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The death penalty is often referred to as capital punishment, which includes the execution of an inmate who has been sentenced to death by a court of justice for committing a crime punishable by death. And in most cases involve assassination, treason, or spying. Although some people agree that this is the perfect way to maintain law and order, others believe that this form of retribution is unethical and does not serve to prevent criminals in society. In reality, it just gives power to governments to strip away human life. Thus arguing for life imprisonment which is more severe and doesn’t cost much. ( Delfino, Mary E.Day)
Morally speaking, death penalty has received praises and prejudice in equal measure. Whereas some believe that for a society to be moral, it must be willing to demand for life from someone who has taken away another person’s life. That such crimes as rape, treason and murder are against the moral code of contact and a community that doesn’t assumes its moral obligation to act on this criminals will plunge into anarchy. Hence justification for punishment by death to those people with no moral sense and in the process honoring the lives ended by such criminals. However those with opposing views are of the point that death punishment is immoral as it has discriminated people along racial, ethnic and poverty levels. As it has been thought to treat better rich people who have been proved guilty of the offence than it has for the poor and innocent. The government ought not to vengeance in the name of administering justice. That it is immoral for a civilized society to do unto criminals what they did to the victims. (Banner)
From the constitutional point of view, both the fifth and the eighth amendments have something in relation to death penalty. But they have consequently been interpreted differently to justify or discredited constitutional provisions on capital punishment. According to some people and institutions like the court itself has at times ruled that death penalty is a violation of both the 5th and 8th amendments. They argue that not only death penalty is unacceptable as it convicts innocent persons to capital crimes, but it is also an unusual and severe form of punishment with unusual pain to the offender. This is therefore inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution as it provides that, even with vilest crime; the criminal is still human and must be treated with dignity. Thus, the clause terms death penalty as a ‘cruel and unusual form of punishment prohibited by the law’. (Bedau)
Those interpreting the constitution to be in favor of death penalty also believe that, the fifth and eighth amendments are in support of the death penalty. As the clause states that “a person’s life can never be taken by the state without due process of law”. They argue that this phrase in itself provides for a possibility that someone’s right to life can be taken away if certain procedures are followed. They further point out that those execution methods that have been termed as ‘cruel and unusual’ have often been challenged in courts but the challenge has often been dismissed. And in a bid to completely counter the controversies in the eighth amendment, the state is steadily moving to more humane and painless ways of executing capital punishment.
In regard to whether capital punishment can play a significant role in deterring crimes, those in favor are of the view that there are proven evidence from government records notably security and judicial records show statistical reduction in murder cases, usually in years following execution of criminals. It also showed that there was a considerable rise in crime in the years or states where capital punishment was suspended. However, those in opposition of this point of view has it that; there is no evidence of death penalty reducing or deterring criminal activities. They don’t see how someone planning to commit murder can contemplate on the possible consequences of their act. Thus, discrediting claims that every execution prevents a number of murder cases. Using social science research findings, they indicated that people committing murder under the influence of heat of passion, drugs, alcohol of mental illness have little or no sense of dire consequences of their crimes. They further compared homicide rates in the United States and those of Europe where death penalty does not exist and it was found out that indeed the U.S has a higher homicide rate despite having capital punishment in place. (Lyon)
Moving on from impacts of capital punishment on deterring criminal activities, there also emerged an interesting debate on if someone’s race has effects on the likelihood of them receiving a death penalty. Those resonating to this, admitted that there are flaws in our judicial system as it is biased racially in punishing and determination of the cases. That over 40% of all death rows has involved blacks, which is nearly three times the general population. Even prominent people including immediate former president Obama in one of his press conferences pointed out that; in this country, application of death penalty has witnessed significant problem of racial bias and uneven application of capital punishment to an extent that there were even cases where innocent people with exculpatory evidence have been put on death row. On the other hand, those opposing it are of the view that, the fact that the blacks are more likely to be charged with capital punishment is because they are also more likely to commit capital crimes. They further point out that there is no sustainable evidence the defendant race has ever plaid a role in penalty trial. That at no point did someone’s race solely resulted into imposition of a death penalty. (Banner)
The religious point of view has also been contrasting on the issue of capital punishment. For instance it is believed that there is a basic Buddhist teaching which is of the idea that if you do something bad, then you have a tone to your own life. Someone taking away a life, must also have theirs taken away. Some section of the Christian community also supports the idea that application of capital punishment in a fair and equitable manner is legitimate.
Some Muslims are also of support of capital punishment and just like the Buddhists, they believe that the Qur’an allows for death penalty in the event a person has been killed by the other. It is believed that justice will prevail only if those who killed are subjected to the same as they are guilty of doing to the victims. It also provides that crimes against the community which may include apostasy, treason or terrorism are punishable by death.
However, despite this religious point of view in support of capital punishment, there also exist religious opposing views regarding application of death penalty. They argue that death sentence is unwarranted for. For example; Muslims opposing it say that in the case of intentional murder, the family of the victim would demand for compensation, or offer to forgive the offender as this is in line with the teachings of the Qur’an. The murderer can only be killed if the family ordered so, and it should never come from the state.
Christians especially Catholics have consistently called for abolition of capital punishment. Their interpretation of the bible calls for redemption of those committing crimes and killing them. The Methodist church also opposes death penalty stating that it unfairly targets the marginalized such as the poor, blacks and religious minorities. Another section of the Buddhists also opposes death penalty by terming it a as a form of revenge. That instead of ending someone’s life, they should be given an opportunity to change. They believe that regardless of the magnitude of the crime one has committed the offender has a potential to improve if corrected. (Lyon)
With also this, in conclusion therefore, my view is that capital punishment is justified. Some serial killers in the society have proved that no prison can contain them. Such criminals have often found their way back to the society either by breaking out or conspiring with high profile government officials getting charges against them dropped so as to continue with their heinous acts of taking away innocent lives. We would rather take away life of a single murderer than have him terrorizing and killing innocent people.
It’s however imperative that clauses in regards to capital punishment are made consistent without any forms of contradictions to minimize cases of misinterpretation of the law. This should also be done without fear or favor to anyone on basis of their position in the society, race, religious or political affiliation.
Delfino, Mary E.Day. Death Penalty USA. United States: Michelangelo, 2006.
Banner, Stuart. The Death Penalty. United States: Havard University Press, 2003.
Bedau, Hugo Adam. The Death penalty in america. Unite States: Oxford unversity press, 1997.
Lyon, Andrea D. The Death Penalty; What's Keeping It Alive. United States: Amazon, 2015.
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