Capital Punishment: The Debate

Capital Punishment: The Debate
Vocabulary Sheet
to violate degrading entail to revoke irrevocable judicial systems homicide obligations philosophy to redeem (oneself) appeal (legal) abolitionist to concoct humane fortitude vile clamour staggering hideous “serve time” “behind bars” political figure condemned (person) spate (of event) non-binding (legal) resolution (legal) deter atrocious conservative 'readership' to intrude on the rights or restrictions of something humiliating to bring about to cancel unchangeable courts and legal channels the act of taking another person's life (compare with suicide) things a person must do a way of thinking regarding a serious issue to restore one's reputation after doing something bad to challenge a conviction or legal outcome in the court system a person who fights for the freedom of others to come up with, to think up (an idea/plan) civil the personal initiative to do something you believe in despicable a very loud noise unbelievable (negative connotation) ugly, difficult to look at to spend time in jail (slang) to be in jail (slang) famous person in the political sphere sentenced to death

Capital Punishment: The Debate
I. Look at the Vocabulary Sheet. Work in pairs to match up the vocabulary for today's lesson... II. Now split into two groups: Group A, please read through Figures 1 and 2, then answer the questions that follow. Group B, please read the article in Figure 3, and answer the questions that follow. Afterwards, both groups will report their answers to the other group. Figure 1: Amnesty International

Amnesty International Charity Why the Death Penalty is wrong:
The death penalty violates the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It has no place in a modern criminal justice system.

An execution, just like torture, involves a deliberate assault on a prisoner. methods such as lethal injection can entail excruciating suffering.

Even so-called 'humane'

Capital punishment is irrevocable. All judicial systems make mistakes, and as long as the death penalty persists, innocent people will be executed. It is also discriminatory and is often used disproportionately

against the poor, the powerless and the marginalized, as well as against people whom repressive governments want to eliminate.

The death penalty does not deter crime more than other punishments. In Canada the homicide rate has fallen by 40 per cent since 1975; the death penalty was abolished for murder in 1976.

International human rights treaties prohibit courts sentencing anyone who was under 18 years old at the time of the crime to death, or executing them. But a small number of countries continue to execute child offenders, violating their obligations under international law.

Capital Punishment: The Debate
Figure 2: West Virgina University Newsletter

Question of the Week:

Is the Death Penalty Wrong?
THE QUESTION of the week is: “Is the death penalty wrong?” This week, our young philosopher is Kyle. Kyle is a passionate, sweet, adventurous, and friendly 9-yearold, who lives in St. James, Long Island and Silver Beach , the Bronx . Kyle has a fabulous sense of humor. He is a 4th grader at Mills Pond Elementary School in St. James. His teacher is Ms. Laurine.

Kyle's favorite subjects are math and science. He loves to play all sports, especially baseball, football, and hockey. He likes to watch sports, play video games, and play with his friends, Brian, Nick, and Chris. He also enjoys riding his bike, his electric go-kart, and his scooter. In the summer, he enjoys going to baseball games with his dad.

Kyle chose, with great enthusiasm, the question: “Is the Death Penalty Wrong?” One of the reasons he liked this question is that he happened to have been talking about it a few days before our interview. He already had his answer all ready to go! Kyle believes that the death penalty is wrong. Kyle thinks, “Killing a killer is killing. If anyone believes that killing is so bad that the killer should get the death penalty, then they believe killing is a very bad thing. Two wrongs don't make a right.”

After clearly asserting his view on the death penalty, Kyle proposed an objection to his view before I even had a chance to talk. He said “I know some people think that the death penalty scares bad people from killing, but I think there are better ways to scare people. Plus, the death penalty puts people to sleep forever. Maybe that's not even so scary. Maybe people would be willing to risk it.” (Another philosophical question we came close to addressing is: Is death bad for the one who dies? After all, a dead person does not feel pain or suffer.)

As Kyle took his first breath, I quickly asked him what he had in mind when he said he could think of something scarier than the death penalty as a punishment. He thought life in jail forever would be worse.

Capital Punishment: The Debate
“Jail should not be a nice place,” he added. “Prisoners who kill people should work really hard in jail and their pay should be a bowl of cereal.” I mentioned that some people object to life in prison as a reasonable alternative because it is expensive for taxpayers. Kyle thought we could cut down on the cost by having minimal comforts in jail and by using the prisoners to work for the benefit of the community. For example, “they could build playgrounds, pick up litter, shovel the sidewalks in the winter and things like that. Prisoners do not have to sit in their jail cell all day, doing nothing. All prisoners should have a job that benefits society.”

Kyle also added that some killers could possibly change. If a person changed from being a killer to being a good person, Kyle believes the person could be let out of jail (with total supervision at first.) Kyle needed more time to think about how the test would go, but he thought some good test might be designed to show if the person really became good or if the person was just pretending to be good. 1. List the three arguments Amnesty International make regarding capital punishment. Explain them in your own words.

2. What statistic do they use to argue that Capital Punishment is not the best deterrent against murder?

3. What is the other issue regarding Capital Punishment that they make?

4. Read the interview with the American boy. Is he Pro-Capital Punishment, or Anti-Capital Punishment? What simple reason does he give for his belief?

5. Does he think that the death sentence is effective as a deterrent?

6. What does he think is a better alternative?

7. What does he think about the possibility of prisoners redeeming themselves?

8. In your group, discuss his answers. Is he a naive child, or does he make valid points?

Capital Punishment: The Debate
Figure 3: Death Penalty Guards What Is Valued Most: International Herald Tribune (US) March 2001

Death Penalty Guards What Is Valued Most
By Peter Bronson

CINCINNATI: A bulging cardboard box sits in my office, overflowing with court documents. It contains hours of work on one appeal by one killer sentenced to death in Ohio. The box is voiceless, testimony to the

determination of society to show respect for human life by reserving its harshest punishment for those who murder.

