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The Morality Of Capital Punishment Essay

2110 words - 8 pages

In 1965, Robert Massie murdered mother of two Mildred Weiss in San Gabriel, Calif., during a follow-home robbery. Hours before execution, a stay was issued so Massie could testify against his accomplice. Massie's sentence was commuted to life when the Supreme Court halted executions in 1972. Receiving an undeserved second chance, Massie was paroled, but eight months later robbed and murdered businessman Boris Naumoff in San Francisco. (Pro-Death the scope of this paper, I offer a summary of the article "Capital Punishment" by Hugo Adam Bedau. Bedau's article argues against capital punishment and talks about the two main principles of retributive justice that relate to the controversy of capital punishment. I will refute Bedau's claims and offer my arguments for the morality of capital punishment, including how capital punishment is a crime deterrent and how it keeps murderers from being released back onto the streets. Lastly, I will refute any possible counterarguments against my position.As stated above, Bedau believes that "there are two leading principles of retributive justice relevant to the capital punishment controversy. One is the principle that crimes should be punished. The other is the principle that the severity of a punishment should be proportional to the gravity of the offense" (Bedau 1). His first point that crimes should be punished is further explained by pointing out that, whether one is for or against capital punishment, it is agreeable to all to state that all crime must be punished. Now is the time to figure out how crime should be punished. Retributive justice, retaliation, or lex talionis, make it seem like murderers ought to be put to death. However, Bedau's overall argument is not that murderers should not be put to death, but how the courts decide which murderers should or should not be put to death and which form should be used. His first supporting argument is the fact that people in the past have been put to death for other reasons beside murder. "Persons have been executed for aggravated assault, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, sabotage, and espionage. It is not possible to defend any of these executions on grounds of just retribution" (Bedau 2). If a life was not taken in the crime that the person committed, then why is the criminal's life being taken?Bedau asks whether "all murders are to be punished by death?" (Bedau 2). Bedau points out that, nearly two hundred years ago, the distinction between first- and second-degree murders was established in order to make the classification of homicides deserving the death penalty stricter. However, "those dead owing to manslaughter, or to any kind of unintentional, accidental, unpremeditated, unavoidable, unmalicious killing are just as dead as the victims of the most ghastly murders" (Bedau 2). The way the current laws are written makes it difficult to identify which criminal homicides should or should not be punishable by death. According to Bedau, "The...

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