Do You Condone Capital Punishment?

The controversy surrounding capital punishment is once again in the news. It is one of the most complex social issues in America.

There are compelling reasons why a society might feel the need to have a protocol to kill members of its community for commission of heinous crimes. Correspondingly, there are legitimate reasons why an advanced and highly educated society should denounce the killing of anyone for any reason.

This essay will present both sides of the capital punishment issue.

The arguments for capital punishment include a strong desire to root out the most dangerous members of society. Hammurabi, a Babylonian King, indicated in 1755 B.C. that a legal system should be based upon an eye for an eye. If you kill someone without cause, you should be put to death. The principle is based upon revenge against others that have done you harm. So, a person who takes the life another without cause does not have the right to live.

The whole concept of fairness and retribution is particularly important to survivors of a crime, specifically family and friends. I suspect that an individual who is appalled by capital punishment would change his mind if a relative or friend was to become a victim. Giving closure to someone whose life has been destroyed by a senseless crime would appear to be a justifiable and noble ending.

Keep in mind that capital punishment is reserved for the most outrageous crimes against humanity. They include premeditated murder, kidnapping, serial killings, torture, child abuse etc. Capital punishment is not justifiable for lesser crimes, which have a far less impact on individuals and society in general.

The second issue is the value of life. If a person has made a career of murdering others, what use is he to society? Is his life important to others? Do we really want it to be possible for a murderer to have an opportunity to be freed in the future and kill again? Wild animals are captured and killed if they are a danger to society.

A murderer certainly has the same impact on the community. Execution is the only way to be sure a rogue is no longer a threat. Of course, if it is determined that the convicted murderer is not guilty in the future, his execution would have been a terrible mistake. There are no mulligans for capital punishment.

The execution of serious criminals is as old as man himself. From the beginning of time, individuals were put to death for crimes. Nevertheless, there is a lot of moral and religious precedent supporting societies that believe that all killing is sinful, but capital punishment advocates have significant legal history supporting their perspective. Have societies around the world suddenly awoken with a new sense of mortality about killing a rogue member of society.

Probably the worst outcome is a situation wherein a man is not put to death for murder, for whatever reason, is released from captivity at some point and ruins another life and family. To be soft on crime is potentially disastrous.

If an individual, including a policeman, kills someone who killed another unjustifiably, he is likely to escape prosecution. So, there is a loophole for those who kill for their own protection or that of others.

One final comment about executions is the long history of wars between countries. Millions have been killed in battle for causes right and wrong. Seldom do soldiers get prosecuted for killing when ordered to do so.

Let’s turn to those who oppose capital punishment. There is a long list of objections that the opposition has accumulated overtime. Here is a short list:

  • You cannot reverse an execution.
  • Evidence may arise later that vindicates a convicted killer (new science).
  • Killing is not sanctioned by any legitimate religion.
  • Capital punishment is more prevalent among people of color. It’s unfairly applied in our society.
  • The judicial system is more favorable to white criminals than criminals of color.
  • Legal representation of people of color is not as proficient as counsel for white people.
  • Revenge does not undo the acts of a criminal.
  • A sentence of life imprisonment is just as effective as an execution.
  • Capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment period
  • The whole system of capital punishment and the years of jockeying before the final event is a waste of time and money.

The people who decide to mete out capital punishment, juries, have no legal experience to make such a grand decision. What can be done to make this situation better for our society? Frankly, the easier road is to ban capital punishment because it is generally applied unfairly in America. Letting someone live but in confinement for life for a serious offense is safe for everybody. The criminal has lost his freedom and can no longer hurt others. And perhaps, our society should a eschew Hammurabi forever.

On the other hand, there are many Americans who favor capital punishment. They say the people involved are generally bad actors and to make an error about their lives would be no big loss. This perspective is abhorrent to the author. But I do not believe capital punishment should be banned without further investigation.

If SCOTUS reiterates that capital punishment is constitutional with proper controls, executions will continue. If SCOTUS says it’s up to states to make their own decisions, capital punishment will continue.

In this case, it would be worthwhile to have judges decide whether to apply capital punishment rather than laypeople. At least we would be giving the appeal process head start.

Is The Death Penalty Justifiable For The Boston Marathon Bombings?

By Sal Bommarito

The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has rekindled the debate about capital punishment. The question is: Should an advanced society such as America put to death criminals who commit monstrous offenses such as murder and kidnapping?

Like many others, I have mixed emotions about this issue and have changed my mind a number of times over the years. At one point, I believed that no one could logically support capital punishment if they could not personally pull the switch in an execution. The hideous crime that took place during the Boston Marathon has once again caused me to rethink my position. I admit that I am relieved that the younger Tsarnaev brother was convicted of murder and sentenced to die for his crimes, but still am troubled by his impending execution.

Before delving into the philosophy of capital punishment, let’s consider all of the pertinent facts. On January 1, 2015, 3,019 individuals were on death row; the largest number of prisoners were in CA (743), FL (403) and TX (276). In 1968, 517 people were awaiting their execution. By 2015, the number increased six fold. Over 1,400 individuals have been put to death since 1968. During the calendar years 2015 (partial year), 2014 and 2013, 14, 35 and 39 were killed, respectively.

The Boston Marathon tragedy occurred on April 15, 2013 in Cambridge, MA. The detonation of two pressure cooker bombs resulted in the deaths of three spectators at the race and one police officer. Over 260 others plus 16 policemen were injured. Tamerian And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed the crimes. The former died during his flight from the police. Dzhokhar was convicted and sentenced to death last week. Federal officials will carry out the penalty, although he will not die for many years and only after an appeals process that will likely involve the Supreme Court. Islamic beliefs relating to the U.S. involvement in Muslim countries are believed to be the motives or the crime.

Many people in the U.S. and in other developed countries believe taking of a life, even for a capital crime, is barbaric and sinful. “The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty; its abolition is a key objective for the Union’s human rights policy.” Countries who apply for membership to the Union must agree to abolish capital punishment.

Often, proponents of the death penalty say the survivors of victims of capital crimes deserve closure. And, the death of perpetrators is an important element in the healing process. Further, proponents believe criminals of capital crimes are a menace to society and should be put down like rabid animals to ensure they do not commit other serious offenses.

Those who oppose capital punishment sometimes refer to religious sources of one form or another that indicate that taking a life for any reason is forbidden by God. Additionally, a vast number of perpetrators are not of sound mind. After all, only insane individuals could possibly kill other humans indiscriminately. And finally, the death penalty takes away the possibility that the accused and convicted could someday be exonerated by new evidence or more advanced science. There are no “mulligans” when it comes to capital punishment.

Other issues are also in play, although most are secondary to the items above. Paying for a person’s life sentence falls upon the state and the taxpayers. It could amount to a huge amount of money depending upon how long the prisoner lives. Some citizens resent the use of their taxes for this purpose. And then, there is the choice between death and life imprisonment. Should our society intentionally inflict the maximum suffering on a capital offender? If so, what is worse- death by injection or incarceration for life?

When all the dust settles, it makes sense for America to decide on one or the other, death or no death for capital crimes. Currently, the federal government endorses the death penalty and individual states can opt to ban it. So, depending on where a crime is committed will determine whether an offender qualifies for a death sentence.

I will not express my preference in this essay because I am still on the fence. In any case, society must be sensitive to both sides of this issue. Given the despicable nature of the Boston Marathon bombings, it will be an appropriate situation to test the death penalty process on a national basis.