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Research paper on Death Penalty (Pros & Cons)

Death penalty (pros and cons)


The purpose of this paper is to look at both sides of the arguments of the death penalty-the pros and cons Interesting issues are brought up like the fear of the death penalty, bible quotes, how life is sacred, and the execution of the innocent. You will note that too much emphasis is placed on the convicted murderer and not on the victim.  The murderers get out of prison early and murder again.  There are evidences to both sides of the arguments in whether the death penalty is a deterrent or not.


                                          What is Capital punishment or death penalty?

A death penalty is the sentence of execution for murder and some other capital crimes (serious crimes, especially murder, which are punishable by death). The death penalty, or capital punishment, may be prescribed by Congress or any state legislature for murder and other capital crimes. It is used today in some countries and was used in ancient times to punish a variety of offenses.

When the word death penalty is used, it makes yelling and screaming from both sides of extremist.  One side may say deterrence, while the other side may say it is revenge. However, capital punishment or the death penalty is one of the most debated issues in the Criminal Justice System. A majority, but not all states provide for the death penalty. Most states that do allow capital punishment have an age requirement, although it is permissible to impose a death penalty on a minor in certain cases. Recently, challenges to death penalties have arisen based upon the mental capacity of the convicted to understand the wrongfulness of their actions. In addition to the death penalty laws in many states, the federal government has also employed capital punishment for certain federal offenses, such as murder of a government official, kidnapping resulting in death, running a large-scale drug enterprise, and treason.

In April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed the Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions. The resolution calls on countries which have not abolished the death penalty to restrict its use of the death penalty, including not imposing it on juvenile offenders and limiting the number of offenses for which it can be imposed.

Ten countries, including the United States, China, India, Rwanda and Sudan voted against the resolution.

Now the question is:

Death penalty should be allowed or not?

What are the pros and cons of capital punishment?

Below, I would explain some arguments for both pros as well as cons of death penalty.


Death Penalty fails to give a new lease of life:

What would it accomplish to put someone on death row?  The victim is already dead-you cannot bring him back.  When the opponents feel “fear of death” ,it will prevent one from committing murder, it is not true because most murders are done on the “heat of passion” when a person cannot think rationally.  Therefore, how can one even have time to think of fear in the heat of passion?(Internet)

Death Penalty Failed as a Deterrent:

Some criminologist claim they have statistically proven that when an execution is publicized, more murders occur in the day and weeks that follow.  A good example is in the Linberg kidnapping.  A number of states adopted the death penalty for crime like this, but figures showed kidnapping increased.  Publicity may encourage crime instead of preventing it (McClellan, G., 1961).

Death is one penalty which makes error irreversible and the chance of error is inescapable when based on human judgment.  On the contrary, sometimes defendants insist on execution.  They feel it is an act of kindness to them.  The argument here is –  Is life imprisonment a crueler fate?”    Is there evidence supporting the usefulness of the death penalty securing the life of the citizens (McClellan, G. 1961)?

Does the death penalty give increased protection against being murdered?  This argument for continuation of the death penalty is most likely a deterrent, but  it has failed as a deterrent.  There is no clear evidence because empirical studies  done in the 50’s by Professor Thorsten Sellin, (sociologist)  did not  give support  to deterrence (McClellan, G., 1961).

Does not Discourage Crime:

It is noted that we need extreme penalty as a deterrent to crime.  This could be a strong argument if it could be proved that the death penalty discourages murderers and kidnappers.  There is strong evidence that the death penalty does not discourage crime at all. (McClellan, G., 1961).

Grant McClellan (1961) claims:

“In 1958 the 10 states that had the fewest murders –fewer than two a year per 100,000 populations -were New Hampshire, Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Utah, North Dakota and Washington.  Four of these 10 states had abolished the death penalty.”


Frank Carrington (1978) states- is there any way one can tell whether the death penalty deters murders from killing?  There is no way one can tell whether the death penalty deters murderers from killing.  The argument goes on that proponents of capital punishments should not have to bear the burden of proving deterrence by a  reasonable doubt.  Nor should the abolitionist have to prove deterrence by a reasonable doubt -neither side would be able to anyway.

Frank Carrington (1978) claims common sense supports the inference that if, the threat of the death penalty decreases, the rate of murders increases than it may be true.  But if the threat had increased, the homicide rate may decrease.

