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Death Penalty

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For a moral argument paper I chose a topic that is always hotly debated, the death penalty. In considering the issue of the death penalty, there will always be people that are going to be satisfied and others disgruntled or even furious. Many sides and arguments come into play with this matter. They both have effective points to make. With so many factors to look at there is really no right or wrong side to this matter. The decision is up to each person’s preference. People’s arguments for both sides will be looked at to determine the more reasonable choice.

First off, there needs to be a definition of what capital punishment and the death penalty are. According to Hugo Bedau, capital punishment is the lawful infliction of the death penalty. The United States uses the forms of hanging, electrocution, firing squad, lethal injection, and the gas chamber. Although some are used much more than others, these are the forms used today.

Some of the obligations to this issue involve justice, non-maleficence, and obligations to the victim’s families. The first issue to talk about is justice. If justice is served and the person is found guilty he or she should have to deal with their punishment. In some states that can constitute death. Right now, according to National Coalition To Abolish the Death Penalty, there are 12 states and the District of Columbia in which the

death penalty is not a current form of punishment. Another obligation to discuss is non-maleficence. This obligation involves avoiding harm to someone. Obviously the guilty party has already performed this, so why would we do it again by punishing someone to death and do it again. We have an obligation to not harm anyone more than needed. The last obligation to discuss is we have a duty to help the victim and or the victim’s families. Some people would be happy by putting this guilty person to death, but there can be alternative options to this. One of them is incarcerating them for life and the other is trying to rehabilitate them. There are many obligations to note in the discussion of this issue.

There are many many ideals in this matter. They are fairness, tolerance, compassion, social responsibility, and justice. In being fair to the families and the victims, you can take the bible verse found in Exodus 21:23-24. It states: “ If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” If you go by this then the death penalty looks like a feasible solution. This also works in the opposite way for the compassion and tolerance aspect. Yes, they did commit the crime but shouldn’t we have compassion for them and have some tolerance and give them another chance. With the ideal of justice, the criminals need to be punished. Some say by the death penalty and others say not. Whether they endure the death penalty or not justice is served. Our social responsibility is to punish the criminals, obviously. If it is by capital punishment or not we have a responsibility and our law system makes sure they carry out the proper actions.

The next aspect to look at is the consequences of putting someone to death. One of the consequences is that you are getting rid of a dangerous criminal and helping with the over crowding in the prison system. This is an obvious plus to society as a whole to totally getting rid of dangerous criminals. However, the prison population is indeed overcrowded, but using the death penalty is a very expensive form of punishment. According to Robert Baird, in a 1991 study of the Texas criminal justice system, it was estimated the cost of just appealing a capital murder at $2,316,655. And often criminals get many appeals and their trials wind up in court for years. Also reported by Baird, the amount it takes to house a prisoner in a maximum-security prison for forty years is $750,000. These facts are just to show that executing people has the consequence of a large sum of money to put these people to an end.

Another possible consequence in the death penalty matter is the execution of an innocent person. This possibility is very frightening when someone could lose his or her life for no reason. According to The Death Penalty Information Center, research done by Professors Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet reported, that since 1900 there have been 23 instances in which innocent people have been executed. I do not believe anyone would want this to happen. This is just another possible consequence of the death penalty.

One more consequence that I have brought up is the violation of the Sixth Commandment, “thou shall not kill.” The death penalty is an obvious form of killing. Whether it is legal in some states or not, a living being is being killed. Some people may not have a problem with breaking a commandment, but I would not want to be the one

doing it. If you are a Christian you should be against the death penalty, and supporting it would be supporting breaking a commandment.

The last consequence to bring up in having the death penalty is that is would deter criminals from committing crimes that are punishable by the death penalty. Having the death penalty looming in the back of your mind might deter some criminals from committing these crimes. However, to refute this point, people can listen to a book written by Igor Primate. In the book he has research from T. Sellin. Sellin states the argument of deterrence can be thrown out. Homicide rates are the same and follow the same trend over a long period of time, regardless of the use or nonuse of capital punishment. Even with the research done by Sellin you have to think it would weigh in the minds of some criminals and possible criminals. These are the consequences that I see in having the death penalty.

In this moral question of the death penalty there are really only two courses of action. One of them is to have the death penalty and the other is to not have it. These are the only two possibilities in this issue; it is up to you to decide which side you are on for this highly debated topic.

Now this paper comes down to the question of what is the most ethical course of action. I believe the only ethical thing to do is to not have the death penalty. There are obvious reasons to have the death penalty. Putting criminals to death gives finality to victims and their families. It takes away the chance they get back on the streets by means of parole or escape. The other reason being “eye for an eye”; what they did should happen to them. But despite these logical reasons there are better reasons to not have the

death penalty. The possibility of executing an innocent person is an obvious reason not to have it. Deterring criminals from committing these crimes with the death penalty is already shown not to do much good. The last, and for some people the most important reason not to have it, is violating a sacred commandment. Violating the Sixth Commandment is a major reason not to have capital punishment. After looking and analyzing each side of this moral dilemma the only ethical thing to do is to not have the death penalty as a form of punishment.