Capital Punishment

Peju Oluwasanmi
Death Penalty
Professor Torres
Contemporary Moral Issues
November 30 2005

According to the Encyclopedia capital punishment, also referred to as the Death
Penalty is the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime often called a capital offence or a capital offence or a capital crime. The death penalty is a form of punishment. Philosophers discuss punishment in terms of five elements. For something to be punished, it must involve pain or some other consequence normally considered unpleasant, it must be administered for a offense against a law or rules it must be imposed by someone who has been judged guilty of an offense, it must be imposed by someone other than the offender and lastly punishment must be imposed by rightful authority (Applying Ethics p.g265). The applied ethics issue of capital punishment involves determining whether the execution of criminals is ever justified, and, if so under what circumstances it is permissible. Philosophical defenses of capital punishment typically draw from more general discussions of punishment. The issue of corrective justice in legal philosophy distinguishes between two principal theories of punishment: utilitarian and retributive (
Capital punishment in the United States is officially sanctioned by 38 of the 50 states, as well as by the federal government. The overwhelming majority of executions are performed by the states; the federal government maintains the right to use capital punishment (also known as the death penalty) but does so infrequently. Each state practicing capital punishment has different laws regarding its methods, age limits, and crimes which qualify.
The death penalty has been in effect for a very long time, since the early medieval times. According to the encyclopedia in medieval Europe, the method the method of execution would depend on the social class of the condemned. The nobility would usually be executed in as painless and honorable a method as possible, generally with an axe (which occasionally failed gruesomely). Those in the working class, serfs, peasants, and possibly the bourgeoisie would usually be executed publicly, in a more gruesome and painful method of execution, typically by hanging or by the wheel. Specific crimes would sometimes warrant specific methods of execution: suspected witchcraft, religious heresy, atheism, or homosexuality would typically be punished by burning at the stake. Unsuccessful regicides generally merited a horrible death. A wide range of offences could be punished by death, including robbery and theft, even if nobody was physically harmed in the action. The first country in the world to officially and permanently abolish the death penalty was the then-independent Granducato di Toscana (Tuscany). (
The most comprehensive source (the Espy file) lists fewer than 15,000 people executed in United States and its predecessors between 1608 and 1991.[7] The Peoples Republic of China executed more than this number just in the 1990s. 4,661 executions occurred in the U.S. in the period 1930 to 2002 with about two-third of the executions occurring in the first 20 years.[8] Additionally the United States Army executed 160 soldiers between 1930 and 1961. The last United States Navy execution was in 1849.Capital punishment was suspended in the United States between 1967 and 1976 as a result of several decisions of the United States Supreme Court, primarily the case of Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). In this case, the court found the application of the death penalty to be unconstitutional, on the grounds of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution.In Furman, the United States Supreme Court specifically struck down Georgias “unitary trial” procedure, in which the jury was asked to return a verdict of guilt or innocence and, simultaneously, determine whether the defendant would be punished by death or life imprisonment. Their line of reasoning was further clarified in the Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976) and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325 (1976), 431 U.S. 633 (1977), which explicitly forbade any state from punishing a specific form of murder (such as that of a police officer) with a mandatory death penalty. The 1977 Coker v. Georgia ruling barred the death penalty for rape of a 16 year old married female, and, by implication, for any offense other than murder. In 1976, contemporaneously with Woodson and Roberts, the Court decided Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976) and upheld a procedure in which the trial of capital crimes was bifurcated into guilt-innocence and sentencing phases. Executions resumed on January 17, 1977 when Gary Gilmore went before a firing squad in Utah. Since 1976, 997 people have been executed, almost exclusively by the states. Texas has accounted for over a third of modern executions (355 as of November 2005); the federal government has executed only 3 people in the last 27 years. California has the greatest number of prisoners on death row, but has held relatively few executions (
There are different methods of convictions used world wide listed by the encyclopedia; they are as follows Blood eagle (possibly a myth), Boiling to death, Burning, especially for religious heretics and witches on the stake, Brazen bull, Breaking on the Wheel, Burial (alive, also known as the pit), Crucifixion, Crushing by a weight, abruptly or as a slow ordeal – see also animals, Death by a thousand cuts, Decapitation, or beheading (as by sword, axe or guillotine), Disembowelment , Dismemberment, Disruption (a form of dismemberment), Drawing and quartering (Considered by many to be the most “cruel” of punishments), Drowning, Electric chair, Explosives, Exsanguination, Flaying = skinning, Fustuarium – see also for not always lethal successors, Gassing, Hanging, Impalement, Lethal injection, Iron Maiden, Keelhauling (not always lethal) and walking the plank (if not mythical), Pressing, Poisoning, Sawing, Scaphism and similar methods mentioned there, Shooting can be performed either; by Firing squad,by a single shooter (such as the neck shot, often performed on a kneeling prisoner, as in present PR China in significant numbers),(especially collectively) by cannon or machine gun, Starvation and Dehydration , Stoning, Strangling with silk rope = Ottoman Empire style capital punishment for royal family members (whose blood must not be shed) (
