Death Penalty. This Is Accomplished by Studying Term Paper

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¶ … death penalty. This is accomplished by studying different viewpoints in comparison with select ethical theories. Once this takes place, is when we are able to offer specific insights that are showing how these ideas are influencing the views of an individual (when it comes to this issue).

Over the decades, the death penalty has been continually debated based on moral and ethical grounds. This has caused the legal system to go from one extreme to the other depending upon how different morals are applied. A good example of this can be seen with the death penalty declared as unconstitutional during the 1970s (only to be reinstated a few years later). Since this time many proponents have claimed that this will serve as a deterrent for others in the future. This has led to a push in the majority of states to use the death penalty as way to punish the most hardened criminal offenders. (Harman, 2004, pg. 225) However, a number of high profile cases have been reported showing how innocent people were on death row.

A good example of this can be seen with Randal Dale Adams. He was convicted of murdering a Dallas police officer in 1977 and was sentenced to death. After sitting in jail for 12 years, new evidence emerged that ruled out Adams as a suspect (which led to his release from prison in 1989). ("Randal Dale Adams," 2006) This is significant in showing how the legal system can make mistakes. Utilizing the death penalty can make the situation more confusing once evidence is presented to prove someone innocent. As a result, a new debate has emerged as to if the death penalty should be abolished. To determine this requires examining both sides of the issue. The way that this will be accomplished is carefully examining the pros and cons of using the death penalty. Once this happens, is when we can offer specific insights as to how morality is continually reshaping this debate.

Overview of what the death penalty is and what type of crimes get sentenced with the death penalty

The death penalty is when someone is sentenced to die for some kind of capital crime that was committed. The different kinds of offenses that fall into this category include: various form murder, espionage / treason and terrorism. This is important, because these categories are providing a broad range of what is considered to be acceptable sentences (based upon the seriousness of the crime). ("Federal Laws Providing for the Death Penalty," 2012) as a result, the use and applications of these guidelines are continuing to fuel debate as to how the death penalty should be applied.

Pros of the death penalty

According to proponents of the death penalty, this is a way of effectively deterring crime from occurring. What happens is that when criminals realize that they could face the death penalty is the point that they will have second thoughts. The reason why, is because they know that if they are arrested and charged with a particular crime (such as murder). There is the possibility of having this kind of sentence handed down (if they are convicted). This is when criminals will think twice about these kinds of activities. ("Pro Death Penalty," 2011) One of the leading proponents on the issue who is supporting these viewpoints is Ernst Van Den Haag (a law professor at Fordham University) who said, "Common sense, lately bolstered by statistics, tells us that the death penalty will deter murder. People fear nothing more than death. Therefore, nothing will deter a criminal more than the fear of death life in prison is less feared. Murderers clearly prefer it to execution otherwise; they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death. Therefore, a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence. And we must execute murderers as long as it is merely possible that their execution protects citizens from future murder." ("Top 10 Pros and Cons," 2012) This is significant, in showing how many proponents believe that the death penalty will prevent murders and other serious crimes in the future.

Evidence of this can be seen with a study that was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. They found that in the period after the suspension of the death penalty (from 1972 to 1976) that murder rates increased 131%. Moreover, a 2003 study found that the death penalty led to a reduction in 18 murders. This is important, in showing how proponents are correct in that the death penalty will serve as a deterrent for murder and other serious crimes. The main reason why is that everyone knows what will happen (which will force criminals to think about the consequences of their actions). ("Pro Death Penalty," 2011)

Conclusion of why the death penalty is needed

The biggest reason why the death penalty is needed is to serve as a deterrent for criminals. This is because they will know the impact of what their actions will mean. The basic ethical theory that is justifying these kinds of views for proponents is based upon consequentialism. This is when the right action is determined based upon the greatest amount of good that are generated. In this case, proponents would argue that while murder is wrong. The death penalty will serve as a deterrent by allowing criminals to see that they will pay the ultimate price for their actions. This is when they will think twice about engaging in certain crimes (leading to a reduction in the number of series offenses). Over the course of time, this will allow the public to feel safer (resulting in greatest amounts of good). This is important, in showing how the death penalty can serve as a deterrent. ("Ethical Theories Compared," 2001)

Cons of the death penalty

To counter these arguments many opponents will have a number of different opinions about the death penalty to include: it is a moral question of government power and it is considered to be cruel in nature. As far as the question of government power is concerned, opponents will argue that the death penalty is based on the government having the ability to legally executive prisoners. This is against the basic provisions of American society (which is founded on the premise of respecting life). The death penalty is the government abusing this authority by taking actions against someone for a crime that they committed. The fact that the government is murdering the criminal makes them no better than the actual perpetrator. This is significant, in showing how the death penalty is rejected by opponents based on the fact that it is violating a basic tenant in society (the right to life).

The way that the death penalty is considered to be cruel in nature is the way various executions are conducted. In these kinds of situations, the U.S. Constitution states no cruel or unusual punishment. However, when someone is being executed is the point that they will be subject to tremendous amounts of pain and will often suffer before dying. Evidence of this can be seen with comments from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan who wrote, "Death is an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity. The fatal constitutional infirmity in the punishment of death is that it treats 'members of the human race as nonhumans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded. It is inconsistent with the fundamental premise of the Clause that even the vilest criminal remains a human being possessed of common human dignity. As such it is a penalty that 'subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed. I therefore would hold, on that ground alone, that death is today a… [end of preview; READ MORE]

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