The death penalty Research Essay

227 views 10 pages ~ 2590 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

The term "death penalty" or "capital punishment" alludes to a punishment where a convicted person is put to death by means of the legal system. For millennia, various civilizations have carried out state-authorized killings. They are all intended to punish the worst offenders who have presented a serious threat to society and the state through their deeds. (Ingrid, 26). Over time, the death penalty has grown to be one of the most contentious political and social issues, not just in the United States but also in other parts of the globe. Many countries in Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa have all abolished the death penalty, or significantly reduced the range of crimes which are punishable by death.

Despite the progress that death penalty abolitionists have made since the 18the century, more than half of the world’s population lives in countries that carry out the death penalty. These include populous countries such as china, India, the United States and Indonesia. These counties contribute a big number of people who are executed under judicial settings. In the United States itself, up to 31 states still carry out the death penalty (Richard, 18). Though the number of people executed has been falling in recent years, there are parties which strongly argue for the necessity of a death penalty, instead of life in prison without parole, or other forms of punishment that abolitionists have deemed less brutal.

In this paper, the pros of the death sentence are reviewed, and compared with the viewpoints of abolitionists. The statistics for the death row which show a stronger incidence in the American South will be discussed as will be the effect that race and racial relations have on the death penalty in the country. This will all be discussed together with what peers of the United States, in Europe, and selected countries such as Australia, New Zealand Japan and South Korea are doing in order to humanise their criminal justice systems, and what the United States can learn from them (Austin, 47).

Why the death penalty?

The death penalty is not an arbitrary punishment that is randomly meted out on some unlucky people. The criminal justice system is done in such a way that only the worst of the worst are eventually eligible for the death penalty. The degree of culpability is considered, as well as other specific details about the case. For the jury to recommend the death sentence, it must have come to the conclusion that, not only did the person deserve to die for what they had done, but also that there may not be any hope to redeem them (Jeffrey, 44). This means that they are able to show remorse, or to understand the seriousness of their crimes in a way which would allow them to be rehabilitated and become responsible members of the society again.

This is not the only reason why the death penalty has been proposed in so many instances. Due to the political and social realities of the day, some crimes may be very injurious to the nation or social fabric. They may also have an unusual degree of savagery which must be discouraged at all costs. In the 17th century for instance, the United Kingdom laws documented as many as 200 different offences which could be punishable by death (Ingrid, 55). Over time, these punishments have reduced in scope such that, only a few crimes could be punishable by death in the 20th century. The United Kingdom has influenced American criminal justice system more than any other system. In this way, the system has always evolved with the times.

It is perhaps in line with this that the number of executions has gone down as they have especially in the years since 2000. This can be taken as a direct reflection of changing times. As the criminal justice system becomes better, investigators are offering juries and judges better evidence to work on, and more crimes (Scott, 72). It is also becoming possible to punish some crimes with different penalties other than the death sentence. For the time being however, the death penalty serves the justice system adequately as a punishment reserved for the worst types of offenders.

The constitution of the United States explicitly contemplates the death punishment (Garland et al, 49). The Fifth Amendment cites the death penalty as a punishment to be meted on those who have performed such grievous harm on the society that it is impossible to punish them in any other way. At the same time, it is also held that in standard practice, the death penalty is handed down fairly. The jury which carries out the decision is supposed to carry out a thorough assessment of the evidence available (Robbins, 1). Having done this, the jury then decides whether the commensurate punishment for their crime, coming up with the death sentence only if they feel this will be fair in dealing with the crime committed.

In some cases, people have committed grievous crimes which cannot be punished in any other way in the opinion of those concerned. For instance, serial killers who are sane, and who show no remorse for their actions are usually subjected to the death penalty (Austin, 52). In the United States, some crimes committed have had the ability to fire up the population and have seen the people demand that justice be done. Justice is not in the form of a long period in jail so that the person can suffer. Instead, they need to see that the person has adequately paid for their actions. In many cases, this can only happen through the loss of life.

