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Kill One To Save Many-The Death Penalty and Why We Should Keep It

Updated on September 16, 2013

The death penalty remains a controversial issue in the United States that may seemingly never reach a resolution. The law emerged in ancient Babylon under King Hammurabi, the creator of the first written code recorded in history, and prevailed in numerous societies throughout history. The idea of an “eye for an eye” delineated in Hammurabi’s codex made logical sense then and still does today. If someone murders someone else, then in turn, they must die as well (Horne). While many critics of capital punishment present valid arguments, the positive effects achieved by the death penalty outweigh the negative as it deters violent malfeasances and saves the lives of innocent citizens in the United States. The death penalty is an effective punishment and must continue to exist as a possibility in the United States, but with a few moderations to the present state of the punishment.

Hammurabi's Code, written in cuneiform, that details the policy of an eye for an eye
Hammurabi's Code, written in cuneiform, that details the policy of an eye for an eye

The death penalty, though widely disputed, remains in the judicial system for a multitude of reasons. Opponents of capital punishment propose life in prison as a viable option for the death penalty, but in a world where life in prison rarely means life in prison, this idea fails. The death sentence remains the only way to truly know that a murderer cannot roam the streets in a matter of decades because they acted well in prison. Advocates of the penalty say that, in many instances, the execution of criminals who commit violent crimes brings resolution to the families of victims. It certainly did for the mother of Brian Warford whose son ended up in the crossfire when Frank Spisak went on a rampage resulting in the death of three people (Parks). When Spisak received the death penalty after three decades of deliberation, the mother states, “I can finally say justice has been served. If one can say this brings closure, I can say it is peace of mind for me and my family,” (qtd. in Parks). The death of the felon provides closure in the knowledge that the guilty person shall never return to harm another human again. Finally, proponents feel that capital punishment deters those who may choose to partake in homicidal or otherwise malignant crimes. Measuring the deterrence effect of the death penalty proves a very difficult task, because no one can truly know what goes through the minds of those who do not pass the line into transgressions punishable by death. Despite this, many criminals state that the threat of the death penalty persuaded them to not kill. An attorney named John Reams attests to this, stating that one of his clients intentionally stopped himself from killing an officer because he feared the death penalty. “There is a police officer alive today who doesn’t even know he was saved by the fact that we had a death penalty,” he states (Parks). Several studies also provide statistics demonstrating that every execution deters between three and eighteen people from committing a violent felony (Tanner). While the death penalty does not prevent all atrocious crimes, the fact that it influences some criminals justifies its existence in the judicial system.

Frank Spisak was a racist, anti-zionist who went on a killing spree to "clean up Cleveland"
Frank Spisak was a racist, anti-zionist who went on a killing spree to "clean up Cleveland"

Despite this, those who oppose capital punishment debate that the punitive sentence contradicts the constitution’s amendment that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment and insults their sense of morals. However, the most frequently utilized method of execution today is death by lethal injection, a painless death that puts the felon to sleep like one would a dog (Parks). Furthermore, only those who commit the most heinous of atrocities against humanity receive the death penalty, crimes far more cruel and unusual than using a sleeping concoction to put one to death. Ted Bundy was an infamous serial killer who confessed to 36 murders, but purportedly killed more than 100 women. One such victim was a young girl named Kimberly Leach. Bundy abducted Kimberly, age 12, one day while she waited outside of her school for her father to pick her up. Bundy led the girl into a stolen white van and drove her to a remote wooded area where he mutilated the child, killed her, and then raped her. He used this motus operandi often when killing women and sometimes kept trophies of his victims by chopping their heads off with a hacksaw and storing them at his home in Washington (Bell). Despite this, adversaries continue to pontificate that a sadistic creature like Bundy, or any other murderer for that matter, must not receive the death penalty because to do so would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, obviously not warranted by their actions. Opponents of the death penalty say that it cheapens the worth of human life to execute criminals, but honestly, to allow the murderers to live would cheapen the life of the victims.

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy

While many arguments proposed by adversaries of capital punishment do not hold much credence, the system still does need remediation because of numerous flaws. Opponents of capital punishment argue that the possibility of executing an innocent person remains too high of a risk, because of the recent use of DNA testing to exonerate those on death row. However, the court can now immediately use DNA testing before the accused reaches as far as death row, to prove the defendant’s innocence, or guilt (Parks). Staunch adversaries of capital punishment also insist that the death penalty takes too long to enact with the accused criminals taking full advantage of the court system of appeals, costing the states and government greatly. Proponents agree as well that the government needs to find a way to cut down on the time that criminals remain on death row. California, a state renowned for its sluggish process of appeals when it comes to the death penalty, often averages about 20 years for a prisoner waiting on death row. Take a man named Clarence Allen, for instance, whose execution in California came 26 years after the initial sentence, and cost over $761,000 (Mintz). Capital punishment, although proven effective to serving its overall purpose, definitely needs moderations to certain aspects of the law and its enactment.

