Abolition an Argument to Abolish Capital Punishment Thesis

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An Argument to Abolish Capital Punishment

Each year there are quite a few people in this country and all over the world who die as a result of violent crimes, and each year a handful of people who commit violent crimes also die. The only difference is that in the case of the criminals, the government makes the decision and chooses the means of execution. Killing is killing regardless of who does it; therefore those who kill criminals are no better than the criminals themselves. The death penalty is an abhorrent, barbaric practice from the days of kings, queens, and sorcerers, and it should be abolished immediately.

Most Americans today believe in the death penalty because they believe it is a deterrent to violent crime. Statistics, however, show that law enforcement does not agree. A poll taken of police chiefs across the United States only a few years ago showed that expanding the death penalty ranked last in suggestions to reduce violent crime (Robinson, 2002). Numerous other surveys show that the death penalty is no greater deterrent to violent crime than a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

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Most Americans also believe that the death penalty brings some amount of closure to the families of the victims of violent crime, but most family members who are willing to comment on the issue feel that wishing for someone to die does not help them heal. The death of the criminal only causes another family to grieve, instead of helping the family of the victim to stop grieving. Most victims' families would rather work on getting on with their lives and dealing with their pain than wait around to see if the murderer of a loved one is going to be executed. Fighting for an execution is a constant reminder to these people that they have lost someone to senseless and tragic violence. There are many issues to look at when it comes to how people react to the idea of the death penalty.

TOPIC: Thesis on Abolition an Argument to Abolish Capital Punishment Assignment

First of all, allowing the death penalty to continue is allowing human beings to play God. After all, one of the Ten Commandments does say "thou shalt not kill," and while it should definitely apply to the person who committed the crime, it should also apply to our government. Most people who believe in the Christian God believe that before we are born, our whole life, including when we will die, is determined. In the case of violent crime, although it seems extremely tragic and unfair, it was that person's time to die. When the person who committed the crime is executed, he dies before his determined time and the government has taken over the role of God. Even those who argue that predetermination means that the judgment of execution for a violent crime makes it the criminal's time to die still have a hard time explaining why they are going against one of the Ten Commandments.

Secondly, the United States prohibits the execution of anyone who was under eighteen when they committed their crime, or who is mentally disabled, or both. There are laws in place that are supposed to prevent those kinds of executions from ever taking place in any state. Even knowing that, in 1999 Oklahoma executed a man for a crime he committed when he was only sixteen, even though the judge determined that he was severely mentally impaired and needed help with his mental problems at the time the crimes were committed. (Human, 1999).

In 1992 a man with an IQ in the high sixties to low seventies (depending on the specific IQ test he was given) was executed in Arkansas (Derbyshire, 2000). The Arkansas man was mentally impaired to the point that he asked the death row staff to put aside the desert from his last meal so he could have it after his execution. He had no realization of the fact that he would not be able to come back and eat it later; that he was going to die in a few minutes. It is common knowledge that the average IQ is around 100 to 110 on a standard IQ test. This man was considered "educatable mentally retarded," but was still killed by the state of Arkansas (Derbyshire, 2000). This was a seemingly arbitrary decision.

People who are children when they commit violent crimes are clearly not going to be mentally able to make the same choices that adults can, and neither are the mentally disabled, whatever their age. While it does not mean that the committing of these crimes is acceptable behavior, it does imply that the crimes of a child or a mentally impaired individual should be looked at in a different and more lenient way than the crimes of a mature adult with an average IQ.

Is this killing of mentally retarded individuals right? That depends on who you ask, and it is an important question because it is one of the most significant concerns regarding the death penalty today. There are people who believe that anyone who commits a terrible crime, such as premeditated murder, should be executed regardless of age or mental capacity. These are the kinds of people who also believe that mentally retarded people know right from wrong as easily as 'normal' people do. These people believe that a 13 or 14-year-old child knows what they are doing when they kill someone. They may know what they are doing, but they do not really understand the concept and the consequences just yet. That comes later in life. In the case of the mentally retarded, who function on the level of a young child, this understanding of the concepts does not come at all.

There are others who believe that execution is wrong no matter what the circumstances. The taking of even one human life is wrong and should not be condoned, no matter what the crime was. These kinds of people believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and that everyone can be rehabilitated.

Somewhere in the middle of this argument is whether people who were under 18 at the time of their crime and people who are mentally retarded should be executed. In 1989, there were only two states that made it a point to specifically outlaw the death penalty for anyone suffering from mental retardation. All of the other death penalty states had no provisions against it, and the Constitution did not outlaw it either.

In June of 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that inflicting the death penalty on anyone with mental retardation violated the 8th amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Since that ruling, 18 states have adopted laws that forbid the execution of mentally retarded individuals, but not all states have chosen to adopt those kinds of laws (American, 2002). Apparently they will take their chances with the Supreme Court ruling and see what happens.

According to the American Association for Mental Retardation (AAMR), the killing of a mentally retarded person is wrong and should not happen. This is to be expected, but they are legitimate and honest in their opinion of what 'mentally retarded' really means. They are not looking for loopholes in the justice system to find ways to classify almost anyone as 'mentally retarded' to save them from death; nor are they fighting to abolish the death penalty. They have a reason behind their feelings, though. Their position statement on mental retardation says, among other things, that the execution of a mentally retarded individual does not serve justice (AAMR, 2001).

For someone to be considered mentally retarded by the AAMR, they must meet three criteria. First, the retardation must have manifested itself at birth or in early childhood. Mental retardation, as opposed to mental difficulties that appear as a result of a car accident or brain tumor, for example, is part of who someone is, and it will usually be obvious to new parents as they see that their baby is not developing normally or meeting the 'milestones' that their pediatrician thinks they should be meeting (American, 2002).

No one who became mentally impaired late in life or through an accident or other tragedy falls under the protection of the AAMR when it comes to death penalty opposition (American, 2002). These people can still be executed, and the AAMR will not try to save them out of a misguided sense of justice.

Second, the person must have significant problems understanding simple and common things, and this must manifest itself in day-to-day activities and other issues that a person of normal intelligence would understand. Moral judgment, reasoning ability, and the ability to handle stress effectively are all things that the mentally retarded person would have difficulty with. In addition to this, they also would have trouble with the relationship between cause and effect (American, 2002).

They will not be able to reason that killing someone, for example, could cause them to also be killed. Sometimes they do not even understand that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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