All this methods vary overtime and has changed since the medieval times but some of them are still been practiced. The United States method of determining whether a person gets the death penalty defers according to the jurisdiction, most capital punishment has murder as a crime which is subject to the death penalty, although many jurisdictions require additional aggravating circumstances. Treason is a capital offense in several jurisdictions. Other capital crimes include: aggravated kidnapping in Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky and South Carolina; train wrecking and perjury which leads to someone being executed in California; aircraft hijacking in Georgia and Mississippi; aggravated rape of victim under age 12 in Louisiana; capital sexual battery in Florida; and capital narcotics conspiracy in Florida and New Jersey. Federal death penalty crimes are various degrees and types of murder as well as treason, espionage, large scale drug trafficking, and attempting to kill any officer, juror, or witness in cases involving a Continuing Criminal Enterprise. There are 14 crimes subject to the death penalty under U.S. military law; some of them, such as desertion, are only applicable in times of war. Unless the person is being tried in a bench trial (they chose to be tried only by a judge) the sentence must be handed down by a jury, not by a judge alone. The jury must hand down the sentence at the conclusion of a separate penalty phase of the trial (at least implying the jurors who sentence the person to death were the same jurors who convicted him or her of the crime). Ring v. Arizona 536 U.S. 584 (2002).In practice, no one has been executed for a crime other than murder or conspiracy to murder since 1964, when James Coburn was executed for robbery in Alabama on September 4. All death row inmates in 2002 were convicted of murder (
Various methods have been used in the history of the American colonies and the United States but only five methods are currently used. Historically, burning, pressing, gibbeting or hanging in chains, breaking on wheel and bludgeoning were used for a small number of executions while hanging was the most common method. The last person burned to death was a black slave in South Carolina in August 1825. The last person to be hung in chains was a murderer named John Marshall in West Virginia on April 4, 1913.Currently lethal injection is the method used or allowed in 37 of the 38 states which allow the death penalty and by the federal government. Nebraska requires electrocution. Other states also allow electrocution, gas chambers, hanging and the firing squad. From 1976 to 2004, out of 944 executions: 776 have been by lethal injection, 153 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 2 by firing squad (
The use of lethal injection has become standard. From 2001, only 3 out of 273 executions have been by a different method. The last execution by any other method was the use of the electric chair on May 28, 2004 when James Neil Tucker was executed in South Carolina. The last use of the gas chamber occurred on February 24, 1999 when Karl LaGrand was executed in Arizona, the last use of hanging was on 25 January 1996 when Delaware hanged Billy Bailey and the firing squad was also last used in 1996 when John Albert Taylor was shot in Utah on January 26.The electric chair was the major method of execution during most of the 20th century. They developed a special nickname: Old Sparky. Some, particularly in Florida, were noted for malfunctions, which caused discussion of their cruelty and resulted in a shift to lethal injection as the major method of execution. Regardless of the method, an hour or two before the execution, the condemned person has a last meal and religious services. Executions are carried out in private with only invited persons able to view the proceedings (
The death penalty has been debated for and against by many states for years. The abolitionists against capital punishment say that the every life has dignity and worth, capital punishment is imposed in our society with class and racial bias, capital punishment is unfair, it is irreversible, it is barbarous, it is unjustified retribution, the death penalty is a violation of human rights primarily Article 3 and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, torture and cruelty are wrong, criminal proceedings are fallible, in the US, over 95% of defendants cannot afford legal representation and end up being represented by court-appointed attorneys whose credentials are distinctly mediocre, the death penalty is not a deterrent, the death penalty is unnecessary, the death penalty brutalizes society, by sending out the message that killing people is the right thing to do in some circumstances, the death penalty can be turned into a lethal act of revenge by all those involved, It denies the possibility of rehabilitation, Capital punishment has been used politically to silence dissidents, minority religions and activists, Capital punishment may actually cost more money than life in prison due to the extra costs of the courts such as mistrials, appeals, and extra supervisions.(, Apply Ethics pgs 270-2)
The arguments for capital punishment are as follows it deters crime, it keeps the convicted murder from killing another person, and it balances the scales of justice, deterrence, Prevention, Retribution, It shows how seriously society looks at the most heinous crimes, People who have committed the most heinous crimes (typically murder) have no right to life, The death penalty shows the greatest respect for the ordinary mans, and especially the victims, inviolable value, It provides “closure” for victims families, It is the surest way to protect society from a felon, It is less cruel than prolonged imprisonment, especially under the conditions that might be popularly demanded for heinous criminals, Depending on the State, prisoners spend about six to twelve years on death row, it provides extra leverage for the prosecutor to deal for important testimony and information, it enjoys popular support, life imprisonment is very expensive. (, Apply Ethics pgs 272-3).
