Death Penalty Capital Punishment Essay

Pages: 5 (1495 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

While that issue is tangential to the ethical issue of capital punishment in principle, the fact that it also violates another express constitutional protection in practice only strengthens the argument in opposition to it.

Argument Number 2 -- Ineffectiveness as a Deterrent

In theory, proponents of capital punishment have traditionally argued that its value beyond punishment is the deterrence of crime, at least with respect to serious, death penalty-eligible crimes (Schmalleger, 2009). More specifically, according to that theoretical justification, the fact that certain crimes carry particularly severe penal consequences deters crime by virtue of the rational choice model of criminality. In theory, criminal offenders make rational choices in deciding whether or not to perpetrate specific crimes under their contemplation and they are more likely to control their urges to commit serious, death penalty-eligible crimes if they are consciously aware that the consequences of being convicted of those crimes carries the death penalty (Schmalleger, 2009).

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Arguably, the death penalty might be justifiable as a response to serious crime if it were capable of functioning as an effective deterrent, especially of crimes involving the taking of a life of innocent victims. However, the empirical evidence that is available suggests that this is, in fact, not the case at all. More specifically, that conclusion arises from two types of crime rate comparison in connection with the frequency of death penalty-eligible crimes before and after changes in state law to adopt (or eliminate) capital punishment and in connection with comparative rates of similar crimes in neighboring states where one state maintains capital punishment statutes and the other state does not. Those data indicate that the incidence of death penalty eligible crimes (in states with the death penalty) and of the same types of crimes (in states without the death penalty) are entirely unaffected by whether or not capital punishment is a possible consequence of specific offenses (Lynch, 1999; Nagin, 1998).

Essay on Death Penalty Capital Punishment Is Assignment

Furthermore, research into the degree to which offenders were aware of those potential consequences reveals that prior awareness of the possibility of receiving a death sentence played no role in any decisions made by offenders and that this lack of correspondence between the awareness of specific possible penal consequences and criminal conduct is consistent throughout the spectrum of crime from the least serious to the most serious criminal offenses (Lynch, 1999; Nagin, 1998). Therefore, the proposed justification of deterrence fails to support the argument in favor of capital punishment because it reduces that consequence purely to a punitive purpose.

Argument Number 3 -- Global Consensus

In many respects, the U.S. has been a leader within the global human community of human rights and of values that promote respect for individuals and for ethical principles in government and in law. Curiously, the U.S. has lagged behind the rest of the global community as pertains to capital punishment, a response to crime that nearly all modern nations have completely disavowed as a barbaric practice (Lancet, 2008). Particularly in the era of ever-increasing globalization of values and legal and ethical standards, the perpetuation of capital punishment in the U.S. diminishes the credibility of the nation in the international community of nations. Even nations with comparatively harsh penal laws in other respects regard capital punishment as an inappropriate response of law enforcement authorities with civilized nations (Lancet, 2008).


The death penalty is a barbaric practice that has been rejected as such by most other civilized nations to the degree that its continued use in the U.S. undermines the credibility of the U.S. As a contributor to international law and policy. The theoretical justification for it has been disproved because it does not provide an effective deterrent of violent crime. It violates the U.S. Constitution in several respects, most importantly, in connection with the inequality of its application to minority offenders and offenders with limited financial means. Additionally, it violates another constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.


Dershowitz, A.M. (2002). Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age. New York:

Bantam Books.

Kaveny, C. "Justice or vengeance: is the death penalty cruel and unusual?"

Commonwealth, (February 18, 2008).

Lancet. "Death Knell for the Death Penalty: A healthy advance"; (January 5-11,


Lynch, M.J. "Beating a dead horse: is there any basic empirical evidence for the deterrence effect of imprisonment?" Criminal Law & Social Change 31; (1999).

Nagin, D.S. "Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty-first century"

Crime and Justice 23; (1998).

Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminal Justice Today:… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Death Penalty Capital Punishment" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Death Penalty Capital Punishment.  (2012, November 28).  Retrieved January 21, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Death Penalty Capital Punishment."  28 November 2012.  Web.  21 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Death Penalty Capital Punishment."  November 28, 2012.  Accessed January 21, 2021.