Capital Punishment Debate Essay Paper

Essay/Term paper: Capital punishment should be abolished

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Capital Punishment Should be Abolished

Evidence suggests that the death penalty does not deter people from
committing crimes. It is a cruel and cold blooded form of punishment and there
have been instances where innocent people were sentenced to death and later
found to be innocent.

The most common methods of execution are hanging and shooting. Countries
like the U.S. use electrocution, gas chambers and lethal injections to dispose
of the convicted. Some countries, like the U.S., have tried to minimise the pain
of execution by introducing the electric chair. In some parts of the world, more
pain is deliberately inflicted on the condemned, such as in the Islamic
countries and Nigeria. In Nigeria the executions are done in public by a firing
squad. The convicted are executed slowly, by firing bullets at intervals,
starting at the ankles. In Islamic countries the condemned are stoned to death.
But there are special rules for these executions; (Amnesty International
article1), "The Islamic Penal Code of Iran stipulates: "In the punishment of
stoning to death, the stones should not be so large that the person dies on
being hit by one or two of them."1 This is the kind of cruelty which is
inflicted on the executed in those countries. Other methods of execution, like
the electric chair and hanging, are also quite cruel to the convicted. That is
one of the reasons the death penalty should be abolished.

Does the death penalty really deter criminals?

There is very little valid evidence to suggest that capital punishment
deters criminals. The most recent study of research findings on the relationship
between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations
Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, in 1988, has concluded that:"this
research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater
deterrent effect than life imprisonment."1. Many murders are committed under the
influence of alcohol and drugs, some murderers might be mentally ill. If one of
these factors influenced a person, how could he/she control and asses what
he/she is doing or be deterred from committing the crime? It would be impossible,
and after the incident he/she might not remember it. A cover story in the
"Time"3 presents a report about a man called Doug McCray, then 32. He had a
reasonable education after dropping out of college one and a half years later to
enlist in the army. He was given a medical discharge seventeen months later.He
married and went back to college. But his marriage didn't last long and he
dropped out of college again and turned to alcohol. Sometime between October 13
and 15, 1973 a woman was raped and beaten to death. He was arrested and charged
with murder because he was drunk and could not tell where he was at the time of
the murder. The FBI had matched his palm print with the one found in the women's
apartment. Ten years later McCray still doesn't know if he was guilty or not. He
was found guilty and is in Florida's death row. This anecdote clearly indicates
the possibility of executing a person who might not have committed the crime.

Some emotionally ill people would see death as the only route to freedom,
so the death penalty does not deter them at all. If the death penalty does not
deter many people, then why would you want to introduce it in the first place?

A better deterrent is needed, which would make finding the culprit
easier and quicker, making it impossible for criminals to get away with what
they have done. If such a deterrent was found then criminals would have second
thoughts of commiting the crime because they would think that they might get
caught. Criminals who plan their crimes very carefully, won't be deterred by the
death sentence because they would believe that they won't be caught.

Delay is also what makes capital punishment less of a deterrent, because
it minimizes the chances of a convicted criminal ever being executed. Usually
when a person is sentenced to death, it would take years until he/she would be
executed. In the U.S. it takes an average of three years for, a so called
capital case, to work its way up to the highest court. If an appeal is made it
would delay the execution by five to ten years. "Willie Francis, 17, survived a
sub-lethal shock from the electric chair in 1946. It took another year for him
to be executed."3 This kind of delay would not be likely to deter many other

A study made in the U.S., of death row inmates has found that 62 percent
were unskilled workers, 60 percent were unemployed and a majority of these
people were represented by lawyers with less than five years experience. Clifton
Duffy, former warden of San Quentin Prison in California, and others have
testified that capital punishment is "a privilege of the poor." People who are
inadequately represented are more likely to lose their case and this is what
makes capital punishment unfair because poor people are more likely to be
sentenced to death than rich people.

Murder cannot be cured by murder. The death penalty is cruel, inhumane
and above all irreversible. It does not deter and isn't as effective as life
imprisonment. Hugo A. Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University says,
"The death penalty guarantees that the person on whom it is inflicted will
commit no more crimes. He is prevented, not deterred, from so doing. But death,
is too high a price to pay when studies show that convicted murderers rarely
commit another violent crime. To prevent the occasional repeat murder, everyone
convicted of criminal homicide would have to be executed- a policy too
brutal to consider and one that would require dozens of legal killings each

The United Nations began urging worldwide abolition on the grounds
that,"every human has an inherent right to life."

It can be seen that there is no logical reason for reintroducing capital
punishment. The fact that there is no evidence to support the view that it
deters criminals, that it is irreversible and an inhumane punishment suggests
that capital punishment should be abolished worldwide.


1)"Simply Living" Vol.4 No.4 1989, "The Green Pages:Amnesty International,
Campaign to abolish the death penalty"

2)Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica center, Instant Research service, "The
debate over capital punishment", "Arguments for abolition of death penalty"

3)"Time", January 24, 1983, "An Eye for an Eye"


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