In reaching a common ground between those that believe in the death penalty and those that do not, serious consideration should be taken. The whole point of the death penalty is to inflict the murderer with the worst possible punishment, so that they too can feel the pain that they have imposed upon others due to their heartless crimes. You cannot really define what extreme cruelty is in accordance to all people. Some people may find that spending the rest of their life in prison, rotting away in a jail cell is the worst form of penalty. Others may feel that killing them and taking their whole life away is worse. When it comes down to it, people cannot even decide in our country today which is going to be the worst form of punishment. It is hard to find a common ground when both bring up valid points.
Many consider murder to be “unlawful” killing of someone else. And it is just that, unlawful, so why is our country trying to base itself on this “unlawful” matter. What good is a corpse going to do? Is killing that murderer going to bring back the life that was murdered? Life in prison with no possibility of parole is the proper form of punishment to those who do not believe in the death penalty. It can be shown that life in prison can deter crimes from happening again. If a prisoner spends his/hers life in jail, then there is no way for them to commit another one of their murders.
Many others consider the death penalty to be used on the old reasoning of “an eye for an eye, a limb for a limb, and a life for a life.” With this argument is seems that justice is defined as you reap what you sow. The point has been brought up that “If execution is legalized murder, then imprisonment is legalized kidnapping (what would we say if one individual forcibly kept another locked up in a tiny room for years?)(Young).” Both sides have their points of validity making this argument unable to mediate.
Racial Discrimination is a big factor when considering the death penalty. To many its seems that the color of a person’s skin plays a critical and unacceptable role in capital punishment. If racial discrimination does play a part in determining whether someone receives the death penalty then that as a means of punishment should not be accepted in our society. It seems that with each coming case, there seems to statistics linking racial discrimination and the death penalty building up in society. These statistics seem to show an ugly light onto our country and government. Others might say that there is no racial discrimination in our legal system. There are also statistics that may say there is racial diversity such as: “Whites who are arrested for murder are slightly more likely to be sentenced to death than blacks arrested for murder (1.6 percent vs. 1.2 percent).” With evidence on both sides of the case, it is hard to make a clear decision on whether race is a factor in capital punishment.
One aspect of the death penalty that is hard to ignore is the high cost. Taxpayers are forced to account for a more complicated jury selection process, a longer trial, and a greater number of motions and appeals to name a few aspects that constitute a capital punishment trial. As of 1994, a single death penalty case costs tax payers in Texas an average of $2.3 million per execution. The cost per execution in the state of Florida is even higher at $3.2 million(**). It’s hard to compare this to the average cost of a holding a prisoner with a life sentence, a mere $593,000 (*).
Supporters of the death penalty argue that as a greater number of death penalty cases are resulting in executions, prosecution costs as a whole are decreasing significantly (*). With prison costs rising rapidly as more prison sentences are being issued, the costs of life sentences may eventually equal the declining costs of capital punishment.
The death penalty is often argued to have a strong deterrence effect on potential future criminals. According to Joanna M. Shepherd’s testimony before the House Judiciary Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee, studies as recent as 2004 have “consistently shown that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect, with each execution deterring between 3 and 18 murders” (*). The existence of the death penalty can be seen as a strong tool to prevent future murder. We cannot let this knowledge go to waste.
Opponents of the death penalty argue fiercely against the deterrence effects of capital punishment, arguing that research and studies are flawed. In fact, the two states with the highest number of executions in 2003, Texas with 24, and Oklahoma with 14, actually saw increases in murder rates from 2002 to 2003. Even worse, “the top 13 states in terms of murder rates were all death penalty states” (****). The existence of capital punishment in these states does not seem to have an effect on future murders. This is one of the main discussion points when debating the death penalty, due to such varied evidence. Depending on the study, it is truly difficult to determine whether or not murders are actually being deterred.
It is often noted the legal system used for determining the death sentence is not always correct. It is inevitable that executions of innocent people do occur. Needless to say, these cases are horrible blunders that result in government becoming no greater than the murderers which they aim to punish. However, increased legal procedures can eventually reduce almost all possibilities of this horrible occurrence. Ensuring the guilt of a criminal is something that cannot be taken lightly. Supporters of the death penalty argue that we must have faith in our own legal system, that the truth will be found, and proper retribution will be carried out.
The danger that an innocent person could be sentenced to death because of errors in our government is a big concern with capital punishment. Statistics show that “As of March 2005, 119 innocent people have been released from death rows across the country since 1973.” Anybody can make a mistake, nobody’s perfect, but when that mistake is taken away an innocent person’s life, it cannot be justified. There are others that believe even if the occasional innocent person is sentenced to death, this punishment will in turn save a greater number of lives. It is hard to say whether or not the death penalty should take effect because of the possibility of killing innocent lives. The question of whether it is worth it or not, is still not answered.
All of these issues concerning the death penalty still have no real answer. It is hard for a decision to be made when both sides bring about valid points for their viewpoints. Capital Punishment is hard to find a middle ground, where both sides can agree on. Until further resolutions have been made it is hard to find mediation between both sides.
* The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints
Young, Cathy. "Common ground on the death penalty." Reason Online 14 June 2001 10 June 2008