Death Penalty

Topics: Death Penalty, Crime, Murder Pages: 5 (1204 words) Published: March 6, 2015
Yian Feng
Professor Hammons
18 July 2013
Death Penalty
Death Penalty, also known as capital punishment, refers to an execution based on the legal powers to end a criminal’s life. It is the severest penalty in the world, which was widely accepted in the past. However, with the development of social civilization in our modern life, the majority of countries have begun to abolish capital punishment including some states of the United States. Whereas China still retains the death penalty for murder and other serious crimes. So I am interested in this topic, and I will put forth the arguments in different sides, give my opinions of the issue and come to a conclusion.

Nowadays, the subject that whether the death penalty should be abolished has become one of the most controversial topics all over the world. Opinions vary from person to person resulting from different perspectives, such as morality, religion and society. Many people believe that the death penalty is inhuman. Others take the attitude that it is necessary to retain it to deter crime and “give criminals what they deserve.” My paper will analyze the arguments between Carol S. Steiker and Cass R. Sunsteins and Adrian Vermeule in terms of morality and argue for my own opinion on the issue.

(Yes) Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule -- Is Capital Punishment Morally Required?
Cass and Adrian’s argument is based on the evidence that the death penalty, which requires a life-life tradeoff, has a powerful and deterrent effect. They suggest, “On certain empirical assumptions, capital punishment may be morally required, not for retributive reasons, but rather to prevent the taking of innocent lives”(Sunstein, 705). They offer readers a series of recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment to emphasize their point. For instance, the murder rate in U.S. counties was sharply reduced because of both death sentences and executions between 1977 and 1996. In addition, they assert that even the capital punishment has no deterrent effect; it saves innocent lives from those who would kill again in the future.

Both Cass and Adrian feel that it is government’s moral duty to protect people against private violence, and that death penalty is morally obligatory for governments. Moreover, they argue against the unfair administration resulted from arbitrary sentence of death. Their argument points that “reforming the existing system to increase accuracy and decrease arbitrariness” can make capital punishment morally acceptable for some people (Sunstein, 729). In conclusion, they think capital punishment can be not only morally permissible but also morally obligatory.

(No) Carol S. Steiker – No, Capital Punishment Is Not Morally Required
As an opponent of capital punishment, Carol’s argument is that private murders are not equal to executions, which is considered as a moral matter. He thinks the life-life tradeoffs made by government are also risking lives and purposing to take lives. He states that “this moral equivalence in the treatment of lives does not obtain; the government knowingly or recklessly loses or takes lives by not executing, but it purposefully takes lives by executing” (Steiker, 757). He lays out three failures that the death penalty has, which are proportionality, equality and dignity. First of all, Carol argues that suffering cause by capital punishment fails to be proportional in some special circumstances. For example, he feels that some murders, who are suffering from some mental illness, intellectual limited or drug addiction, are considered not deserved this extreme punishment of death. The second flaw put forward by Carol, is the death sentence’s lack of racial equality in the administration. In other words, it fails to equally value on the deaths of the black victims and on those of the white victims in similar cases. As a matter of fact, compared to white defendants, black defendants are more...

References: Satris, S. (2012). Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Moral Issues. New York City: McGraw Hill.
Steiker, Carol. "No, Capital Punishment Is Not Morally Required: Deterrence, Deontology, and the Death Penalty." Stanford Law Review. 58.3 (2005): 751-789. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. .
Sunstein, Cass, and Adrian Vermeule . "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions, and Life-Life Tradeoffs." Stanford Law Review. 58.3 (2005): 703-750. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. .
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