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21 May 2015
Death Penalty In America
The death penalty is a current debate in America that has been discussed since the
start of the nation. The debate is over whether it is justifiable for the government to take
an individuals life due to a capitol crime that has been committed, or if this is an
infringement on the sixth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Is it
moral to allow the government to play God and take another persons life? What if the
crime that was committed by the convicted was so absurd with no signs of remorse or
guilt? Histories of the death penalty in America as well as countless examples of case
studies have provided many arguments for and against the use of the death penalty. The
legality of the death penalty proves to be very situational. Overall, analyzing both sides of
the argument, the need to enforce the death penalty on those who fully deserve such a
punishment is justifiable. Such an extreme punishment must first deeply and thoroughly
assess the convicted felons mental state, motives, their state of guilt and remorse, and the
extremity of the crime committed.
The death penalty has been a source of punishment since the dawn of time.
Worldwide techniques include stoning, hanging, beheading, crucifixion, throwing the
criminal from a rock, sawing asunder, etc. Even the most famous execution occurred in
Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross. What had the most influence on
the start of America was Great Britain. In Britain, the number of capital offenses
continually increased until the 1700s when two hundred and twenty-two crimes were
punishable by death (Reggin, Michael H. History of the Death Penalty. PBS WBGH

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Educational Foundation). In America, punishments and punishment severity differs
immensely by state.
Examples of the use of the death penalty in America date all the way back to the
1600s (Daileda, Colin). Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty in
1846 and many states have since followed them (Reggin, Michael H.). By the year 1966
the percentage of people arguing against the use of the death penalty had gone up
significantly (Daileda, Colin). This may have been due to the focus on the Vietnam War
at the time, which sparked strikes against violence as well as the fight for civil rights that
occurred all throughout the sixties. After courts tampered with the qualifications for the
death penalty, there was a ten year time period where it was not used at all. After a
famous death penalty resulting case occurred in the year 1977, the support for the
punishment went up to 78%. As of the year 2014, support for such punishment is at 55%
and is legal in 32 states (Daileda, Colin). This type of fluctuating statistic illustrates the
instable opinions and uncertainty of the people of the United States in regards to a mass
support of the penalty.
The death penalty is such a heavily weighted and crucial debate in America
because it has such an absolute outcome within itself. Once an individuals life is taken
the action cannot be recounted or reversed. Arguments against the death penalty are
mostly in respect to moral standings. Many people with strong religious values, following
religions such as Catholicism, influence this opinion. In fact, there are 78.2 million selfidentified Catholics in America, which make up about a quarter of the countrys
population (Parnass). Many of these Catholics believe in the idea of forgiveness, despite
the extremity of the crime. People believe that nobody, including the government, should

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ever have authority to purposely and deliberately take another persons life. Some even
consider death row as an infringement on the sixth amendment right, arguing that this is
considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Countering the argument that everyone deserves forgiveness, others believe that
forgiveness needs to be asked for by the convicted in order to be granted. If the person
convicted of the crime does not show any form of remorse or desire to be forgiven in
regards to their crime, then there is no reason to grant them this. This would be an
example of a deliberate, cold-blooded crime that does not deserve absolution by the
In a different case, the convicted may not ask for forgiveness as a result of guilt.
Those convicted may claim that they have no remorse because they truly think that their
crime deserves the penalty of death. So the question is then asked, does the court grant
them their desire to be put out of a guilt-driven mental misery? Or should the felon be
sent to life in prison as a more severe punishment than death? Unfortunately, wed never
know exactly what the felon truly feels in regards to their crime, and regardless, the death
penalty should still be applied when its necessary and fit for the situation.
In a cruel light, people against the death penalty also think that by granting the
convicted the punishment of death, they are in fact doing them a favor. Those who think
this way claim that, though this situation does not apply to all, to live in a prison for life
would be less preferred by some prisoners than death itself. This means that by granting
the death penalty to a prisoner, the government is actually gifting them by not making
them suffer through life in prison.