While the death penalty may receive upgrades in the future, the controversy may never end. Nevertheless, capital punishment, though conceived long ago, still remains in the judicial system today for a plethora of reasons. The law itself brings closure to those left in the aftermath of a violent crime and deters prospective criminals from taking another human’s life in the future. However, the law’s defects stand out and the government must find a way to remedy these deficiencies in order for capital punishment to truly work.

My Sources

Bell, Rachel. "Ted Bundy." Crime LIbrary. TruTV, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012.

<http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/bundy/13.html>.

Horne, Charles F. "Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, C. 1780 BCE."Internet

History Sourcebooks. Fordham University, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2012.

<http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp>.

Mintz, Howard. "The Cost of California's Death Penalty." San Jose Mercury News. 13 May

2012: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 30 Sep 2012.

Parks, Peggy J. "Current Issues: The Death Penalty." Current Issues: The Death

Penalty. 2012: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 30 Sep 2012.

Tanner, Robert. "Studies Say Death Penalty Deters Crime." Lincoln Courier (Lincoln, IL). 11

Jun 2007: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 30 Sep 2012.

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      graceinus 3 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

      The concept of the death penalty came long before the Kingdom of Babylon came to exist. If the bible holds true which I believe it does then the concept of the death penalty came directly after the biblical flood. God speaking to Noah said these words immedately after the flood in the Book of Genesus 9: 6 (NKJV) which states:

      6 Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.

      This is one of the first commands God gave to man following the great flood. So I wonder where King Hammurabi may had gotten this idea from. Hmmmm.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Since humans serve on juries, and humans are fallible (make errors of judgment)--as we saw in several high-profile murder trials in the U.S. where the killer was set free--how can we be certain they won't err in the other direction? There have already been cases proven after someone was executed that the accused was innocent. It is better to imprison someone for life with no hope of parole, which I believe (for most people) is a LIVING DEATH, than to have even one jury (or judge--because human judges make mistakes too) murder an innocent person.

      I am not saying that no criminal deserves to die for a heinous crime--only that human juries cannot be trusted to make that decision.

      Juries in the United States serve in murder trials with a woeful lack of training for their responsibility. In addition, some jurists are not intelligent enough or educated enough to be serving on a murder jury, but either a prosecutor or defense attorney will want them because of the fact they might be swayed by oratory.

      And, let's face it--trials are often won or lost based on which of the attorney teams--prosecuting or defending--has the best theatric skills.

      Anyone who thinks there is real justice in America is gullible.

    • profile image

      Simon Jherrico Mañibo 3 years ago

      Good Day Abbie Frost! I have read your article about the implementing of death penalty but I disagree with your opinion. I am against of the death penalty, why? For the worst crimes, life without parole is better, for many reasons. I am against the death penalty but not because of sympathy for criminals. It doesn't prevent or reduce crime, costs a whole lot more than life in prison, and, worst of all, risks executions of innocent people. "Thou shalt not kill" ,it is written in the Ten Commandments, therefore God considered punishing as a biggest sin, He has the only rights to decide. Death penalty, also considered to be a cruel and unusual punishment. The biggest error of death penalty is when an innocent person is put to death, either by accident or by reason of a corruption of the judicial system, that person can never be brought back to life and the error can never be corrected, and that death is sometimes too cruel a punishment, which a vindictive society may impose on people who don't really deserve it.

      Simon Jherrico Mañibo

      Contributor, www.OurHappySchool.com

    • profile image

      Simon Jerrico Mañibo 3 years ago

      Good Day Abbie Frost! I have read your article about the implementing of death penalty but I disagree with your opinion, I am against of the death penalty, because it doesn't prevent or reduce crime, costs a whole lot more than life in prison, and, worst of all, risks executions of innocent people. The biggest error of death penalty is when an innocent person is put to death by means of accident, that person can never be brought back to life and the error can never be corrected, and that death is sometimes too cruel a punishment, which a vindictive society may impose on people who don't really deserve it.

      Simon Jherrico M. Mañibo

      Contributor, www.OurHappySchool.com

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