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The Death Penalty in the U.S. Juan Bravo English 1010 November 20th, 2013

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. The Death Penalty in the U.S. One of the strongest human instincts is the will to live. It is something people are born

with, and every single human being fears death. It is due to this fear of what comes next that man invented the notion of heaven and hell. It is also due to this innate fear of dying that the death penalty is such an effective punishment and crime deterrent. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 1,342 murderers have been executed in the United States (U.S executions since 1976). This is frustrating for some parties as they see it as inhumane, meanwhile the opposing point of view is that of closure, and that justice is better served this way. Capital punishment is limited under Amendment VIII of The United States Constitution, which regulates which punishments are acceptable or unacceptable, and under which conditions, under the penal code. Amendment VIII is the part of The United States Bill of Rights which in a nutshell, prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment (Eight Amendment of The Constitution). When the death penalty was established, many states chose to opt out of it, such as Michigan, which has never executed anyone after admission to the union (Death penalty information center), whereas other states such as Texas embrace it to this day. Some parties believe that the death penalty is barbaric and should be abolished altogether like it was from 1972 through 1976 due to the case of Furman V. Georgia (Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)) in which the court found the death penalty was being issued in an unconstitutional manner, and therefore found the death penalty to be unconstitutional. It was eventually reestablished in 1976. Many people view capital punishment to be inhumane as it strips citizens of their right to life, and some argue that theres no direct link to crime decrease when the death penalty is enforced (Criminal deterrence research, 1998.). Those in opposition of

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. the death penalty claim that the financial cost to taxpayers to carry out the death penalty is simply too high to justify the continuation of this practice, and that the American people need to stray away from this eye for an eye attitude if they are to advance as a civilization. The opposing view is that justice is better served when a murderer is put to death, as it brings closure to the affected families.

By the time Vicki Haack arrived at the "Death Chamber" viewing room last Tuesday, the man who had murdered her sister Lisa was already hooked up to the intravenous tubes. In 1986, Kenneth B. Harris, a crack cocaine addict, had entered her sister's apartment, raped and choked her, and then spent an hour drowning her in her bathtub. Now, he lay strapped to a gurney in a small, powder-blue room in the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, his feet lashed together and his muscular arms extended as if on a crucifix. Haack stood against the viewing window, only 4 feet from Lisa's killer. As she watched Harris, she thought about her sister's death, and about Harris's family, who stood on the other side of a wall that divided the viewing room in half. Harris showed no fear. He turned his head to the side to smile and nod at his audience. With the warden at his head and the prison chaplain at his feet, Harris apologized to both families for the pain he had caused them. Then he told the warden he was ready to die. Vicki Haack wept quietly as Harris closed his eyes and expelled his last breath in two loud gasps through trembling lips. She heard Harris's sister scream on the other side of the viewing room. Six minutes later, Harris was pronounced dead. After the execution, Vicki Haack said that her family had forgiven Harris. "We have no hate or bitterness in our hearts," she said. "But that doesn't mean he does not pay for his crime" (U.S. World News Report 1997).

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. Aside from closure to families, capital punishment sends a clear message to criminals. It states that individuals will pay the ultimate price if they choose to murder, or commit some sort of heinous crime. Ultimately, the objective of the death penalty is to ensure that these criminals never commit a crime ever again. It is understandable that some people will oppose this eye for an eye mentality and many have said that two wrongs dont make a right. While this is true, this does not take into account that some people are beyond help. They have killed with no remorse, and would do it

again if given the chance. The only reason some murders have been prevented in some cases has been due to the fact that the culprit was stopped, and punished (Erlich, working paper no. 18, 1973). The downside to the death penalty, even to people who are in favor of it, is the sheer cost of it. California tax payers alone pay more than $90 million a year if the state were to abolish the death penalty (Sacramento Bee, 1988). Because this is such an emotional issue for some people and theres so many variables, oftentimes people wonder Should the death penalty be allowed? Despite of all these factors, the death penalty should be kept in place. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to prevent it, and it should be used quickly and efficiently. Many people who find themselves being victims of a crime, usually a family members murder change their stance on capital punishment. This is not due to them thinking that criminals should be spared, or anything under those lines. It is due to the fact that the judicial system is so lengthy and painful. Families are forced to testify many times before a verdict is reached, and even then if the culprit is sentenced to death, the family must wait in anguish not knowing exactly when this individual will be put to death such as with the case of Shannon Schieber, who was murdered at the age of 23. After the suspects arrest, [Shannons mother] and her husband

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. urged the prosecutor not to seek the death penalty. They knew that if Shannons killer were sentenced to die, the death penalty process would drag on for years, even decades (Schieber, The Gazette, 2007). Others might propose making the offender suffer, like the victim suffered such as the case of 23 year old Texas police officer David Roberts "After it was done, we came out, and it

was like, `Is that it?' My brother suffered terribly when he died. I really wanted to see them bring [Patrick Rogers] into the room and strap him down. They should have let us see a little bit of the terror in Rogers's face that my brother must have felt" (U.S. News and World Report, 1997). This would not be possible due to the fact that cruel and unusual punishment, including torture, are forbidden by The Eight Amendment of The Constitution. As much as it would help some families achieve closure to know that the person to blame for the departure of their loved one has suffered like their loved one did, this could be considered barbaric and unconstitutional, therefore would not be a viable solution. According to research, the most effective way to use the death penalty as a form of crime determent, is to enforce it swiftly. To get rid of all of the bureaucracy and to execute the criminal almost immediately once it has been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are to blame. Additionally, it is the only way to effectively stop that criminal from continuing to kill other people. Ernest Van Den Haag, who is a professor at Fordham University said Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive, and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred.


And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks (The New York Times, 1983). If somebody has admitted to committing a crime, and there is irrefutable evidence to back up such claims, there is no reason why they should not be put to death. For instance, there is the case of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma in 1995 where Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people (Oklahoma City bombing, 1995). McVeigh was found guilty, and he was very unapologetic for his actions, which he explained in a letter to Fox News (McVeigh, Letter to Fox News, 2001). Any of the affected families would have gladly put a bullet in this man, saving the state thousands of dollars. The main expense from death penalty cases comes from constitutionally mandated appeals after conviction which involve prosecution and defense cost. This is understandable if there is not one hundred percent certainty that the individual is at fault. However, if all the evidence has been addressed, and theres no reason to believe the individual is guilty, there is no reason to postpone their execution for any longer than it takes to take the individual to the hypothetical gallows. The constitution is meant to be amended, and this is something that should be considered in todays day and age. Once all considerations have been made, and a verdict is reached, the state should give the victim the option to see justice served by their own hand, eliminating huge cost to the tax payers, as well as saving countless days in court.

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. References Death Penalty Information Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from Eight Ammendment of The Constitution. (n.d.). Retrieved from e_note-1 Erlich, I. National Bureau of Economic Research. (1973, November). Working Paper No. 18. Retrieved from Furman V. Georgia 408 U.S. 238. (1972). Retrieved from Magagnini, S. Sacramento Bee. (1988, March 28). A Matter of Life and Death p. A1. Retrieved from Nagin, D. (1998). Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty-first century 256&sid=21103042733953 Oklahoma City bombing. (n.d.). Retrieved from Schieber, V. The Gazette. (2007, February 16). Retrieved from McVeigh, T. Letter to Fox News. (2001, April 26). Retrieved from

THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE U.S. U.S Executions Since 1976. (n.d.) Retrieved from U.S. World News Report. (1997, June 17). A Place for Vengeance. Retrieved from Van Den Haag, E. (1983, October 17). New York Times, For the death penalty Retrieved from