History: Landmark Cases
The state must decide to retain or abolish capital punishment based on popular appeal and legal precedence. In this regard, it is important to point out that the trend in execution has varied over the past few decades (Kirchmeier 45). Nevertheless, there is significant public support for capital punishment for convicted murderers. Based on current statistics from the Gallup polls, at least 64 percent of American adults are in favor of the death penalty. It is also important to point out how the U.S. Justice Department interprets cases that has to do with capital punishment. In 1972, in the case of Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to go against the use of the death penalty (Kirchmeier 45).
The U.S. Supreme Court remarked that the methodology rendered its use unconstitutional. It must be made clear that the Supreme Court did not rule against the death penalty, the only problem was the way it was implemented. As a result, the Supreme Court made it illegal for a jury to impose the death penalty without following certain strict guidelines. In another landmark case in 1976, Woodson v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory death sentences was unconstitutional. As a result, a significant number of states banned the use of capital punishment for certain types of offenders. In 2002, in the case Atkins v. Virginia, the Supreme ruled that the execution of a mentally retarded person was unconstitutional. In 2005, in the case Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme court ruled that the execution of an offender under the age of eighteen was unconstitutional.
Arguments: Pro and Con
Those who favor the retention of capital punishment contend that the use of the death penalty creates a favorable balance of happiness over unhappiness in a particular society (Head and Mann 32). It is made possible through prevention, because the death penalty prevents the offender from striking again. Thus, it is the best form of punishment, as opposed to life imprisonment. In the case of life sentences, repeat offenders have a chance to escape, and wreak havoc in the community.
Those who are in favor for the abolition of the death penalty made the argument, that the use of life sentences is a better alternative. They also argue that those who favor the use of capital punishment are unable to produce scientific evidence that executing criminals is an effective tool to lower murder rates in a particular state.
Those who are against the use of capital punishment made the argument that the threat of capital punishment does not discourage murderers from committing crime. In fact, capital punishment strengthens their resolve not to get caught.
There is legal and moral support to allow the use of capital punishment on specific crimes. Thus, the application of the death penalty must be limited to violent crimes, such as, murder, rape, and kidnap for ransom. However, the three-strike rule must be applied to these cases. In other words, a life sentence is enough to punish violent offenders. However, those who are repeat offenders, criminals who committed the same type of crime more than two times must be punished using the death penalty. From a moral standpoint, the state or the government has a moral responsibility to protect its citizens from repeat offenders, especially those who specializes in violent crimes. From a legal standpoint, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that capital punishment is not a violation of the U.S. constitution.
Those who are in favor of the death penalty, and those who want to abolish capital punishment share one thing in common. They believe that killing a human being is a morally reprehensible act. Those who are in favor of the death penalty are not happy with the idea of ending the life of a human being. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, policy makers must consider the moral arguments made in the debate concerning capital punishment. This moral perspective is the main reason for the creation of humane methods to execute criminals. Moreover, lawmakers arguing over the benefit of the death penalty must take into account a critical fact.
They must consider the insight that more than 60% of American adults are in favor for the retention of capital punishment. On the other hand, it must be made clear, that only a few countries around the world are still using death chambers and lethal injections. Thus, it is fair to say that a significant number of people around the world are not in favor of the death penalty. The best way to resolve this problem is to create a compromise. The U.S. Justice System must retain the use of capital punishment, but only for violent offenders and repeat offenders. The U.S. Justice System must only execute violent offenders when it comes to three types of violent crimes: murder; rape, and kidnap for ransom.
Objections and Counter-Arguments
Those who are against the use of capital punishment will reiterate the claim that no one has the right to end the life of another human being. They will also highlight the fact that there is no scientific evidence to prove that capital punishment is an effective deterrence against violent crimes. They will also cite legal grounds to the abolition of capital punishment. They will highlight the fact that the U.S. constitution does not allow cruel and unusual punishment. They will cite cases wherein the judge and jury committed grave abuse of justice, in cases wherein innocent defendants were sent to the gas chambers.
Supporters of capital punishment will make counter-arguments using principles developed by Ernest van den Haag. He was the former professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy at Fordham University (White 212). Ernest van den Haag argued that the improper use of capital punishment is irrelevant to its morality (White 212). The professor pointed out that capital punishment is not an excessive punishment for violent crimes, and it is not inconsistent with human dignity (White 212). The professor argued that if capital punishment is abolished there is no guarantee that the state can protect the lives of innocent people.
