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Death Penalty

Introduction and Thesis:

The death penalty is an issue as old as society itself. The concept, which probably originated in Babylon Law and the code of Hammurabi, embodies the principle of “an eye for an eye.” By thinking rationally about the issue at hand, it is easy to conclude that death is the only fair punishment for a crime of the same nature. However, this rational argument rejects not only morality, but also financial responsibility. The death penalty is considered cruel and unjust but that opinion is subjective. Nevertheless, the death penalty is financially impractical, it is definitely immoral, and most disappointing, and records show that death penalty does not significantly deter criminals.



The arguments against the death penalty will be presented in the same order as they appear in the thesis. The paper will lead with the financial impracticability argument, since it is the strongest and quite difficult to dispute. Next, the paper will dive into the moral dilemma in effort to appeal to the emotional side of the reader. Subsequently, it will consider the arguments favoring the death penalty and discredited.


One of the many issues to consider when contemplating whether to eradicate death penalty is the costs associated with the death penalty. While people think that it is cheap to execute a person, in fact it is not. The actual costs of execution maybe low, but the costs of keeping an inmate alive are extremely high. These costs arise during pretrial and trial and not during the execution. Studies across the United States indicate that it costs more to maintain a convict to death sentence than a convict on life imprisonment without possibility of parole (Guernsey 64). For instance, according to Brux (35), in Kansas, it costs more than 70% to defend a defendant in a case of involving death penalty than other cases. A research of 34 cases whose sentence was likely to be death from the years 2004-2011, with a possibility of execution as was indicated in the sentence, proves that Kansas spent an average of $395,762. The total expenses for the other cases that did not have a possibility of execution were an average of $98,963. In Idaho, execution cases required at least 44 times more time than the non-execution cases. Every case requires an average of 8,000 hours while other types of cases require180 hours. In Colorado, on the other hand, death penalty proceedings need at least six times more than other cases. While it only requires 24.5 days in court for ordinary cases, death penalties need 147.6 days. In California, the expenses for sustaining a convict on a death row are an average of $90,000 annually for every convict. Currently, the state had 670 convicts that are waiting death penalty, which will cost the government at least &63.3 million every year.


There are various reasons why the costs of executing offenders are extremely high. One of the reasons is that the judicial process involving the death penalty is particularly complex and requires more attorneys, experts, witnesses and a lengthy process of selecting the jury, than the other crimes. Secondly, most trials relating to death penalty are faulty, which requires them to be investigated again. In some instances, the cases have been repeated more than once, which has a direct impact on the increase of investigative costs (Brux 35). These penalty costs diverts resources that would otherwise be in use to control the rising crimes across the world. These resources would have been helpful in the treatment of mental illnesses, preventing drug usage, providing rehabilitation and education services, preventing child abuse and gender violence and promoting emergency services.

The other reason why there is need to abolish death penalty relates to the moral considerations. According to Nathanson (12), one of the moral considerations is the possibility of executing innocent people who became convicted mistakenly. Once the death penalty is executed, nothing can be done even if it evidence later on indicate that the person was actually innocent. There is immense evidence that indicates people have been declared innocent and removed from the sentence way after the sentencing.

Since the year 1978, there have been more than 88 people whose death sentence was reversed after evidence showing they were innocent. Over the same duration, there were more than 650 executions, which leads to the conclusion that for every seven executions, one of them was innocent. This is an intolerable risk of killing people who did not commit the crimes. Additionally, studies show that most capital cases have severe errors resulting to retrials. After the trails, 80% of the convicts did not receive death sentence, seven percent became acquitted and only 13% received the death sentence. This is an indication that many people could lose their lives for crimes that did not require death penalty and the governments bear the responsibilities of ensuring protection of innocent lives (Nathanson 13).

Punishment is a mode of crime deterrence used by the society to prevent the repeat of the same crimes in the future. However, overwhelming evidence indicate that death penalty has not been effective in the prevention of more murders (Guernsey 61). This is because most offenders who commit murders do it at moments of anger and passion or under influence of substance abuse and they barely think about death penalty at that time. At the same time, some people who kill do not expect to be found out and do not take the time to consider the possibility of death penalty before taking action. This means that the existence of the penalty has no impact on preventing future crimes. It should, therefore, be abolished and life sentence with no possibility of parole enhanced.

The application of death penalty is unfair and need eradication. This form of punishment does not single out the worst people in the society. Rather it has leads to an arbitrary group of people due to other unreasonable factors such as the competence of the defense counsel. Majority of the convicts on the death sentence do not have finances to pay their own attorneys and they have to use the services of the state attorneys, who in most occasions lack the experience for capital offenses. These attorneys are unable to conduct thorough investigations resulting in death sentences. Additionally, studies reveal that the death penalty applied is based on the race, which makes it an unfair punishment. When a murder involves a white person, the case is more likely to end with a death penalty than when it is a black person. This is racially divisive since it brings out the notion that the lives of the white people are more valuable than that of the black people (Mandery 53). Moreover, black offenders are more likely to receive death penalty than the white. Since the restoration of the execution as a form of sentencing in 1976, 158 black convicts received execution for killing a white person, while only 11 white convicts have received execution for murdering blacks. It is also important to that someone in one country can receive death penalty, but a similar crime in another crime will not attract a death penalty. This leaves the prosecutors with a lot of discretion on when to apply death penalty and when not. Therefore, this form of punishment needs abolition due to its selective application until the point in time when arbitrary factors such as economy, race and geography will stop being a determinant to the application of this form of punishment.

