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Capital Punishment Essay: Death Penalty Maintains Justice

1213 words - 5 pages

Death Penalty Maintains Justice

It is no triumph that death sentences are routinely carried out, or even that such a device is necessary within our society. Yet the fact remains that society does require a death penalty, and to believe that the topic is one-sided or easily answered would be a fatal mistake. It is best to note the absolutes of the death penalty - first, that once it is carried out, there is no reversing the outcome. It seems an obvious point, but it is worth remembering, as it warns us that state-sanctioned executions must never be taken lightly.

Just as firm is the fact that in most cases, the death penalty is a matter of justice and equality. With most crimes, the purposes of the punishment are to rehabilitate the convict and to send a warning to others who would commit similar crimes. In contrast, the death penalty intends neither to rehabilitate nor dissuade others from capital crimes.

Certainly, the threat of the ultimate penalty may give pause to a small percentage, but most capital cases involve a defendant who is far from rational enough to weigh the costs and benefits of his action.

Still, this misconception of the death penalty as a deterrent is one limp argument constantly trotted out against capital punishment. Many people ask, "If the death penalty is working, why isn't the murder rate falling?"

The answer is that the death penalty is a matter of justice and societal preservation. Some crimes so abhorrent, the convict does not deserve to continue living. We do not live completely in the days of Hammurabi's "eye for an eye," but neither have we come close to a crime-free utopia which would allow the end of the death penalty. Instead, we compromise, reserving execution for the most serious crimes and filtering the decision through a jury of 12 peers and a presiding judge.

Illustration by JARRETT QUON/Daily Bruin

It cannot be denied that in many states, capital punishment is completely broken or barely functioning. The Illinois death penalty moratorium enacted in 1999 was an intelligent response to one state's miserable record in the application of justice. The student journalists who worked to free a number of wrongly convicted men on the state's death row may have been sharp, but they were far from young Alan Dershowitzes.

This raises the question: how did these poor slobs slip through the cracks for all these years? The evidence which originally "convicted" them was in several cases extremely thin, based merely on eyewitness accounts from unreliable witnesses who had other motives. Thus, it may be a wise move for each state to emphasize extreme caution in imposing the death penalty.

Certainly it is within their rights for a state or municipality to focus their prosecution exclusively on the aspects of a case which will prove most likely to convict a defendant. This is all well and good for non-capital cases, where, if a wrongful conviction results, the innocent may rot...

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