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The Death Penalty: Can It Ever Be Justified?

1500 words - 6 pages

“The Death Penalty: Can It Ever Be Justified?”

Edward I. Koch uses his essay “The Death Penalty: Can It Ever Be Justified?” to defend capital punishment. He believes that justice for murderous crimes is essential for the success of the nation. The possibility of error is of no concern to Koch and if would-be murderers can be deterred from committing these heinous crimes, he feels the value of human life will be boosted and murder rates will consequently plummet (475-479). Koch makes a valiant effort to express these views, yet research contradicts his claims and a real look at his idea of justice must be considered in order to create a fair nation for all.

One point that Koch tries to address is the value of human life. Koch is noted as believing that “life is indeed precious.” He feels that the death penalty helps to establish this fact by demonstrating that if a person commits a heinous crime such as murder, they will suffer the worst of consequences (476). How, though, does the taking of another life demonstrate that life is indeed so precious? All other facts aside, is it not simply the end to another life? Most citizens would be in agreement that such inhumane crimes deserve severe ramifications, but ending a life to make up for an unlawful death would contradict these principles of the value of life. Bud Welch supports this theory. His daughter, Julie, had her life viciously taken from her in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Welch, although enduring the greatest pain of all, concluded that Timothy McVeigh’s execution “is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie.” Welch understood the true value of all human life and was able to put his natural emotions away and theorize that vengeance has “no place in our justice system” (“In Opposition to the Death Penalty: Retribution”).

Deterrence, in Koch’s eyes, also represents how valuable life is. He believes that capital punishment can prevent future murders by eliminating the murderer and making potential murderers think twice about committing a crime (478). Nonetheless, killing the murderer through capital punishment is not the only means to eliminate the possibility of the killer striking again. For example, a life sentence in a secure jail would ensure that the killer would not be able to take another life. Moreover, it would mean one less death in the end. Also, studies have shown that capital punishment may not be the miracle deterrent that Koch and other capital punishment supporters allege it to be. From the Death Penalty Information Center website, William Bowers, a Northwestern University criminologist, states that “society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder.” Along with Bowers, 84% of experts in the academic criminological society say that their research has concluded no proof that the death penalty is a successful deterrent (“In Opposition to the Death Penalty: Deterrence”). ...

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