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The Death Penalty and Alternative Views

Updated on July 16, 2011

Capital Punishment

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.

Extremely Controversial

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.


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      Officer Hale 5 years ago

      I like your article and you make some very good points. Like most people in this debate there are very good substantial points on both sides of the aisle. I myself am for the death penalty and I do think it could work, if applied correctly. I agree that our past, like in many subjects, has given way to some very bad practices. But I do believe that if capital punishment was taken more seriously, through courts and criminals, violent crime would drastically reduce.

      I agree that our legal system is so hard for convictions that plea bargaining have been the wave of the future. Giving felons an option of life if they tell or death is they do not. A method that I disagree with, but it gives the family closure - which in my opinion is more important.

      I do not like the idea of an innocnet person being put to death at all, I believe that this has been a flaw inthe justice system for years, which is getting better, where law enforcement did not have the right tools or ethics to complete their job and in turn made some horrific decisions.

      When it comes to the death penalty, this is my idea. For those who commits these heinous acts of torture, mayhem, and murder which are viewed heavily by the public, televised on the internet, news media or what have you, then there should not be a shadow of a doubt their guilt and the death penalty should be thier punishment. Also it should be carried out immediately, no use of wasting the courts time and our money to find a loophole to find you again guilty. In the cases where there is a shadow of a doubt, take the death penalty of the punishment table and proceed on.

      I see it like this, if I see my kid do something wrong I punish him/her right away. But if I have not seen it and have to go off the word of someone else, I will investigate until I have my answer and punish accordingly.

      Again, good post and I just wanted to share my view. I happen to be writing a paper on the death penalty and will be using (and citing) some of your work.

    • nina64 profile image

      nina64 6 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      Hello JY3502, your hub presents some great points. Me personally, I'm not in favor of the death penalty. If a would be criminal wanted to commit a crime, he would go ahead and do it, regardless if knew of the consequences of his actions...whether it be life in prison without parole or the death penalty. A person sitting on death row will either use up all his options for an appeal or eventually be put to death later on down the line depending upon the severity of his crimes. There is also a one chance in a million that his case would be overturned or that he may be given a full pardon by the government. To me, a person with a death sentence is like giving that person a taste of their own medicine. It sounds harsh, but it's the truth. But on the other hand, a person serving a life sentence is like allowing him to see the errors of his ways over a long period of time. Maybe that person will learn from his mistakes and hopefully turn his life around. It is also true that a lot of innocent people are put to death because of insufficient or lack of evidence used in these cases. I think that the prosecutors are sometimes in a hurry to close these cases that they go on whatever evidence is presented them to make their case against these accused persons. I know some may not agree with my opinions. There are so many ways to look at this subject and it can be met with criticism or favor. Thanks for writing such an interesting and controversial hub.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I'm glad I'm not writing for no reason. Thanks for becoming a follower tonymac. Great comments by all of you. Thanks Martie for making me a french horn player. Mythbuster, I see, you have been reading a lot of my work. Thanks for the comments.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      This is a great hub with well-reasoned arguments. I like the whole section, "Impossible To Pardon a Corpse." Awesome!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 7 years ago from South Africa

      I enjoyed this excellent and well-reasoned Hub. Thanks for it. I am a committed abolitionist when it comes to the barbaric death penalty. Fortunately South Africa has already abolished it so there is no longer a need to campaign against it.

      However there are those who call for the return of capital punishment here in the hopes that it would deter crime. I think that is mistaken and there is a need to keep the awareness alive that the death penalty will not help reduce crime and could well increase it as the death penalty actually brutalises society further.

      Thanks again for this great Hub which I would like to link to mine on the subject.

      Love and peace


    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      When we evaluate certain brutal crimes, especially those involving vulnerable children and elders, revenge smothers our rational thoughts. Of course those criminals have to be removed from society, but I believe not via the death penalty. I also feel they should not be put in a place where they can mean nothing to others, just parasites for the rest of their lives at the expense of the innocent.

      In my opinion they should serve humanity – like all people – They could work in mines, factories, on farms, but, of course, isolated until they’ve proved themselves as people who are not a threat to others.

      Who says it can’t be done? :) I really like reading your KISS-articles.