executed for not believing in the gods, and in Saudi Arabia in the seventies a princess was executed for committing adultery. History has demonstrated that the death penalty is an acceptable method of punishment, and that its use doesn’t constitute any wrong doing on the part of the state. The constitution, the basis for our countries laws and regulations, doesn’t speak to the abolishment of, or the illegality of capital punishment. Instead it requires “only that penalties be appropriate to the gravity of the crime.” When the crime is murder then there becomes a basis for such a penalty right in the language of the constitution. However the more powerful language in the constitution dealing on this subject comes from the eighth amendment, and the phrase cruel and unusual punishment. Many opponen!

ts of the death penalty feel that it is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. I contend that since the death penalty was being used at the time our forefathers wrote the constitution, they obviously didn’t intend for the death penalty to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Therefore, the idea of capital punishment itself can’t be deemed a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has also decided that capital punishment is acceptable in the case McKlesky v. Kemp. The only way in which capital punishment may be deemed cruel and unusual is in its administration and the method of execution used. However if it can be assured that its administration is just, and the methods used aren’t cruel or unusual, then the death penalty can’t be deemed cruel and unusual, as its structure has already been determined not to be. I am not trying to argue for anything other then that the structure of the death penalty should be retained, and our nations history provide!

s us with strong support. There is a strong opponent opinion to the history argument, slavery. However slavery by its very structure provides no just reason for its existence, it is discriminatory, and morally wrong. The owning of another in a discriminatory manner is never right, and that is the structure of slavery. So while our country did change its stance on slavery, its structure was so different from capital punishment, that the abolishment of slavery cant be used as a reason to abolish the death penalty.

Besides history, religion also provides a basis for the death penalty. There are several strong indications that religion has today and in the past supported the death penalty. Virtually all, religious scholars agree that the correctly translated commandment “Thou shalt not murder” is a prohibition against individual cases of murder. There is no biblical prohibition against the government imposition of the death penalty in deserving cases, as opponents of the death penalty may wish to contend. On the contrary there is even evidence in the bible that government imposition of death is to be tolerated. In Deuteronomy (19:21) there is a passage that infers the government imposition of the death penalty. It reads: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” This passage relates the notion that the punishment fits the crime, similar to the way our constitution recognizes that penalties be appropriate to the gravity of the crime. In both insta!

nces the death penalty would seem an appropriate penalty for the crime of murder. If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins and crucified among thieves. That Christ be put to death as a guilty person, presupposes that death is a fitting punishment for those who are guilty. God, Himself, instituted the death penalty (Genesis 9:6) and Christ regarded capital punishment as a just penalty for murder (Matthew 26:52). “Not to inflict the death penalty is a flagrant disregard for God’s divine Law which recognizes the dignity of human life as a product of God’s creation. Life is sacred, and that is why God instituted the death penalty. Consequently, whoever takes innocent human life forfeits his own right to live.” The opponent position that religion doesn’t support capital punishment has therefore been found to be one of mythical proportions.

Not only is the death penalty for deliberate killing of a fellow human being permitted, but it is approved and encouraged, and for any government that attaches at least as much value to the life of an innocent victim as to a deliberate murderer, it is ethically imperative.”

The death penalty also serves extremely practical purposes that shouldn’t be overlooked. Capital punishment permanently removes the most serious threats to society. The other alternative forms of punishment would leave open the possibility of possible reentrance into society; the death penalty eliminates such a possibility. The death penalty should only be used on criminals who have committed the most serious of crimes, thus posing the greatest threat to society. The execution of these individuals would therefore increase the safety of society as a whole, something that could never be taken for granted. Many opponents would like us to believe that the death penalty takes away the opportunity for rehabilitation of the prisoner. I contend that the definition of punishment according to the American Heritage dictionary is as a penalty for wrongdoing, and not an opportunity for rehabilitation. This would imply that the initial purpose of the death penalty was one of punishm!

ent, and penalty. Today however, it is popular to claim that punishment is meant to rehabilitate. However, rehabilitation is a modern, politically correct term, intended to make society feel better about forcing people to face punishment. Punishment is intended to do what it says, punish. Rehabilitation is something entirely different and should be treated as such. Therefore the argument that capital punishment offers no chance for rehabilitation becomes irrelevant to this debate.

As I have shown the death penalty should be retained, as long as it isn’t administered in a cruel and unusual manner, and the method used isn’t cruel and unusual either. Society needs the death penalty in order to have a punishment that is equal to the crime committed. History and religion have provided a basis for its use, and as long as it is used properly should remain in our legal system.