After reading and doing so much research I think the death penalty shouldn??™t be give to any person because first of all why are we going to kill some that has committed a crime such as murder Instead killing the person sentence the murderer to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Make them pay for committing that kind of crime, putting them in prison doesn??™t just count make life hard for them so they would wish they never did what they did. In my opinion there are different ways through which you could make someone pay for their crimes such as giving them less food make them work for a certain time, don??™t allow them to a leisure time and if they do just a little bit and they should be watched at that time. If they are give too much leisure time they will be able to think of how to escape and do various other things. ???An ideal mind is the devils workshop???. The jails they have now has too many things for people to do like watch TV, play games etc.and allowing them to socialize all this things make the murderer comfortable, and most times it doesn??™t deter them. A jail should make life hell for the people in it, make them remorse for the crimes they have committed.
Taking another life for a lost one doesn??™t solve anything; I understand the murderer needs to be convicted and the victim needs to receive justice but as humans we all make mistakes and we do live through our mistakes. I??™m not saying everyone that commits murder made a mistake but they deserves a second chance, they deserve to live their second chances in jail; paying for he crime that they have committed. Besides we all human and mistakes do happen sometimes; the same way a person might have been convicted wrongly depending on what went wrong so might the murderer have made a mistake also. If something went wrong during the case and the person has been sent on the death row if after been killed it is irreversible. The death penalty is irrevocable. Although some proponents of capital punishment would argue that its merits are worth the occasional execution of innocent people, most would hasten to insist that there is little likelihood of the innocent being executed However, a large body of evidence from the 1980s and 190s shows that innocent people are often convicted of crimes- including capital crimes- and that some have been executed.
Since the 1900, in this country, there have been on the average more than four cases each year in which an entirely innocent person was convicted of murder. Examples of innocent people that have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death are Walter McMillan was convicted of murdering a white woman in 1988 after the jury recommendation of life imprisonment the judge still sentenced him to death. The case is not seeking dismissal. Another Texas cases during the 1980s was worse. In 1980 a black high school janitor, Clarence Bradley, and his white co-worker found the body of a missing 16 year old white girl. Interrogated by the police, they were told, ???One of you two is going to hang for this???. Looking at Bradley, the officer said, ???Since you are the nigger, you are elected.??? In a classic case of rush to judgment, Bradley was tried and convicted, and sentenced to death. The circumstantial evidence against him was thin, other leads were ignored by the police, and the courtroom atmosphere was full of racism. Evidence emerged that another man had committed the murder for which Bradley was awaiting execution. He was later on released in 1990. ( Earl Washington Jr. came within nine days of being executed for a murder he did not commit. Washington, a Virginia man with mental retardation, spent nearly 18 years in prison, including nine on death row, before DNA testing led to his exoneration on February 12, 2001.Another person is Porter, who??™s IQ has been measured between 51 and 75, came within two days of being executed for murder, when the Illinois Supreme Court ordered a stay of execution to examine his mental fitness. This gave Porter enough time for the primary witness against him to come forward and recant his testimony. The real murderer was later discovered and was sentenced to 37 years in prison. It took three trials to convict Cobb and Tills of murder. The first two ended in hung juries, but the third resulted in convictions and death sentences. