The Death Penalty

Topics: Death Penalty, Murder, Capital punishment in the United States Pages: 5 (1694 words) Published: April 22, 2011
The debate on capital punishment dates back for centuries and civil rights activists argue on whether or not to abolish it completely. By definition, capital punishment or death penalty is the just execution of a person guilty of a crime and has been used for heinous crimes such as murder, treason, and torture; and should be enforced more often within the United States.

The debate on capital punishment relies mostly on whether or not to abolish it all together. The question is asked how one would feel if their loved one was kidnapped, tortured, raped and beaten to death. It is hard to imagine that ever happening, but there are some parents that it was a reality. Some argue that it is okay for a person to be sentenced to death; however they would not want their own family member to be the defendant. While sentencing a person to death will not bring a loved one back, it can guarantee 100% that the perpetrator will not be able to kill again. Life in prison gets a criminal three meals a day, heat and air conditioning, television with cable, and a roof over their head. Between 1998 and 2008 there were 775 criminals executed. These 775 people had a combined total of 1591 people that were murdered. These criminals averaged at least two victims per person (Hall, July).

In deliberation of a case, a jury must decide if the death penalty is a just punishment. In these cases they must weigh any aggravating and or mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances are any acts that can justify the harshest penalty possible (Montaldo, Aggravating and Mitigating Factors: Jurors must weigh the circumstances, 2010). Aggravating circumstances can include rape, robbery, murder for hire, and torture. Faith Hathaway was 17 when she was abducted, raped, stabbed repeatedly and then raped again after she had died. Her case was the basis for the movie Dead Man Walking (Hall, July).

Mitigating circumstances must also be weighed when deciding a capital punishment trial. These circumstances include if the defendant was in duress or under the influence of any substances. The age of the defendant as well as mental capacity are considered to be mitigating factors. A jury must also take into consideration the defendant’s past criminal history and whether or not they have been considered violent in the past (Montaldo, Aggravating and Mitigating Factors: Jurors must weigh the circumstances, 2010). There are serial killers that everyone has read about in the news. Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious. Ted Bundy murdered several women in Florida and was executed in 1989 for his crimes. However, there are approximately 1,000 men and women currently on death row in which most people know nothing. Bobby Ray Hopkins was executed in 2004 for the heinous murder of two teenagers in which combined he stabbed them over 100 times. (Montaldo, 2004 Executions, 2004). Currently, thirty five states as well as the US military and government have the death penalty as punishment although not all of these states enforce the penalty. The majority of the states enforcing the death penalty are in the South with Texas and Virginia having the most executions. Capital punishment cases are more expensive to try than life imprisonment cases because defendants are allowed appeals. However, defendants are allowed to refuse their appeal process; these defendants are called volunteers. Defendants may decide not to appeal for various reasons, remorse or religious beliefs for example (Unknown, 2008). Female death row inmates only account for about one percent of inmates awaiting execution. A large percentage of these women are on death row for murdering their husband or children. Blanche Taylor Moore was considered a black widow in North Carolina for poisoning her husband with arsenic. She has yet to stand trial for the murder and attempted murder of other husbands and boyfriend (Jones, 2002-2010). Gaile Owens is scheduled to be executed in Tennessee for the murder of her...
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