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The History Of Capital Punishment Essay

1587 words - 6 pages

The clock ticks to 10:53. The late night has grown longer, and Troy Davis is strapped down to a gurney. If he is scared, he does not show it; he appears strong and resolute in what is undoubtedly a very daunting situation. “For those about to take my life,” he says, “may God have mercy on your souls” (“Georgia”). Davis has been on death row for over twenty years for killing a police officer. After every request and appeal has failed, the time has come for Davis to be executed by the state of Georgia. What is special about this case is that thousands around the globe refuse to believe that he is guilty (Curry). People have organized to demand that he be freed, or at least that his sentence be changed. Their effort is futile. Fifteen minutes later, Davis is dead. Many in the crowd outside the jail weep. They consider him, like he maintained until the end, an innocent man. “How is this justice?” they wonder. They are not just sympathizing; the handling of Davis’s case has been criticized around the world. Seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him later withdrew their statements, and there was no DNA evidence or murder weapon found (Pilkington). How can a man’s life be taken in such an unfair and cruel way? The world should make capital punishment illegal, recognizing it as a moral and ethical mistake, a cruel and misguided injustice, and an impractical and wasteful act.
Capital punishment has a complicated history, both worldwide and particularly in the United States. Due to the efforts of human rights groups and evolutions in society, the world has many fewer executions today than decades and centuries ago. According to the United States Department of Justice, there were forty-six executions in 2010. Forty-six is a little under the average of the past decade. Of the twenty-three countries that carried out executions in 2010, the United States is fifth (behind Yemen, North Korea, Iran, and China) when comparing numbers of executions. The exact number of executions in China is a secret, but it is estimated to be in the thousands (“Death Sentences” 5). Gallup polls in 2011 show that about sixty-one percent of Americans are in favor of execution for people convicted of murder (“Death Penalty”). Capital punishment has been scrutinized for centuries, and the debate over its legality has strengthened in the last few decades.
Supporters of capital punishment often think that if someone commits a crime, he deserves to pay an equal price. They cite Bible verses as concrete statements about the morality of the death penalty. They claim that passages like “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, / Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” should be interpreted literally and applied to situations today (Wolf 64; King James Version, Exod. 21.23-24). They also believe that doing something as serious as taking a life shows that they respect human life in a way that others do not. Their argument is that...

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