Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the toughest form of punishment enforced today in the United States. According to the online Webster dictionary, capital punishment is defined as “the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime, often called a capital offence or a capital crime” (1). In those jurisdictions that practice capital punishment, its use is usually restricted to a small number of criminal offences, principally, treason and premeditated murder. In the 38 U.S. states and within the federal government currently upholding and enforcing death penalty statutes, this method of punishment varies quite differently amongst them. It is a controversial issue that continues to be debated and overflowing with opinion and emotion by the American public. One of the biggest issues being debated is whether or not the death penalty is immoral, excessively cruel or inhumane. I support capital punishment and do not believe that it is cruel or inhumane but that it delivers a small sense of closure to the public. After all, aren’t we a society who has always lived by “an eye for an eye”?
According to statistics, seventy percent of Americans are in support of the death penalty, while only thirty percent are against it. These statistics show that few people are against capital punishment (2). With the use of the death penalty growing, the controversy is becoming more heated. With only twelve states left not enforcing it, the resistance is becoming futile (2). Many debates have been made and even clauses have been invoked, such as, the “Cruel and Unusual Clause” that was invoked by the Supreme Court in 1962 (3). The use of death as a punishment has been viewed as “cruel and unusual,” but in further research, the view of what is considered “cruel and unusual” has been reduced (4). America’s method of punishments has been reduced from several extremely painful execution methods, to four quick and less painful punishments. They consist of line of execution, gas chamber, electric chair, and the most popular lethal injection (5). The debate about the death penalty consists in both ethical and religious viewpoints.
Some think that the death penalty should be legalized in all fifty states, to deter from crime, keep repeat offenders off the streets, and alleviate prison costs from the taxpayers. On the other hand there have been some men and women that have been wrongfully accused and executed causing great concern for the accuracy of the death penalty (6). According to an examination of the “Death Penalty and Legislature,” Henry Schwarzchild calculated that if the courts were to “carry out the death penalty for every murder, and then we would be executing 400 persons per week (7). At the same time, this small number of mistakes is nothing compared to the problems society would face without the death penalty. And with the advancement of science and DNA, most who have been wrongly convicted and proven innocent through DNA have been released (2).
The concern of the death penalty not only pertains to social problems, but also to biblical aspects as well. Walter Berns states many passages from the Bible that support the death penalty, but after careful research, he determines that the passages can be interpreted in many different ways. To read this passage from Genesis, someone might think that the death penalty is supported “who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Although this passage seems to support capital punishment, it may be supporting banishment, or in modern sense life imprisonment from society, is also discussed (4). The curiosity of whether capital punishment is Biblical depends on the interpretation of such scriptures. It is an area of religious concern that is not addressed directly.
Despite this ongoing argument, outlawing capital punishment in America could create many unhappy citizens, and cause a...
Bibliography: (1) Online Webster Dictionary www.merriam-webster.com
(2) “Death Penalty Fact Sheet” www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
(3) Don Reilly, Norman Murphy, Chuck Timanus “The Supreme Court of the United States…Its Beginning and Its Justices” Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 1992
(4) Berns, Walter, “Crime and the Morality of the Death Penalty” For Capital Punishment, NY Basic Books, 1974
(5) Description of Execution Methods/Death Penalty Information www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/description-execution-methods.org
(6) “United States Death Penalty Facts” www.amnestyusa.org
(7) Bedau, Hugo, “The Death Penalty In America” 3rd Edition, NY, 1982
(8) “Nine Lives: Myths and Facts About the Death Penalty” www.ninelive.org/myths.htm
(9) Dieter, Richard C., “On the Front Line: Law Enforcement Views On the Death Penalty”, 1999 www.essential.org/dpic/dpic/r03.html
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