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There are some fundamental propositions behind the argument that suggests that the death penalty should be a part of the U.S. Justice system. The first is that the death penalty deters criminal behavior. It operates in deterrance on two levels. The first is that in executing the guilty party, the individual can no longer commit crimes, particularly murder. This operates on the preimse that the individual who commits murder will commit the same crime again. If this is valid, then the death penalty deters crime because it stops a repeat offender from "repeating." In addition, this saves future lives. Another deterrance argument is that it stops others from committing similar crimes if it is known that the state will follow through on its commitment of punishing individuals. The thinking is that criminal behavior will be curbed if death is a plausible end for such behavior. Another argument in favor of the death penalty is that society can only function when it exerts the authority to take life from those who have proven to demonstrate a lack of care or regard for human life. Civilization cannot function if the rights of the criminals are valued over the rights of the social order, in general. It is argued that a civilized order cannot stand effectively ifit stands in fear of criminals in a lack of faith in its system of justice. The final argument is the justice argument. If an individual takes a life, justice requires that the life of the guilty party is taken by the state in recognition for the loss endured by the victim and victim's loved ones. It is suggested that in these moments, the state asks as the representative for the vitcims' and in that light, justice demands the taking of the life of one who has not regarded the value of human life.
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There are certain acts which are so shocking to the conscience that no other penalty than death can suffice. Society must be protected from the commission of such crimes. The knowledge that this activity will incur the ultimate penalty is a deterrent to all reasonable persons, to most people who lack capacity to reason at an adult level, and to most people who lack a conscience. The fact that not every single criminal will refrain from committing horrific crimes is not a logical reason to eliminate the death penalty from consideration; this would be the either/or fallacy. Capital punishment deters most criminals; therefore, the benefit outweighs the cost to society of engaging in what some categorize as barbaric punishment.
There are things worse than death...life in prison without parole is one of them. Society must have ways to encourage those who tend to live dangerously to behave. Without deterrants and perhaps horrible consequences (for instance, in Turkey, if you steal, your hand is severed from your body), some people would never live within the laws which provide safety for all of us.
If you have an opportunity to read Ed Koch's essay "On Death and Justice," you will see a logical, well-supported argument in favor of Capital Punishment. He makes concessions (that the death penalty is a difficult topic for anyone to discuss, and that life is precious), and he incorporates a variety of appeals (logical, emotional, and ethical). Some of his supporting points for taking the affirmative have already been mentioned in the previous posts, but they are:
1. Sometimes for heinous crimes, the penalty needs to seem just as heinous in order for the victim's family and the public to feel that justice has occurred.
2. The death penalty is needed as a deterrent to others who might consider murder.
3. The death penalty simply protects the public. For this point, he tells of a convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The convict somehow managed to get hold of a knife and kill three people inside the prison, something that Koch contends would not have been possible if he had been executed.
This is just a portion of his argument, but even if one disagrees with his claim, his argument technique is stellar.
There can be many convincing arguments both in favour of and against capital punishment. In this discussion, in line with the tone of the original discussion topics, I am listing some arguments in favour of capital punishment.
- One of the principal of justice is that the punishment should match the crime, and there are some crimes which are so great that even death sentence appears to be inadequate. In such capital punishment is justified.
- Another justification for punishment is revenge by the aggrieved parties including their near and dear ones. When the harm done to the aggrieved party is considered to be equal to or greater than loss of human life, capital punishment is justified.
- Third justification for punishment is to act as deterrent. Fear of punishment acts as deterrent for the potential criminal to commit the crime. When, even when capital punishment does not act as sufficient deterrent for some of the people, abolition of capital punishment can lead to increase in rate of major crimes.
- Fourth justification for punishment like jail and capital punishment is to prevent the criminal from repeating his crimes. It is argued that imprisonment of life is also an effective means of preventing such crimes. But there are two disadvantages. First, there is a possibility that the criminal may escape from jail. Second, substantial costs are incurred in keeping a person in jail. Therefore it is not appropriate to keep a person in jail when the seriousness of crime allows a person to be sentenced to death.
While there are still innocent people on Death Row, the death penalty cannot continue to be applied. Fortunately DNA testing has exonerated a number of wrongfully-convicted prisoners. The Innocence Project is an organization dedicated to helping publicize cases where innocent people have been convicted of capital crimes. DNA testing can offer physical evidence to eliminate the possibility that a particular suspect was even present at a crime scene. But this testing is expensive, and it has to be approved or allowed in the appeals process. For people like Damien Echols, on death row for the murder of three young boys in 1993 (along with two other young men), DNA testing would probably exonerate him but the state court judge won't allow it. You can find out more at www.wm3.org.
There is an argument both for and against death penalty as a capital punishment. There are human rights people who feel that it is inhuman to advocate capital punishment. It must be seen in the perspective of the society, safety of the general publicthe victim and their family. The person who commits heinous crimes like murder transcends the humane limits and is not in anyway eligible for pardon or leniency on any grounds. The responsibility of the state and the judiciary is to ensure that justice prevails and the innocent are protected. If the crime is proved, the criminal must be punished to uphold the law. The penalty must certainly act as a deterent and discourage potential offenders from taking other lives with impunity. The public must also feel that the justice and law helps the good and punishes the guilty. Their faith in the legal system must be upheld. The inhuman crimes are a disgrace to the civilised society and must be punished by death penalty.
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