When the issue of what the people want is considered whether the death punishment is mainly popular or not, surveys have found that a majority of the American population supports the death penalty. More than 60% of Americans see this as a legal and moral way to punish the worst offenders (Austin, 66). The death penalty has been considered in line with other modes of punishment. These include life imprisonment without parole or with other added – on punishments such as hard labor. In line with this, it is only right that the majority view be accorded more importance, due to the vesting of the power in the people.

In many cases, the convicted felon is being punished for things they have committed against other people – as opposed to treason against the state, for instance. Such crimes include when a person has raped, tortured and killed another, or when they have generally acted with evil intent and a level of savagery that degrades the humanity of the other person, such as in the case of people who may abduct and enslave other people for sexual favors, before eventually killing them (Jeffrey, 30). In these cases, the society and especially the family of the deceased is looking for closure so that they can move on from the deeply traumatic chapter of their lives. To give them the closure they so much deserve and yearn for, it is only applicable in many cases to apply the death sentence.

There has been a raft of surveys which have all aimed to show that there is no relationship between the death penalty and deterrence. However, the opposite might just be true. In research taken over time across different scenarios, the death sentence has been shown to act as a strong deterrence in discouraging people from committing crime (Ingrid, 64). This is not in the actual carrying out of the executions, but in the presence of the provision that it is lawful to convict someone to death for committing particular offences. In this way, it must therefore be opined that the death penalty is not a brutal and unnecessary means through which the state takes away the lives of other people. Instead, it is a way through which the society practically saves the lives of other people who may have fallen victim to people who do not fear other types of punishment, but fear the death penalty.

Punishment must be commensurate to the gravity of the crime that has been committed. For instance, when someone has taken the life of another, they might be convicted of first degree murder. In other circumstances, there might be mitigating circumstances. In these cases, the individual l has committed the crime, but may have done so in self defense, or even without knowing (Richard, 120). Other cases include insanity and crimes of passion. In these different circumstances, the people who have committed the crimes cannot fairly be subjected to the same punishment. It is for these reasons that the death crime comes in handy to punish those crimes which are not only heinous, but are also carried out by people who offer no remorse, and who may not be helped by a correctional facility.

Why do abolitionists call for the death sentence to be abolished?

As mentioned before, there have been consistent efforts to do away with the death sentence since the 18th century in the United States and other countries. The State of Pennsylvania, among others, has been a trend setter in this; the state has consistently aimed to provide the fairest criminal justice system for its people (Garland et al, 62). In line with this, the state and others have tried to show that the death sentence is a brutal way of punishing people, without there being other ways through which the offenders can be punished.

The death sentence is a most expensive way of punishing people. Surveys have shown that, in many cases court process in which the prosecution pursues a death sentence end up being up to four times more expensive than when the death sentence is off the table (Scott, 88). This means that the death sentence is not only expensive to the criminal who will lose his or her life, but also to the taxpayer who will foot the bill. In an era of cost cutting and inefficiency, abolitionists see the death penalty as a ridiculous way of spending millions of taxpayers’ Money.

Many countries in the world have since abolished the death penalty. The United States finds itself in a group of countries which are not renowned for their respect for human rights. These include the Islamic Republic of Iran, North Korea, China, Egypt, among others. These countries usually advocate the same reasons as the United States for affecting the death penalty – deterrence, and a punishment commensurate with the crime. In the end however, this means that the United States is at times seen as a gross violator of human rights, the one value that it has always tried to portray itself as being the champion of (Ingrid, 78). The association with these countries also dilutes the authority with which the United States can lecture others for not respecting human rights.

While proponents of the death penalty have tried to show that there is deterrence as a result of killing offenders, abolitionists have always held that the death sentence does not in fact do this. The punishment has no relationship with crime rates they say (Bohm, 96). Instead, the action is an isolated thing that offenders are hardly thinking about as they perpetrate their actions. This is especially so when the justice system is faulty. In these circumstances, the criminal may fancy their chances of getting away with the crime by cheating the system.

