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Kanyon King

Professor Julia Ellis

CJ 1010

19 July 2017

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment has been around since the beginning of our nation. While many

believe it is a just punishment, and fit for those deserving, there are quite a few who believe it is

unconstitutional and immoral. This paper will dive a bit deeper in to what capital punishment is,

as well as discuss viewpoints and pros and cons of capital punishment. While I do agree with

capital punishment, I find myself only agreeing purely for the sake of retribution. Like many, my

decision on capital punishment is emotionally driven, and even knowing some of the pros and

cons economically, I would still support it just because I believe that it is, indeed, a fair

punishment, and the offenders on trial for such a punishment completely and utterly deserve it.

Capital punishment, according to the definition given to it, is the legally authorized

killing of someone as punishment for a crime. In these terms, it is essentially legal homicide, as

called by many who oppose it. But, this homicide is carried out only after the trial of due

process, as the 14th amendment states nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or

property, without due process of law. This amendment seems to clearly allow and support the

death penalty, stating that the due process of law can, indeed, decide that fate, but there are many

who determine this to be opposed to capital punishment, stating simply that the government

doesnt have the right to deprive a person of life.

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Likewise, some will argue that capital punishment, or the death sentence, is cruel and

unusual punishment. The eighth amendment prohibits the use of cruel and unusual punishment,

but, nowhere does it define what cruel and unusual punishment is. Almost anything could be

considered cruel and unusual punishment since we are leaving it up to interpretation and

perspective. Though, if we are following the guidelines of the constitution, it clearly states that

deprivation of life is permitted following the due process of law. This, in my mind, would

automatically deem the death penalty completely fair punishment, and constitutionally approved.

Still, it seems to be a valid argument since cruel and unusual punishment seems to be something

that is determined by a common way of thinking, and therefore, we make our own rules when it

comes down to it.

By far the largest argument in favor of the death sentence is the fear it strikes in to

people. This is commonly referred to as its deterrence potential. Though, it is very hard to

determine how much more crime would actually be committed if capital punishment was no

longer being given, most studies point to it being very irrelevant in terms of deterring criminal

acts such as murder. These studies have been done with focus groups, but the data could be

completely wrong, being that a lot of people would not even be able to consider taking

someones life, so what kind of questions could possibly be asked to determine whether or not

capital punishment deters murder? The argument here is that someone willing to take another

human beings life is likely not thinking like a normal, sane person. If someone is okay with

taking someone elses life, it is very likely that capital punishment is not actually stopping them

from doing it. Thus, while being a valid and large point in favor of the death sentence, the

deterrence factor of it is very hard to determine, and still gives no solid data.
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Another opposing view is the idea that taking anothers life is immoral, regardless of the

circumstance. Though this seems to be a more abstract argument opposing capital punishment, it

still holds merit, just as believing it to be cruel and unusual punishment. Some believe that the

fate of death is not up to us to decide, nor does the right belong to us. We call murder an immoral

act, but it is okay when it is legally approved? It does seem wrong, but what about the life that

they took? Even though this is largely a belief, it still poses a threat to capital punishment and

continuing to use it. After all, the people do have the power, and if enough of them believe that

something is wrong, it can, and will, be taken away.

On the other hand, quite a significant benefit that capital punishment provides, as

opposed to its deterrence factor which may or may not be a benefit is the retribution is

delivers to the families of victims. This is largely unconsidered when adding up benefits, but it

should have some weight. When family members of the victim are able to see just punishment

carried out, it allows them some closure and may even comfort them. This is to say that I believe

most people would want retribution or even revenge for a family member, especially if it was

their mother or father, or son or daughter. The death penalty is a statement, a statement that says

murder will not go unpunished and if you are a victim, the offender will receive their dues. This

can be extremely comforting and should not be ignored because the comfort and safety of

citizens is a very large priority in the U.S..

Economically, capital punishment does cost quite a bit more than a life sentence. It is

estimated that each capital punishment case costs several million dollars, and most of these cases

dont actually enforce the penalty. The Massachusetts Coalition Against the Death Penalty

estimates about fifty percent of cases get overturned, meaning millions of extra dollars were

spent for absolutely no reason. states that a case seeking the death penalty can
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cost roughly one and a quarter million dollars, while cases not seeking the death penalty only

cost about ninety thousand dollars, which is paid via taxes every year, and those are for single

cases. There are currently 714 inmates on death row just in California.

The last major argument I will discuss is the argument of false positives. Because capital

punishment means someone will be losing their life, legal due process is much more rigorous,

thus costing a lot more just in legal fees. The false positives are the innocent victims who were

executed, and the argument opposing the death penalty argues that more innocent lives could be

taken. Though this number is quite low, three hundred and fifty cases of this were documented

between 1900 and 1987, leading many to believe that it is possible there are many more

undocumented cases that exist. This does seem to be a strong argument, because no one wants to

be responsible for the death of an innocent person, and the fact that this is happening in our very

own legal system is very frightening. Just like myself, many can lose faith in the justice system

when they hear of these sorts of things. There are all sorts of feelings and thoughts that come

when you hear someone that was executed was actually innocent. I believe this is why the false

positive argument is a very strong one.

It would seem the benefits are largely outweighed by both abstract and physical

consequences of continuing with the death sentence. Although I do believe that someone that

murders another person does deserve a death sentence, it does cost a lot more money to do this.

When you look at the numbers involving cases that dont even get the capital punishment

inflicted, it almost seems pointless to be conducting the trials. On the same hand, why are we

willing to send someone to prison for life with less than a very rigorous trial? Although the

purpose of this was to dive a bit deeper in to capital punishment, it is almost infuriating to hear
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that those cases are being evaluated much more rigorously than a case not up for the death

penalty. To me, a life sentence is the same thing, and should be treated with equal attention.

It is hard to conclude whether or not capital punishment should or should not exist. It

would seem it is completely opinion based for the most part, other than the obvious factors of the

cost of a trial seeking the death sentence. While it does cost more, I am still of the belief that the

death sentence does carry weight and should still be an option. I believe that it is a stronger

deterrence than what is presented, and, as I said, it is extremely difficult to determine the

deterrence effect that it has because the ones who are up for the punishment are usually not an

average thinking human being. Even without the deterrence factor, I do strongly believe that

capital punishment is a loud statement that threatens vengeance and punishment for those willing

to commit such heinous acts of violence, and taking it away would make the government look

weak and it would take away the shield that it provides. Capital punishment, to me, is very

comforting. I want to know that if someone murders me or a friend or a family member, that they

will be punished and they wont get their chance at life either. I think if capital punishment is

taken away, it would drive more people to take matters in to their own hands, because there

would be no real lingering threat for the law abiding citizens who are overcome with anger and

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