The Death Penalty and Alternative Views
There can’t be an adequate discussion about the death penalty without bringing the bible into it. The Bible required the death penalty for many crimes such as practicing sorcery, adultery, homosexual behavior, working on Saturday and murder. Bible passages are still used as an argument for capital punishment. A few Christians even advocate homosexuals also be executed.
Many feel executing convicted murderers will satisfy the need for justice. They feel some crimes are so monstrous executing the perpetrator is justifiable. But does the death penalty deter further crimes?
There are those that feel the death penalty will deter criminals from killing. This doesn’t seem to be confirmed by a study of some available data. Both camps seem to have studies supporting their view. Even the bible seems to contradict itself in some instances.
In the New Testament for example, Jesus' treatment of the adulteress in the Gospel of John appears to support the abolitionist position. She had been sentenced to death by stoning. However, Jesus used a clever tactic. He suggested those who were without sin cast the first stone. None were free of sin and thus none could start the execution. However, some theologians believe this story was probably not written by the Apostle John.
The death penalty is extremely controversial and laws vary between countries. It is most commonly instituted for murder and drug-related crimes. The death penalty has been abolished in most countries. In the U.S., 35 states still have the death penalty. In China, Japan and the majority of Middle Eastern and African countries also allow it.
Many oppose the death penalty because certainly some innocent people will be convicted. Between 1973 and 2005, 123 people were released from death row when new evidence of their innocence came to light. Statistics probably minimize the actual number of wrongful convictions because once an execution has occurred there is little reason to keep a case open and it’s too late to do anything about it.
Impossible To Pardon a Corpse
There has been countless examples where this has been the case. Modern forensic techniques and DNA tests have proven many were wrongfully sentenced to death. Many convicted murderers are later found innocent. It is impossible to pardon a corpse.
Some jury members are reluctant to vote guilty in murder trials because of the chance they may be executing an innocent person. Therefore, many killers go free, never punished and possibly commit another murder.
Research indicates race of the defendant has little to do with a guilty verdict, but rather it’s the race of the victim. According to a 2003 report, blacks and whites were victims of murder in almost equal proportions. But 80 percent of the people executed since 1977 were convicted of murdering white victims.
Death penalty supporters, say the threat of the death penalty could be a tool to pressure capital defendants to plead guilty, testify against accomplices, or disclose the location of the victim's body. The threat of a death sentence can persuade defendants to plea bargain for life without parole.
In recent years, new studies have been conducted statistically demonstrating a deterrent effect of the death penalty. However, critics claim there are flaws in these studies and the data offers no solid conclusions about deterrence. And so it goes each side continuously supplying statistics one way or the other.
However, some surveys and polls conducted over the last decade suggest some police chiefs and other law enforcement personnel may not believe the death penalty has any deterrent effect on violent crimes.In a 1995 poll, selected police chiefs and other law enforcement officers, ranked the death penalty last as a means of preventing crime.
Both sides have arguments for their stance. The two most hotly contested have been the concept of deterrence and retribution. Deterrence was once the preferred reason for allowing the death penalty. However after 1972, popular opinion in the United States began a shift toward retribution. Retributionists adhere to three ideas: the guilty deserve punishment, only the guilty deserve punishment, and punishment should be proportional to the offense. Abolitionists, on the other hand, say retribution is nothing more than revenge. It’s probable this claim has some truth as emotion could have partially influenced the decision.
Does the death penalty deter crime? People murder for a number of reasons and under different circumstances like under the influence of alcohol or drugs when a person isn’t rational. There are also people who believe they deserve to die and use the system to do it for them. And people with brain damage that kill in an episode of rage. However, with the exception of professional hit-men, very few are thinking rationally when they kill. It’s hard to say. Surveys and polls can be deceptive, depending on how the questions are asked. For example, when people were asked straight out if they favored the death penalty many answered in the affirmative. However, when asked if they favored the death penalty or life sentence without the possibility of parole the response was remarkably in favor of life imprisonment.
A serious flaw of public opinion polls is they generally ask too simple a question. But generally what has been shown is this. The death penalty does not act as a deterrent and is applied unfairly across jurisdictions. And most importantly, sometimes innocent people are executed.