Research Proposal: Morality of Capital Punishment

Pages: 5 (1450 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Morality of Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is a very morally divisive issue, because there are strong moral arguments in support and in opposition of capital punishment. The taking of a human life is one of the most basic taboos in any society. Despite that basic taboo, capital punishment has been an accepted form of punishment in almost every society until very modern times. In fact, it is only within the last century that capital punishment has fallen out of favor in much of the Western world. There are several different moral questions that arise when one discusses capital punishment. Of course, the first question is: is it ever morally appropriate to order the death of another human being? This question is almost always answered in the affirmative, because almost all human beings recognize a moral right to self-defense. The second question is: when is it appropriate to order the death of another human being? The answers to this question vary tremendously among cultures and peoples. Some societies feel that the death penalty is appropriate for a wide variety of offenses; some societies feel that the death penalty is only appropriate if the perpetrator has committed a murder, and some societies feel that the death penalty is never appropriate. The third question is: is it moral for the state to require its employees to participate in the death process? At first blush, this seems like a clear-cut issue because, ostensibly, the executioner knows what his job will be and consents to take that job. However, there are many state actors besides the executioner that can play a role in the executions, and they may not realize that when they take their jobs. Finally, the fourth question is: what role should victims' families play in determining whether or not a perpetrator gets the death penalty. Many people strongly feel someone who has killed one of their loved ones deserves death, but there are also a number of people who strongly believe in mercy.

I think that all but the most polarized people can understand arguments for and against the death penalty. While death penalty opponents may dismiss the death penalty as a vengeance-based punishment, most of them will acknowledge that the desire for vengeance is a very human desire. Moreover, while death penalty advocates may firmly believe that killers lose their right to ask for mercy, they cannot ignore the fact that using a criminal's behavior to set the standards for what is or is not morally correct cannot possibly elevate the United States as a society. However, before delving more deeply into the arguments both for and against the death penalty, in theory, it is important to look at the reality of how the death penalty is applied in the United States, because it differs greatly from the theoretical reality. Whether one feels that capital punishment is a moral imperative or morally reprehensible, the fact that disproportionate numbers of minorities and impoverished citizens receive the death penalty is disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that victim characteristics greatly influence who gets the death penalty; killers of adult white males are far more likely to receive the death penalty than those who murder members of any other group. That fact is actually counter-intuitive. Because adult white males are the most privileged group in American society, one would expect there to be some paternalistic protectionism extended to white females and children, if to no other groups. However, child killers, especially relatives of the children, generally serve relatively short prison sentences and are rarely ever sentenced to death for the murder of a single child.

Furthermore, despite the ample legal protections that people believe are built into the death-penalty process, the reality is that innocent people are executed. Actual innocence projects have proven the innocence of at least one executed man, and the state of Texas recently executed a man despite reports by the state's own investigative board, which implicated a crime lab in creating false evidence against the defendant. Whether or not he was actually innocent was unknown, but the fact that there was a colorable question about his guilt did not prevent the state from executing him. As current U.S. law stands, actual innocence is not grounds for reversal of any conviction, much less a death sentence, as long as the defendant received substantive… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Morality of Capital Punishment.  (2009, December 4).  Retrieved September 17, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Morality of Capital Punishment."  4 December 2009.  Web.  17 September 2019. <>.

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"Morality of Capital Punishment."  December 4, 2009.  Accessed September 17, 2019.