Should we kill killers is the question to answer regarding the controversial subject of capital punishment. There is strong support for both sides and many people have offered their opinions in writing for all of us to examine. John M. Olin, the Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy at Fordham University, gave us his Pro-Capital Punishment opinion in the Harvard Law Review in 1986. Although his article was written more than a decade ago the argued topics have not changed.
In his work The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense Mr. Olin addresses why he feels capital punishment is necessary in our society and across the world. According to Olin retribution is the number one reason for capital punishment. He goes on to say that the retributive notion of punishment in general is that as a foundational matter of justice, criminals deserve punishment and punishment should be equal to the harm done. What counts as “punishment equal to harm”? Olin refers to lex talionis commonly known as “an eye for an eye”. This idea was drawn from the Babylonian Law of Hammurabi from the 18th century. It states: If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death. If it kills the son of the owner, then the son of that builder shall be put to death. Besides being totally absurd there are a couple of points to make. First, retribution cannot be uniformly applied to every harm committed. What about rapist? Should they be raped? What about those who commit mass murder? How can we make their punishment proportional? The answer is we can not. Killing one person who killed another serves no practical purpose except to show how little we have progressed as a society.
What about deterrence? Olin claims that capital punishment is an excellent means of deterrence. He thinks that if criminals, or people in general, know that they can face the death penalty if a murder is committed that this alone will keep them from committing the act. If this is true how does he explain the over 40,000 murders committed every year. Studies have shown that the perpetrator in most crimes was not affected by the possibility of the death sentence for a couple of reasons. First, many murders are not premeditated and are done with no prior intention. Second, many of the murderers think that they will never be caught, therefore will never face the death penalty. So if deterrence can not be proven then why is it still used as a reason for capital punishment?
It has been proven that some people that have suffered at the hands of the death penalty were in fact innocent. As technology and the justice system advances more and more people that have been found guilty are having their sentences over turned. Many of these people were on death row. Between 1900 and 1985 of the 7,000 individuals that were executed 35 were proven to be...