The Death Penalty: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?

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The most extreme sentence a convicted person can receive is that of death. This form of justice is referred to as capital punishment, more commonly known as the death penalty. It has been banned in many nations, such as Canada, but is still present in various states throughout America as well as in other countries. A person who is sentenced to death has usually committed a serious crime. Take for example first degree murder, which constitutes that the act was premeditated. In these cases, it is perceived that there is no other punishment available which fits the crime committed. The death penalty is viewed as barbaric and cruel by some, but to others it is just and fitting. For advocators of the death penalty, capital punishment falls in line with lex talionis, the law of retaliation, which consists of the “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” mentality. If someone kills a person, they themselves should be killed. However, these feelings face a considerable amount of criticism and opposition. Many strong arguments are made by both sides on this controversial issue, but reasons which oppose the death penalty are more convincing to this author. The flaws of the legal systems application of capital punishment are, but not limited to, the fact that it is arbitrary, unfair, costs more once everything is taken into account, and does not act as a powerful deterrent of crime. For these reasons and more, the death penalty should be abolished from every country around the world. Whether it is intentional or not, the death penalty is administered in an arbitrary manner. A first criticism of how capricious the law is, with respect to the death penalty, can be seen right from the beginning of the process. In a given court case, it is the prosecutor who has the option of seeking the death penalty or not. Therefore, there is no direct formula in determining when exactly to use capital punishment, making it fairly random at times. Furthermore, according to Amnesty International USA (2007), “local politics, the location of the crime, plea bargaining and pure chance” can all play a role in deciding whether the death penalty is brought into play. This means that there are various external factors which may alter how a given case proceeds. In fact, many politicians tend to brag about how many bodies get piled up from executions in their respective state, promising more in the future, in hopes of winning an upcoming election campaign (Mulvey-Roberts, 2007; 7). Coincidentally, former governor of Texas and current American president George W. Bush holds the record for having personally signed more than one hundred death warrants (Mulvey-Roberts, 2007; 7). In addition to the above, by looking at the bar graph provided by Amnesty International USA (Fig.1- Appendix), on the number of executions since 1977 by region, one can start to see that location really matters when dealing with capital punishment. In the United States, the majority of death sentences are administered by the Southern States. This area is also conveniently tagged the “death belt” (Mulvey-Roberts; 5). Proponents of the death penalty could reason that these findings can be explained by the mere fact that many Northern States have abolished the death penalty. This, however, would negate the fact that Texas, in combination with Virginia, has had more executions than the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, West and Midwest regions combined. Moreover, of the total number of offences appearing in court, which qualify for the administration of the death penalty, only a moderate proportion have the death penalty sought after as a possible sentence. If such a flaw can exist, where people pick and choose when to administer the death penalty, then such a sentence can truly be deemed arbitrary. In his book, Killing as Punishment: Reflections of the Death Penalty in America, Hugo Adam Bedau (2004) writes that if the death penalty “is to be taken seriously, then death must be understood to be...
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