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the case based on error by the trial judge, Thomas J. Maloney, who later was convicted of taking bribes in criminal cases. Despite new accusations that pointed to someone else, the two men were nevertheless tried two more times before being acquitted. In January of 1994, Gary Gauger of McHenry County, Illinois was wrongfully sentenced to death for the murder of his parents. Despite an exhaustive search, no physical evidence was found linking Gauger to the crime. After an all-night interrogation, Gauger made statements that police and prosecutors claimed constituted a confession. He was sentenced to die based only on unrecorded statements he denied making. In March of 1996, Gauger was freed on appeal because of trial improprieties. The true murderer of his parents was discovered several years after Gaugers case was reversed and remanded. In June of 1993, Kirk Bloodsworths case became the first capital conviction in the United States to be overturned as a result of DNA testing. Bloodsworth, of Cambridge, Maryland, served almost ten years in prison, including two on death row, for the rape and murder of nine-year-old Dawn Hamilton. After years of fighting for a DNA test, evidence from the crime scene was sent to a lab for testing. Final reports from state and federal labs concluded that Bloodsworths DNA did not match any of the evidence received for testing. On September 5, 2003, the Maryland States Attorney announced that a DNA match had been made in the nearly 20-year-old case. Another man has been convicted and sentenced in the murder for which Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted. Michael Graham spent 14 years on death row in Louisiana for a crime he did not commit. Represented at trial by two inexperienced attorneys, one of whom abandoned the case before the sentencing phase, Graham was convicted of murder in 1987. The case against Graham consisted of three witnesses who later recanted their testimony and a prosecution that withheld evidence of his innocence. In March of 2000, with the help of pro-bono lawyers, Graham won a new trial. He was freed from prison nine months later on December 28th. After 14 years of wrongful imprisonment, the state of Louisiana gave Graham a $10 check and an overcoat that was five sizes too big. By the time of his release, Graham had spent half of his adult life on death row. After spending more than 10 years on Illinois death row, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were finally cleared of a crime that another man had confessed to committing a decade earlier. On November 3, 1995, on the basis of DNA evidence, recanted testimony, and lack of any other substantial evidence against him, a circuit judge acquitted Cruz. Hernandezs case was later dismissed on the same grounds. In his ruling, the judge held that the 10-year legal odyssey of both men defied “common sense (
Each of these cases had a partial happy ending: but other cases are more troubling. For instance Roger Keith Coleman was executed in Virginia despite widely publicized doubt surrounding his guilt and evidence that pointed to another person as the murderer evidence that was never submitted at his trial. Another wrongful execution was in 1990; Jesse Tafero was executed in Florida. He had been convicted in 1976 along with his wife, Sonia Jacobs, for murdering a state trooper. In 1981 Jacobs??™ death sentence was reduced on appeal to life imprisonment, and 11 years later her conviction was vacated by a federal court. The evidence on which Tafero and Jacobs has been convicted and sentenced was identical; it consisted mainly of the perjured testimony of an ex-convict who turned state??™s witness in order to avoid a death sentence. Had Tafero been alive in 1992, he no doubt would have been released along with Jacobs. Tafero??™s death is probably the clearest case in recent years of the execution of an innocent person.
The reason I choose to this is because of the innocent people that have been convicted wrongly, the innocent that have died, the innocent that are yet to be convicted and the once that might die if we still have the death penalty. I against the death penalty because people make mistakes nobody can be perfect because of the police mistakes some people have spent years in jails for a crime they did not commit and even if they are later on found innocent they can not relive their past life which they spent in jail so that??™s one of my main reasons why I??™m against the death penalty. I??™m also against because killing the murderer doesn??™t do anything, it doesn??™t bring the dead back to life.
Work citied.
???The Case against Death Penalty???. American Civil Liberty Union. 7 November 2005
???Capital Punishment??? Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia 28 October 2005
???Capital Punishment??? Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia 28 October 2005
James S. Liebman, Jeffrey Fagan, Valerie West.??? Profiles of injustice??? 7 November 2005 .
J. Olen, V. Barry, J.C. Van camp ???Capital punishment??? Applying Ethics 8th Edition. Wadsworth/Thomason learning, Belmont: CA, 2005
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