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The Death Penalty: is an effective policy or costly mistake

The degree of development of any civilized society has always been determined by the attitude towards women, children, and the elderly. Perhaps, this test for being civilized should also include the attitude of people towards the death penalty. Over the course of its progression, humankind gradually abandons its barbaric cruel habits. This could also be applied to justice since in the past, it was considered normal to maim or painfully execute people. One of the problems in criminal law, which concerns not only lawyers but also society as a whole and causes numerous discussions, disputes, and debates, has been the question of the death penalty. Currently, the death penalty is a costly mistake for the modern world, and many countries aim to soften the legislation in order to eliminate judicial errors while abolishing the death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment, or finding other forms of punishing criminals.

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Arguments Against the Death Penalty

The death penalty is the product of barbaric society, and as a measure of punishment, it infringes the fundamental human rights that are enshrined in numerous international legal instruments. For several hundred years, Western scholars have asserted that all people have a ‘characteristic’ or a ‘human’ appropriate to life. Nowadays, particularly with regards to global human rights law, statesmen and legislators have set their goal to work on abolishing capital punishment (Bedau, 2012). Therefore, people of the majority of nations have already decided that the death penalty should not exist.

Indeed, the origin of the death penalty is associated with blood vengeance – a common practice among the ancient peoples that was sanctioned by authorities. However, this custom protected the life of a person and successfully fulfilled the historical mission of providing life support to the victims family membersy. Incidentally, civilized states, unlike barbarous societies, have moved away from the natural destiny of the capital punishment such as protecting the human life and using the death penalty for a variety of crimes. They understand that the capital punishment might lead to costly mistakes, when an innocent person is sentenced to the execution due to a variety of factors.

The death penalty has no preventive effect. Multiple studies have shown the absence of any correlation between the level of crime and the existence of the death penalty in the system of criminal justice. Mostly, the presence or absence of the death penalty in the legislation of a state is only one of the signs of the well-being of public relations. The use of the death penalty for the sake of purifying society is not likely to lead to its purification. This is not an end in itself, but a balanced moral and legal approach to the problem of limiting crime. Therefore, if the death penalty does not fulfill this function, it must be abolished.

Effectiveness of the Abolition of the Death Penalty

The reduction in executions was observed in the countries where the death penalty was imposed only for crimes against life, while political, state crimes did not imply such a punishment. This shows the effectiveness of the limited use of the death penalty. American thoughts about discipline can possibly affect results for the millions who experience the US criminal equity framework every year (Carll, 2016). The conclusions of researchers are quite contradictory, but most of them believe that the preventive value of the death penalty is small. Thus, one should present arguments of the opponents of the death penalty regarding the ineffectiveness of capital punishment at the present stage. For example, Maggard, Payne, and Chappell (2012) claim that public has consistently supported the death penalty, it is worth noting that support has decreased somewhat in recent years (p. 155). Thus, society has become more humanistic and capable of rejecting capital punishment.

Humankind should reject such a horrible punishment as the death penalty. Its complete abolition in the USA is associated with a variety of objective and subjective factors. First, it mainly depends on the amplitude of the most dangerous crimes, to which deliberate murder refers. Thus, according to Latzer, McCord, and United States Supreme Court (2011), In the abstract, the effectiveness of deterrence is an empirical question, one that should be subject to scientific proof (p. 17). Secondly, the socio-psychological factor, or the attitude of the population towards the abolition of the death penalty, must be considered. Based on the public opinion, the realization of human rights directly and strictly depends on the degree of democracy, civil society, on its qualitative and moral state, the level of political and legal culture, the measure of legal progress, and the scale of legal deterrence of the state (Phillips & Lapuck, 2015). Thirdly, the abolition of the death penalty is connected in many respects with the decision to replace it with life imprisonment since the preventive action of this punishment is almost as high as that of capital punishment, and it almost completely excludes the commission of a second offense of especially dangerous criminals. Over the years, states with the death penalty have tried to discover other conscious strategies for execution that were not ethical (Foa, Ansari-Bayegan, & Gardiner, 2016). That is why the abolition of capital punishment seems to be the best solution to the prevailing problem.

However, it is impossible to answer affirmatively the question if the death penalty is better than life imprisonment. The answer depends solely on the defendant. Nevertheless, most prisoners are inclined to replace capital punishment with a life sentence. Thus, considering the death penalty as a preventive measure for the most dangerous crimes associated with the forcible deprivation of a person’s life, one must remember that the abolishment of this type of punishment depends on the purpose of introducing it into the state’s legislation – the protection of human life.

The Elimination of Judicial Errors

The elimination of judicial errors is a great moral and ethical problem now. The best solution to the problem when the court might make the greatest mistake by sentencing an innocent person to death is the abolition of the capital punishment (van Dellen, 2008). The death penalty does not give the right to such a judicial error since because of the irreversibility of this punishment, it cannot be corrected. Indeed, the judicial practice, both international and domestic, abounds with irreparable judicial errors, because of which innocent persons have been sentenced to the death penalty (Mancini & Mears, 2010). At the present stage, as it seems, the prerequisites to exclude possible judicial errors in relation to such persons are not created. These judicial errors become truly costly mistakes when they lead to taking the lives of innocent people.

Those countries where the death penalty is still allowed should gradually move towards its abolition. First, it is necessary to outline the circle of persons who can be sentenced to the highest penalty for the commission of especially dangerous crimes. In particular, minors, elderly people, and women suffering from mental abnormalities are excluded. Secondly, the death penalty can be appointed only by the republican, regional, and a higher court, which should affect the quality of the trial. Thirdly, execution of the sentence can only be performed after a thorough examination in cassation and in the supervisory procedure by the Supreme Court. Therefore, civilized society has no right to make a mistake when it comes to the death penalty.

Arguments for the Death Penalty

From the point of view of the civilized protection of society from crime, the question of the effectiveness of the use of the death penalty and its deterrent role from committing crimes, is actively discussed. Researches have already noted that the preventive property of the death penalty as another punishment is its objective property. The death penalty is not effective as an intimidating action and it is harmful. Some researchers hold a different view, according to which the capital punishment does not directly affect the state of crime, but it serves as a means of protecting society from grave crimes. Thus, natural selection leaves useful individuals in nature or when society applies all punishment to criminals and the death penalty in particular. In such a way, it also corrects itself and purifies itself, so the biology of such a reasoning is obvious and controversial. The proportionality of the crime and punishment is based on the ancient principle: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Since then, society has become more civilized.


The idea of justice, which underlies the modern doctrine of domestic criminal law, should be awarded a fair penalty. In other words, corresponding to the nature and degree of public danger of the crime committed, the criminal justice system must consider the very complicated criminal situation in the world. Therefore, the criminal law should contain a sufficiently severe punishment, but not the death penalty, for an adequate impact on the most dangerous criminals who are guilty of the most serious crimes. The main argument against the death penalty still lies in the possibility of making costly mistake by taking the lives of the innocent. The use of the death penalty as capital punishment is aimed at depriving the criminal of life and preventing the commission of especially dangerous crimes in society. Not having an objective basis of its origin, the death penalty at the present stage of social development does not retain its basic preventive function. For this, according to the nature of origin and destination of the death penalty, it should not be applied even for the most serious crimes related to deliberate murder under aggravating circumstances.

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