Abolitionists have also appealed to the moral consciousness of the people who support the death penalty. The sanctity of life is seen as being irrevocable even for the most murderous criminals. At the same time, there is a sense of finality with the death sentence. Even if it is later found that the dead person was in fact innocent, there is no way of correcting the message, meaning that this is a stain that remains on law enforcement and criminal justice system (Jeffrey, 72). At the same time, the United States criminal justice system has time and again been accused of being racist in the way it carries out its work, and especially when it comes to executions. African Americans, who are a minority, are twice as likely to be executed when compared to whites, when their proportion of the population is considered.

What are other countries doing?

Across the world, the death sentence has been evoking emotions and debate. Europe is a pacesetter as far as abolition is concerned. However, these countries have different historical circumstances when compared to the United States. The abolitionist issue is not only seen in Europe, but in some parts of Africa, most of South America and Australia (Robbins, 1). Asian countries however still see a widespread application of the death sentence.

The issue of the death sentence is seen as being incompatible with the pursuit of a just and equal society, in which the sanctity of life and the human rights of all citizens are promoted. European Union and the United nations have all taken stances against the death penalty. These efforts include resolutions which call for stay on all executions, as reviews on individual cases and the death penalty itself are done (Richard, 134). These issues have made the United States feel under pressure in relation to the death penalty, especially since the United States is seen as the leader of the free world.

The countries which still carry out the death penalty may not share the cultural ties with the US as with the European continent. However, the United States has several similarities with China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and others. These countries have large populations in which the justice system may not always work in a way similar to how it would work in a country with a small population, such as Canada or Sweden (Garland et al, 84). The United States has had challenges in its criminal justice system due to its nature of politics, racism and the presence of people from diverse cultures and religions. This is seen in the other countries as well.


The death penalty has increasingly come under attack by abolitionists who see it a gross violation of human rights. However, I support the death penalty. I do this based on the several issues which have been floated above. The most important of these is that the justice system is working properly; therefore, it will not arbitrarily punish people with capital punishment. At the same time, there exist crimes which are so heinous that there is no other way through which they can be punished, apart from execution (Bohm, 106). All together, the presence of the death penalty in the constitution means that it was contemplated as a just way of punishing people in specific circumstances, meaning that it is a constitutional mode of punishing crimes that meet the threshold set down in specific states, and on the strength of evidence provided.

Work Cited

Austin, Sarat. Beyond Repair: America’s Death Penalty. Justice System Journal, vol. 24, (2004): 12-67.

Bohm, Robert. The Death Penalty Today. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008.

Garland, David., McGowen, Randall., & Meranze, Michael. America’s Death Penalty: Between Past and Present. New York: NYU Press, 2011.

Ingrid, Nicolau. Historical Evolution of the Death Penalty Abolition as a Fundamental Human Right. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, vol. 5, (2013): 8-91.

Jeffrey, Kirchmeier. Our Existential Death Penalty: Judges, Jurors, and Terror Management. Law and Psychology Review, vol. 32(2008): 10-75.

Richard, Wilson. The Death Penalty and Mental Illness in International Human Rights Law: Toward Abolition. Washington and Lee Law Review, vol. 73, (2016): 5-145.

Robbins, Tim. Dead Man Walking. New York: MGM, 2012.

Scott, Sundby. The Death Penalty’s Future: Charting the Crosscurrents of Declining Death Sentences and the McVeigh Factor. Texas Law Review, vol. 84, (2006): 15-86.

July 15, 2023

Law Social Issues Crime


Human Rights

Number of pages


Number of words




Writer #



Expertise Punishment
Verified writer

Love the way Robbe works with legal papers. As a Law student, I had to deliver four different case study assignments. If you are in trouble, just get in touch with Robbe, and he will get things fixed for you!

Hire Writer

This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro