Monday, March 5, 2012

dusting off an oldie: The death penalty

      I don't intend on beating a dead horse with the discussion of this topic. We have all been involved in this debate at some point or another, and that being the case for most if not all this post will be rather brief and informal. The difference with this compared to many others is that I will attempt to raise a more contemporary spin to the issue.All having some experience with this debate, I will skip over the in-depth history and most of the pros and cons. 

There has been 4 major issues (perhaps more) that I can identify in recent history. The issue with the death penalty in recent history has been whether or not it is a deterrent. Research has leaned towards that it has no effect. The second big issue has been the cost of performing the execution, many have argued that it is cheaper to keep them locked up for life than go through the process of the death penalty, particularly the method of lethal injection but especially the cost of court fees. The third was how it is perceived under the 8th amendment. Was lethal injection cruel and unusual? Many studies have showed that it does cause excruciating pain and others refute it. Like most instances in the world, they are case by case. The fourth was wrongful convictions and killing the innocent people.

To skip directly to the point, in the age of time we live in now, with the rapid progression in technology and advancement in forensics, the term "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt"  more true than ever. As we continue to make improvements on our technology and incorporate DNA evidence, criminal trials will become more righteous or just if you will. This will be a transition that will take many more years for it to truly take noticeable effect in our criminal justice system. But eventually this will help (not stop completely) prevent wrongful convictions. 

There seems to be a stigma around the death penalty that it is from a uncivilized time and on another side there is the pros and cons of it today, and if it is a deterrent and the list goes on. Ultimately the problem is, the death penalty is lacking a purpose, an identity.
(excuse the music of the video,and this video is very much so directed towards the pro side of the death penalty, but it doesn't flat out say it, but rather raises it as an ethical question.)
The one thing to take away from the video, is the beginning and the quote that is fronted. The death penalty should not be about revenge as many perceive it. It should be about a just society imposing a fitting punishment for those who have committed a uniquely horrifying crime.

So if you can remove deterrence from the equation and make it about a proper punishment. Remove most of  the wrongful convictions with irrefutable DNA evidence what your left with is the 8th amendment and the cost. Given what remains is that enough to completely eliminate it from use?

As far as the 8th amendment goes considering the death penalty. Is there really a way to avoid conflict with it? I dont believe there is. There is no ethical way to kill another human being for punishment. At the same time I believe it is better to remove bad people from society all together rather than keep them locked away. So what your left with is the cost. A large portion of the costs can be solved as DNA evidence becomes more of a prevailing factor, court costs will in turn go down. The largest looming question, above all else, is do we really want the death penalty gone? We already make a spectacle of the court cases and people are attracted to it every time. So as absurd as it sounds, why would be want to remove the death penalty, why wouldn't we make it into a spectacle. Obviously this a very hypothetical scenario, but is becoming a popular view. Imagine if you will, next year during the Superbowl instead of another disappointing music performance there was a televised execution. How many can honestly say they would not stay tuned in for it? To put this more into perspective, think of a really bad person who is on display, does it change your view at all, would you watch it knowing the horrific crimes of the person?
(if the 3 minutes is unbearable skip ahead to 1:35)
What if it was this man? Can anyone really say he did not deserve this, that it was not just? more importantly how many actually watched the video, is it really traumatizing? No. We are exposed to violence everyday, we have already been desensitized, the problem is we demand it still. To pretend we as a civilization don't thrive off of violence, especially when it is deserved is absurd. Obviously it was a hypothetical situation, but it should reveal an honest opinion on the matter, not just a politically correct view. As said by Saqib Ali, "It is  justice, not laws that cures the society. And capital punishment is the only justice that suits a murderer".

References: ----> worth the read.


  1. The death penalty will always be an incredibly controversial topic but my stance here is that i think it should be implemented for those cold hearted and calculated murderers. Some argue that living their entire life behind bars is more torturous and that death is just and easy way out. I agree that the a person should be put to death not so much for revenge but to keep such dangerous people from ever committing a horrible crime again. The bible also says an eye for an eye, i do think that if you take a life in such a way that you also should suffer the consequences of your actions especially in circumstances like Ted Bundy and Timothy McVeigh.

  2. I am I huge supporter of the death penalty. I think there are some issues with the system that definitely need fixed but doing away with it is definitely not the answer. As far as deterrence is concerned you can find studies that claim to prove the issue of deterrence from both sides. My opinion is it does deter. The problem with deterrence is it is dependent upon rational choice and I think most would agree that criminals tend to not make rational decisions. If one single person thinks about the death penalty and chooses not to kill someone does that not mean that they were deterred? I bet the one life saved would think so. I also say that this is just the argument from the point of general deterrence, there can be no doubt that it works for specific deterrence. My problem isn't with the death penalty; my problem is we are not using it enough!

  3. That first video really did just cut to the core of me! The death penalty has been a huge issue for a long time in America and around the world, we are in a select group of countries that still allow this type of punishment. I do believe in the death penalty, there are just some people that do commit such crimes that I do not want to hear about what they did over and over again and should be just done with them. Is it Justice? I believe yes, when the crime if heinous enough that the death penalty can be issued it probably needs to be done. This has been a hot issue in our society for quite some time and the American public has always been on the fence about it. You do bring up some very valid points on the issue, how we have executed innocent people and that is does not deter people. I believe it does deter people, nobody wants to die and when they do get their day with the chair or the table most are remorseful when they see their fate coming and what they have put the their victims through. With the DNA evidence getting better we are making less mistakes in the convictions of murderers and punishable capitol offenses, and maybe one day we will be able to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt every time!

  4. YES! I am a huge supporter of the death penalty as well. The argument in one of the comments above talked about how prisoners feel that death is the easy way out. In that case, let 'em have it. Why let them rot in jail and continue to overcrowd the prisons when they want the death penalty. The argument I always use for those who do not support the death penalty is this: Imagine your mother or sister was so badly raped and beaten that she wound up in a coma; after several weeks she died. Are you going to say that you STILL would not vote for the death penalty in that case? Or are you going to let the abuser live his life in prison (which may or may not be better than living in society)? Alot of people i know like to flaunt that the death penalty is unconstitutional. They all do until I present that scenerio to them; they all do until it gets personal. We live in a world where everybody has an opinion and everybody thinks they should be heard regardless of whether or not they even know what they are arguing about. Even if the death penalty does not deter crime, it is a stigma of society that everybody fears. The truth is, some people need to die for the horrendous crimes they commit. That is about as blunt as I can put it. I agree 100% with this blog regardless of what my opinion is. It raises alot of great facts.

  5. I agree with all of those who commented I believe that with the increase in accuracy due to DNA evidence we can be more sure that those being sentenced to death are guilty. I do not believe that the cost of housing costs more than putting these people to death. The chicago Tribune had this to say about Tamms "The prison is expensive, costing $27 million a year to run, or about $64,000 for each inmate, almost triple the state average.",0,1641824.story