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Death penalty tends to teach people that every murder should be paid by killing the perpetrator of the murder. This is opposed to the societal teachings where children are expected not to revenge by doing wrongs against their perpetrators. However, death penalty has the opposite effect where children learn that every wrong is paid in an equivalent wrong. Sentencing a person to life imprisonment is a good lesson to children that committing a crime would result in the denial or limitation of certain rights. The limitation of freedom and rights is what people learn, thus reduce their chances of repeating the same mistakes. In killing someone as punishment for murder, one does not learn from his mistakes and he does not even has the chance to warn the peers of the impact of committing crime and spending time in jail. Additionally, death penalty is against most religious beliefs that the society holds. According to Pojman (34), most religions teach forgiveness for all types of crime to ensure harmonious existence. Christians, for instance, believe that murderers should not be executed since God did not execute the first murder, Cain. For these reasons, the death penalty need%uFFFD to be eradicated since it lacks support in many countries.

There are proponents of death penalty across the globe. One of the main explanations for arguing for this form of punishment is retribution simply means receiving a form of punishment that is equivalent to the crime committed (Nathanson 104). This form of reasoning has its foundation from the biblical concept in the Old Testament that allowed ‘an eye for an eye’. People believe it is only fair for someone who has committed murder to lose their lives. However, when such a perpetrator dies, they do not have the chance to feel the pain and suffering from guilt resulting from taking someone else’s life (Pojman 84). After execution, the perpetrators do not experience the disappointment and resentment that the society has towards them. Additionally, the methods used during execution kill someone in a particularly short period of time, and thus the offender does not experience a lot of pain.

People should experience the pain and suffering that comes after instead of receiving an easy way out for the crime committed.
The other justification for supporting death penalty is incapacitation. Proponents of death penalty believe that executing an offender will limit the chance of the person repeating the crime again (Mandery 74). For them, execution is the only assurance that the society is safe and there is no possibility of the crime by the same person recurring. However, imprisonment is a sure way of incapacitating people since they do not have the opportunity to commit the crimes due to absence of form of interaction between them and the larger society. In fact, studies show that once people are imprisoned, they become calm and have time to think about the crimes they had committed.


According to Guernsey (56), the other reason why there is still support for death penalty in the judicial system is the belief that such form of punishment will instill fear in people and deter the chances of committing murder. The belief is that when someone is executed, people close to the convicted will take time before committing a similar crime for fear of losing their lives. However, as stated above, murders happen extremely fast and people do not have time to think about the repercussions. Consequently, the death penalty does not give the desired impact of deterring crime.


Death penalty is a harsh mode of sentencing that is against human rights. It is a extremely expensive operation that most governments have to incur in order to execute. The sad bit is that though proponents of the punishment believe that it can be useful in deterring crimes, the opposite is actually true. For some reason, the rates of murder tend to go up around the execution time. Moreover, most murders are not planned or premeditated and, thus previous executions do not influence someone’s actions at the time of the murder. Consequently, this form of punishment need eradication and punishments that can have an impact on someone’s life implemented.

Annotated bibliography

Badinter, Robert. Abolition: One Man’s Battle Against the Death Penalty. Upne, 2008.
The author, a criminal attorney and a professor, uses the knowledge acquired to write his book, which accounts for his struggle in the fight against death not just as a criminal attorney, but also as a politician. The book addresses the issue of death penalty in France and how the Americans can learn from such experiences. He also addresses the issue from a moral and political perspective and makes use of his own experiences in his career. However, the book does not borrow a lot from other writers, which makes it a bit biased to his own experiences.

Brux, Jacqueline. Economic issues and policy. Cengage Learning, 2010.
A professor in economics, the author uses the knowledge acquired during her career to explain the financial implications of death penalty on governments and tax payers at large. The book covers a detailed cost-benefit analysis of execution and gives examples from selected states from the United States. The only weaknesses of this source is that it is biased on the figures alone and does not give relate the execution with the moral aspects. However, the author borrows widely from other sources.

Guernsey, JoAnn Bren. Death Penalty: Fair Solution Or Moral Failure?. Twenty-First Century Books, 2009.
The author is a writer with immense experience in different areas. The author has done an impressive job in this book through thorough research from primary sources and the Internet. This book offers a detailed analysis of the execution process and its starts by giving the history of execution and how it is carried out. In the subsequent chapters, the book discusses the morality perspective of execution and whether it is right or wrong. It details the arguments for and against this mode of sentencing through critical arguments. The book also details what happens in the public arena during executions. It also compares execution in the United States against other parts in the world.

Mandery, Evan. Capital Punishment in America: A Balanced Examination. Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2011.
This book provides a comprehensive, balanced and unbiased review of death penalty. It discusses the major areas of death penalty, which includes among others racial application of the punishment, deterrence, arbitrariness, arguments for and against and the methods of application. Designed for scholars who are pursuing their undergraduate and graduate studies, the book challenges learners to reevaluate their beliefs on capital punishment. The author draws his support documentation from Supreme Court hearing and statistics from various studies.

Nathanson, Stephen. An eye for an eye?: The immorality of punishing by death. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.
The author is a Philosophy Professor at the Northeastern University and he has written many books regarding morality. The author starts by explaining his stand that execution has become one of the issues in the society that is difficult to resolve. In attempts to offer a solution, the author discusses the reasons for and against execution and eventually defends the people who are against this form of punishment. According to him, the penalty is inconsistent with the right to life and respect for life. Consequently, the punishment should abolish now and not later.

Pojman, Louis P. The death penalty: For and against. No. 94. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000
The author was a philosopher and professor and had vast experience in writing articles and books with morality as the main theme. In his book, he takes on another philosopher, Jeffrey Reiman in argument for and against execution. Pojman argues for the sentencing arguing that it is an effective form of deterring crime while his counterpart argues against the sentencing. It is an interesting source, which enables one to see both sides of the punishment from philosophers’ points of view. The book’s main audience is the people who are torn between whether to argue for or against execution.




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