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The Problem Of Capital Punishment Essay

3450 words - 14 pages

The Problem of Capital Punishment

The issue of capital punishment is a divisive topic that encompasses many moral and empirical aspects of human justice. Ultimately, the key issue regarding the death penalty is as follows: is the death penalty an appropriate form of punishment for the United States of America’s judicial system to impose? This key issue incorporates the empirical and moral claims of the opponents both for and against capital punishment in America. The main empirical issues center on whether or not the death penalty is imposed with bias, whether it serves as deterrence for future crimes, and whether it is an economically beneficial option for the country. Moral concerns include the idea of justice as being “an eye for an eye,” whether or not capital punishment is “playing God,” and if the death penalty is a cruel and unusual form of punishment. The position we recommend to our candidate is opposition to capital punishment because evidence demonstrates that it is a biased, fails to deter crime, not cost effective, unjust, and cruel and unusual government action.

The death penalty in America dates back to the colonial period. Its use was fragmented at best throughout the colonies and eventually the states, with each state having its own laws concerning the use of capital punishment. As long as it has existed in the United States, there has been controversy and divided views regarding the death penalty. One of earliest views from the nation was those of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who argued that the death penalty did not deter crime, but actually caused crime rates to rise. This is a view that is held even today, and has been generally substantiated by data. Throughout the nineteenth century, the divided view continued, with Michigan abolishing the death penalty in 1846. During and after the Civil War, attention was shifted away from the death penalty to issues like slavery, and Reconstruction. In the early twentieth century, during the Progressive Movement, there was a general advance towards abolishment. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, social scientists felt that capital punishment was needed to move toward a moral society, and as a result, executions rose during these times. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, with the decline of support for the death penalty came a decrease in executions. This was due mainly in part to the public’s questioning of the validity and fairness of the death penalty. Consequently, in the 1972 Supreme Court case, Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court decided—with a 5-4 vote and 9 separate opinions—that the death penalty was capriciously and arbitrarily handed down. Historically, the entire nation’s view on the death penalty has been disjointed, with the federal government allowing state governments to make laws. For a real decision to be made, the federal government has to be more involved, and make a clear concise decision on the matter. Recently, more issues have emerged in regards to the death...

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