Justice Stewart held in the Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia:

“Although some of the studies suggest that the death penalty may not function as a significantly greater deterrent than lesser penalties, there is no convincing empirical evidence supporting or refuting this view.”

“There are carefully contemplated murders, such as murder for hire, where the possible penalty of death may well enter the cold calculus that precedes the decision to act.”( as cited in Carrington, 1978. p. 87).

When the attacker is charged, he has the power of the judicial process that protects his constitutional rights.  What about the victim?  The assailant may have compassion from investigating officers, families and friends.  Furthermore, the criminal may have organized campaigns of propaganda to build sympathy for him as if he is the one who has been sinned against.  These false claims are publicized, for no reason, hence, protecting the criminal (Isenberg, I., 1977).

Crime Rate Increases:

Millions are being killed and will be killed because our justice system is not working.  Millions have already been killed and will be killed every year.  According to Time Magazine there are 2,000,000 people beaten in the United States.  Some are knifed, shot, or beaten (Internet).

Death Feared:

Most people have a natural fear of death- it’s a trait, man have to think about what will happen before we act. If we do not think about it consciously, we will think about it unconsciously.

Think! If every murderer who killed someone died instantly, the homicide rate would be very low because no one likes to die.  We cannot do this, but if the Justice system can make it more swift and severe, we could change the laws to make capital punishment faster and make appeals a shorter process. The death penalty is important because it could save the lives of thousands of potential victims who are at stake (Bedau, H., 1982).

Death Penalty Saves Lives:

The question is whether or not execution of an innocent person is strong enough to abolish the death penalty.  Remember, the death penalty saves lives. Repeat murders are eliminated and expected murders are deterred.  We must consider the victim as well as the defendant.

Death Penalty – Right to Live

Opponents say the State is like a murder himself.  The argument here is, if execution is murder, than killing someone in war is murder.  Our country should stop fighting wars.  On the contrary, is it necessary to protect the rights of a group of people.  Hence, the death penalty is vital to protect a person’s right to live!  Is arresting someone same as kidnapping someone?  In the same, executing someone is not murder; it is punishment by society for a deserving criminal.


Justice requires punishing the guilty even if only some can be punished and sparing the innocent, even if all are not spared.  Morally, justice must always be preferred to equality.  Justice cannot ever permit sparing some guilty person, or punishing some innocent ones, for the sake of equality—because others have been spared or punished. Anyone familiar with the law enforcement knows that punishments can be inflicted only on an unavoidable “shudder” selection of the guilty (Bedau, H., 1977).

Life is Sacred:

In an interview with Professor van den Haag, a psychoanalyst and adjunct professor at New York University, was questioned,    “Why do you favor the death penalty?”  His answer was that the Federal prison had a man sentenced to Life who, since he has been in prison committed three more murders on three separate occasions .They were prison guards and inmates.  There’s no more punishment he can receive, therefore, in many cases, the death penalty is the only penalty that can deter.  He went on saying “I hold life sacred, and because I hold it sacred, I feel that anyone who takes some one’s life should know that thereby he forsakes his own and does not just suffer an inconvenience about being put into prison for sometime (as cited in Isenberg, 1977, p. 135)


My research on issues on the death penalty is one of the most debatable in the criminal justice system.  Today, there are many pros and cons to this death penalty issues.  However, if people weigh the arguments properly, and have empathy for the victims, they will be more inclined to favor capital punishment. As you may have read in the arguments, the death penalty help to curtail future murderers, thus, we can save more lives.  The chances of murdering an innocent man are very minute. Capital Punishment is not excessive, unnecessary punishment, for those who knowingly and intentionally commits murder in premeditation, to take lives of others.  Even though capital punishment is not used so often, it still is a threat to the criminal.

My Opinion:

In my opinion, I am in favor of the death penalty, because we can save innocent lives. I feel murderers should be executed the first time because if chances are given, they will come out of prison and kill another innocent person again. Even the bible advocates death for murder and other crimes like kidnapping and witchcraft.  We need stricter laws and swift death penalty.  If there is no death penalty in any state, and a criminal kills someone, it is because he felt he could get out in 10 years or less from prison. There is no fear of death for him.   They see other murderers in the state get away with murder, so they, too, can get away with it.   They don’t have to fear the death penalty.


Introduction to Ethics

Research paper on Death Penalty (Pros & Cons)

Submitted to: Mr.John Britto

Submitted by: Zain Ahmed

ID Number: 209110241

                              Due Date: 7th April, 2013

Group: Thursday

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