However, if hardened criminals are executed through the the use of gas chambers and lethal injection, there is greater assurance that the lives of innocent civilians can be protected from repeat offenders. In other words, the application of capital punishment permanently deletes the possibility that a rapist and a murderer will have the opportunity to strike again.
Response to Objections and Counter-Arguments
There are several reasons that explain the wisdom of retaining capital punishment. There were several landmark cases that refined the application of capital punishment in this country. The U.S. Justice Department must build from these developments concerning the death penalty. Therefore, those who are against the death penalty because of the possibility of errors in the criminal justice system must consider the impact of the said landmark cases. For example, a jury is not allowed to use the death penalty without going through strict legal procedures. It is also good to know that the courts are not allowed to use capital punishment to execute mentally retarded offenders. It is also good to know that the death penalty is not applicable to offenders who committed violent crimes when they were under the age of eighteen.
Abolitionists are unable to defend their position using the principle of unusual and cruel punishment. They cannot support their claim, especially if the person is guilty of committing violent crimes. It is fair to use the death penalty on murderers and those who are guilty of violent crimes. Rape is an example of a violent crime, and it is as offensive as murder. The same thing can be said about kidnap for ransom crimes. Kidnap for ransom groups are endangering the lives of kidnapped victims, and the people that were tasked to rescue them.
Those who are seeking to abolish the death penalty have no effective counter-argument regarding the problem of repeat offenders. When a serial killer escapes from a maximum security prison, the damage is more significant compared to other fugitives. A serial killer on the loose increases the probability that another victim will die in the near future. The state must be accountable to its citizens. It is not acceptable to give a second chance for repeat offenders to commit another crime.
The use of capital punishment is legal and moral, even if it is not an effective deterrent against crime. It must be made clear that the purpose of the death penalty is not limited to the necessity of discouraging criminals from committing crimes. Capital punishment is an important mechanism for law enforcement. It is also an effective tool when it comes to reducing the crime rate, especially in the context of violent crimes. Hardened criminals characterized by multiple convictions have no hope for reform. They are a danger to society.
Another important concept to consider is the three-strike rule. This rule guarantees the low probability of executing innocent defendants. In order to ensure, that only hardened criminals are the recipient of capital punishment, the U.S. Congress must pass a law that incorporates the three-strike rule. It is difficult to make a mistake if a convicted felon is sentenced to die from lethal injection after having been found guilty of committing violent crimes as a repeat offender.
The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court must never abolish capital punishment. The death penalty is an effective tool when it comes to reducing the incidence of violent crimes. It must be made clear that capital punishment must never be viewed as a deterrent against crime. However, it assures victims and their families that repeat offenders are not going to have another opportunity to commit violent crimes.
The state is accountable to its citizens, and the death of innocent civilians at the hands of repeat offenders is an unacceptable scenario. The state has the power to prevent the said crime. Thus, it is unacceptable to provide hardened criminals different opportunities to commit violent crimes. When capital punishment is used to end their career as criminals, they will never have the opportunity to terrorize people again. It is important to refine laws concerning the use of capital punishment. In order to reduce the probability of error. Thus, capital punishment is only recommended after satisfying the three-strike rule. This ensures that no miscarriage of justice was committed by the U.S. criminal justice system. If the defendant was a victim of a frame-up he has the chance to overturn the guilty verdict.
However, if the defendant is a hardened criminal, and has been convicted of the same type of violent crimes for more than two consecutive times, it is hard to argue that there was an error committed by the judge or jury.
The three-strike rule is the best argument to prove that a hardened criminal will strike again if given the freedom to roam the streets. Although, it is important to retain the use of capital punishment, the state must value human life. The state and the U.S. criminal justice system must do everything in its power to reduce the application of the death penalty. Capital punishment is only allowed if the end goal is to save human lives. For example, the death of a single serial killer through the use of lethal injection is justified considering the number of lives that will be lost if he is allowed to roam the streets. The death penalty should never become a tool for retribution. Thus, it is also important to limit the type of offense that can be punished using the death penalty. Capital punishment must be reserved for violent crimes, such as, murder, rape, and kidnap for ransom.
Head, Michael and Scott Mann. Law in Perspective: Ethics, Society, and Critical Thinking. Sydney: University of South Wales Press, 2009. Print.
Kirchmeier, Jeffrey. Imprisoned by the Past. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.
White, James. Contemporary Moral Problems. CA: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2009. Print.