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A major issue regarding the death penalty is how situational each case is in
regards to the convicts mental state. An example of this is in the case Timothy Lee Hurst
v. State of Florida, where Timothy Lee Hurst was convicted of first-degree murder. This
crime was executed in an extremely vulgar and deliberate way. In this case, Hurst killed a
woman that he worked with at a local Popeyes restaurant. The womans body was found
in the stores freezer, in which it was bound, gagged, and stabbed about 60 times with a
box cutter. Hurst then proceeded to take all of the money from the stores safe. After being
recommended the death penalty, his lawyers argued that he was mentally disabled and
must be exempt from the option of execution. To justify this claim of a mental driven
crime, an analysis was conducted on his brain and the court learned that Hursts mother
had abused alcohol consumption during pregnancy. This proved to be true, that Hurst
indeed had a mental disorder, and in result the court was forced to exempt him from
capitol punishment for the time being and is currently still evaluating the appeal (Baker).
This exemplifies the need to take into account the convicts environment, motives,
upbringing, and sanity/mental state. Which again, proves to be absolutely situational per
case and cannot possibly have a general rule that applies to all.
A lot of those in favor of the death penalty also argue that it would help ease the
costs on tax payers to put more prisoners to death. The Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities reports that, Prisons, juvenile justice programs, and parole and other
corrections programs make up about 4 percent of state budgets, or $49 billion. These
costs have grown significantly over recent decades and are continuing to grow (Center on
Budget and Policy Priorities Policy Basics: Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go? Policy
Basics: Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?). Put this in perspective: prisoners, on a daily

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basis, are provided with three meals a day, a living quarter, plumbing for showers and
using the bathroom, clothes and the cleaning of clothes, electricity, etc. There are also
prison guards that are paid for by the state. By enforcing the death penalty for those that
deserve capital punishment, claims are made that it would help taxpayers save money that
would otherwise be going to prison funds. Others argue that the costs of lethal injection
are just as extreme as the costs for lifetime confinement. Every situation is different and
costs depend on factors such as the age of the felon, but overall the cost for life in prison
is relatively more than the cost of lethal injection when the felon is of average age with
an average life span in prison.
In addition to the high expense of prisons, they are becoming very overcrowded in
the United States. U.S. prisons overall are operating at 99% capacity, according to the
International Centre for Prison Studies (Caumont, Andrea. Chart Of The Week: The
Problem Of Prison Overcrowding. Pew Research Center RSS.). By enforcing the death
penalty when recommended, this will help solve the issue of overcrowding in prisons.
People who argue for the death penalty look at each case as situational. This
means that any decision for or against the death penalty is dependent solely on the case at
hand and nothing before it. This concept recognizes that no two cases are alike and that
they cannot be compared to one another to produce a general rule of punishment. This is
another reason why the death penalty is so difficult to find an absolute rule because each
case needs to be evaluated independently.
The death penalty by definition is the deliberate, premeditated taking of another
humans life by the government in response to a crime committed by that legally
convicted person (White, Deborah). Some believe that this is the ultimate denial of

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human rights. They claim that the punishment of stripping someone of their life will
never and could never be justifiable, despite how extreme the action or case is. Others, on
the contrary, claim that there are people that have indeed committed crimes on such a
high scale of brutality and have fully earned this punishment. Those who are for the
penalty claim that by punishing a convicted felon by death, they are actually protecting
the lives of the public from the criminal striking again (White, Deborah). In all, analyzing
both sides of the argument, those convicted of something in the most capitol of crimes as
well as meeting all qualifications that are ruled by the state must be given the death
penalty. This heavily considers the convicted felons mental state, motives, their state of
guilt and remorse, and the extremity of the crime committed. Upon the guilty ruling of a
maximum rate crime, the penalty of death is overall justifiable to enforce.

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Baker, Sam. "Supreme Court Will Hear Case Challenging the Death Penalty." National
Journal. National Journal Group Inc., 9 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
Caumont, Andrea. "Chart of the Week: The Problem of Prison Overcrowding." Pew
Research Center RSS. N.p., 02 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Policy Basics: Where Do Our State Tax Dollars
Go?" Policy Basics: Where Do Our State Tax Dollars Go? N.p., 14 Apr. 2015.
Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Daileda, Colin. "American Execution: A Brief History of the Death Penalty in the U.S."
Mashable. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
Parnass, Sarah. "By the Numbers: Catholics in America." ABC News. ABC News
Network, 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 20 May 2015.
Reggin, Michael H. "History of the Death Penalty." PBS. WGBH Educational
Foundation, 2014. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.
White, Deborah. "Pros & Cons of the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment." About
News. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.