As a court reporter, I covered murder cases. And as an editor, I read thousands of letters to the editor each month. I have heard all the arguments against capital punishment. Most are easily dismissed. Death penalty opponents like to quote the Seventh Commandment, "You shall not murder," from Exodus 20:13. They seldom continue to Exodus 21:12, "Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death." Abolitionists say executions are no deterrent, but there is no way to count the killers who did not pull the trigger because they did not want to die. And death is certainly a final deterrent to killers who are released to kill again. Opponents complain that capital punishment is unreliable. But they have not produced one example of the execution of an innocent man since the death penalty was restored by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976. The truth is, opponents of the death penalty have lost all of these arguments. In the United States public support for capital punishment has not dipped below 65 percent since 1976. Anti-death penalty activists know this, so they have concocted a new strategy, based on DNA and wrongful prosecution. American media, already biased against capital punishment, made a sensation of stories from Chicago about wrongful prosecution. Most of the stories did not say, however, that the "innocence" was often technical. More than half the "innocent" defendants were later convicted. There are hundreds of good arguments for capital punishment in every state that has a death penalty. They kill time in prison cells, waiting for a death that is always more humane than the cruel and unusual ways

Capital Punishment: The Debate
they murdered innocent men, women and children. If death penalty opponents stopped wasting their tears on killers, and open their eyes to victims, they might see why it is so important for the state to protect and defend human life by imposing the ultimate penalty on those who take it. But that takes fortitude, because the victims are not colorful, living, breathing defendants with lawyers, news stories and Web pages. The victims speak only through silent boxes of evidence that ask for justice.

1. Is this writer Pro-Capital Punishment, or Anti-Capital Punishment?

2. The writer, Peter, talks about abolutions' argument that 'execution is not a deterrent'. What is his counter-argument? And what other point does he make about killing dangerous criminals?

3. What statistic does the writer provide to illustrate the strong belief of the American people in the death penalty?

4. Explain what Peter says about wrongful prosecutions. What does he say often happens after someone is found 'innocent'?

5. Finally, why does he say America needs to be strong and continue using the death penalty?

6. What do you think about his opinion? Does the writer make good points? Do you agree, or disagree?

Capital Punishment: The Debate
III. Please read Figure 4 and 5 then answer the questions that follow in pairs. Figure 4: Your Verdict: The Sun (UK) Feb 2008
ALMOST 100,000 Sun readers unite today to call for the return of the death penalty.

Monster Mark Dixie, Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright and the teenage killers of hero dad Garry Newlove have sickened the nation in recent weeks as details emerged of their vile crimes. All received jail sentences. But as the clamour grew for the return of capital punishment, The Sun on Saturday dared to ask the burning question: “Do we really want it back?” And a staggering 99 per cent of the 95,000 readers who responded to our You The Jury poll said the Government SHOULD reintroduce it. Their mood was summed up by dad-of-four Brian Steede, who said in Brighton, Sussex: “Why should taxpayers pay for the likes of Wright and Dixie to live in prison? “They took away their victims’ human rights and gave up theirs when they committed their hideous crimes. Bring back hanging, I say.” Our readers’ views were backed by many of the families whose lives have been cruelly torn apart by killers now serving time behind bars. And they were supported by senior political figures including Shadow Home Secretary David Davis and some religious leaders.

Capital Punishment: The Debate
Figure 5: “Should We Hang Murderers” J@pan Inc Feb 2008.
"Should we hang murderers?" J@pan Inc Anna Kitanaka British Born Japanese Journalist Last week, three condemned men were hanged in Japan. This comes 55 days after the last spate of execution in December 2007.

The UN, last year, adopted a nonbinding resolution against capital punishment which Japan and America opposed. They are the last remaining industrialized nations to still carry out the death penalty. Not just an international debate, in Japan too there are concerns whether the death penalty should be kept or abolished. However, according to a poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun, 90% of Japanese people would like to see the death penalty continue, and only 10% would like it abolished. The polls claim that the people that agree with the death penalty, 48% say “people should pay with their lives,” 24% say “it will prevent serious crimes,” 15% say “to stop them from committing crimes again,” and 13% say “to appease the emotions of the bereaved families.” Of the people that would like to see it abolished, 42% say “they should punish them without execution,” 22% say “the nation would be killing people,” 21% say “if there was a mistake in the trial, there would be no way back,” and 15% say “it will not deter atrocious crimes.” According to the Mainichi Shimbun, this poll was conducted with ‘Goo Research Monitor’ and consisted of 1092 responses. Of course, the Mainichi Shimbun holds very conservative views so the results of their poll seem unsurprising—especially if it is a readership poll, which is unclear. Is this poll an accurate representation of Japan’s views on capital punishment? Do 90% of Japanese people want executions to continue? Somehow that seems hard to believe…

1. A Survey was carried out in Britain in February 2008 (Figure 4) of readers of The Sun (a tabloid newspaper.) What was the overwhelming result of the poll?

2. What kind of newspapers are tabloids? Do you think the readership influenced the results? Do you think the result is representative of Britain as a whole?

3. The article from J@pan Inc tells us there are two 'industrialised' nations that still carry out the death penalty. What are they?

Capital Punishment: The Debate
4. What was the result of the Mainichi Shimbun poll?

5. Do you think the results fairly represent Japan as a whole?

IV. Open discussion. Please let the group know what you think about this issue, and ask your classmates for their opinions...