Opposing the Death Penalty
Capital punishment is the infliction of the death penalty on a person convicted of a crime. Executing convicted felons has been one of the most widely practiced forms of criminal punishment in the United States. However, this highly controversial form of punishment is not carried out in all of the states in the nation. Currently, the states that do not practice the death penalty are: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Even for the states that do enforce the death penalty, it has been a topic of debate for many years. In this paper, I will review the major issues related to capital punishment with an emphasis on opposition to it.
There are two groups who argue over the decision to take a person's life as a punishment for a crime. There are many points of discussion including whether or not it is a fitting and reasonable punishment, whether or not it acts as a deterrent to crime and whether or not it is morally neutral or morally wrong. These two classes of people can be grouped together as the 'retentionists', and the 'abolitionists' (Americana 596). For the retentionists, the main reasons they are in support of the death penalty are to take revenge and to punish. Their main worry is the protection of society from dangerous criminals. The retentionists have some good ideas, but they are still very wrong. The abolitionists view the death penalty as morally and legally wrong. Further, they argue that it does not act as a deterrent for crime, it is irreversible and could be used on an innocent person, it is more expensive than imprisonment, and that those who are convicted frequently invoke the expensive process of appealing the decision.
Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged from stoning in biblical times, crucifixion by the Romans, and beheading in France, to those used in the United States today: hanging, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad, and lethal injection. No matter how the death penalty is executed, many view it as a cruel and unusual punishment. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which defines cruel and unusual punishment, is used to dispute capital punishment. When the constitution was first drafted, capital punishment was widely used and had extensive approval. Many of the contributing writers of the constitution approved of capital punishment, as did the philosophers who helped with the constitution. In the trial of Atkins vs. the state of Virginia, the court voted that executing the mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment on cruel and unusual punishment (Gibeaut 2). Officials however often say that this punishment is not cruel and unusual. It is hard to defend that claim when you consider the electrocution of John Evans in 1983. He was electrocuted three times in fourteen minutes. After his first...