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Capital Punishment: Pros and Cons


Capital punishment refers to the imposition of a death penalty by the government. It was applied broadly during the ancient times. Since the time Roman Empire has fallen to the commencement of the current era, the death penalty was practiced all over Western Europe. Countries that were first to eliminate capital punishment were Costa Rica, Venezuela, and San Marino. By the year 2004, over 70 countries had wholly abolished a death penalty (Wilson, 2013). Some other nations maintained capital punishment for war crimes and treason. The question of the morality of the issue is still the debate of the day. The ethical issues involved comprise of the ordinary moral matters of punishment with an additional predicament of whether it may be morally right in depriving the human beings of their lives. The capital punishment in the United States is an incomplete method from the beginning to the end. Death sentences can be expected not due to the heinous act of crime but via the poor quality exhibited by defense lawyers, the victim’s or accused race and the state or county where the crime happened.

In the USA, over 1300 executions were held from the year 1976 up to now, and 1000 of the incidents took place in the Southern part (Wilson, 2013). It has been noted that the system of criminal justice fails to guard the people with illness and mental disabilities as well as innocent persons from execution. Even the executing administration is flawed because each process of execution arises with an intolerable risk of torture and pain (Melusky & Pesto, 2012). People deserve the penalty of death in the USA for heinous murders, conscientious and brutal murderers. It is not the kind of government managed lottery which selects the unlucky few for the death penalty from convicted murderers. Rather the system of capital punishment is a sieve which picks worst from the worst (Melusky & Pesto, 2012). In sentencing killers, as one illustrated above, the punishment which is less than death could fail to perform justice since the penalty might be inconsistent with the act of heinous crime. The jurors, prosecutors, and the victims’ loved ones understand this important point. It is significant in their supreme gravity that death penalty influences respect and belief in the majesty for moral order plus human law system which supports and derives from the ethical order.

In the past 54 years the State of Oregon supported a death penalty, but now they do not permit it anymore (Wilson, 2013). Despite the crimes of two inmates Harry and Douglas, the fact of being individually engaged in their death sentences compelled one into a reckoning with his feelings about the capital punishment (Meranze, 2011). The person became convicted on an ethical level, where life could either be hallowed or not, and an individual wanted it to be morally right. Since the person retired in 2010, from corrections his mission was to influence that death penalty was a disastrous policy (Meranze, 2011). The Americans must not accept the myth stating that capital punishment has a constructive role for the system of criminal justice. It may be difficult to end the death penalty; however, America can become a healthier community as an outcome.

Argument Opposing Capital Punishment

Valuing the human life, each person thinks that human life is important. The one against death penalty believes that individual life is valuable to an extent when even the worst criminal must not be denied of its value. In the natural law ethical theory, for instance, one may hold to an idea that a theoretical point of the law is to replicate morality demands and also hold the ethical form of relativism. These people believe the value of a criminal’s life may not be demolished through the criminal’s bad conduct. It is said that life ought to be preserved, except there is the reason of not to uphold it. Every person has right to life, regardless of whether he committed murder or not. Sentencing an individual to death, as well as executing the person, violates this right to live (Meranze, 2011). A person may forfeit his right to life when he begins a criminal assault, and the means for a victim to save the life is through killing the assailant. Thus, if a man is posing a danger to a society and is undermining it through some sin, the solution to be recommended is putting him to death to save the conducive environment.

It is argued that innocent people are being executed. It is due to flaws or mistakes in the system of justice that leads to innocent blood being shed. The prosecutors, jurors, and witnesses may all make mistakes (Phillips, 2014). If this is mixed with the system flaws, it is definite that innocent citizens will be punished as criminals. In the countries where death penalty is applied, such flaws or mistakes are not to take place. Retribution is considered a wrong. It is because one cannot educate the public that murdering is wrong through killing (Phillips, 2014). To take someone’s life as a punishment for the murder is revenge and not justice. It is considered unethical act since it is sanitized kind of vengeance. However, the problem of innocent people’s execution is an issue for retribution argument. The people must earn what they ought to have, and it is violated through the immediate capital punishment execution in the United States.

Another argument is that death penalty does not look to deter individuals from committing dangerous crimes. What really deters is be the probability of being trapped and punished (Scherer, 2011). There is no evidence from scientific research conducted which prove that death penalty deters one from committing the crimes. The primary to faithful and real deterrence is raising the chances of detection, conviction, and arrest. The penalty of death is a cruel punishment, but not ruthless on crime.

Argument for Capital Punishment

The primary argument for punishment and retribution may be that all criminals deserve punishment in proportion to the cruelty of their offences. For example, under deontology approach to ethics, if a person suggested killing a criminal who undermine the peace initiative in the society, a Deontologist may argue that the world with no peace or security affairs due to the manner it has been brought about. Thus the state of affairs at last justified the action taken of killing the criminals. This case denotes that real justice needs citizens to suffer for their misdeeds and to endure in a manner suitable for the offense. Every criminal must have what their acts of crime deserve. For instance, a murderer deserves death for his act (Scherer, 2011). The standard of punishment in any given case should rely on the evil of the offences, the criminal conduct, and the unprotected and defenseless state of a victim. Imposing appropriate punishment is the way in which courts react to the community’s cry for the justice against criminals. The justice requires that courts impose the punishment that fit the crime to reflect public detestation of the crimes. Most people concur with this argument as it matches with their inbuilt logic of justice (Scherer, 2011). It is supported by an argument of an eye for an eye which is a complete misunderstanding of what the Old Testament idiom means.

The capital punishment does not rehabilitate the prisoners and bring them back to the society. Under the utilitarian ethics theory it is stated that human beings are meant to leave happy or unhappy but one needs to make life sound good to all. It denotes that we have to live appreciating each person and ensure people coexist peacefully. Nevertheless, there are some examples of people fated to death having an opportunity to take time and repent or show remorse or encounter reflective spiritual rehabilitation before execution. It is noted that through accepting death penalty, the criminal was able to redress his evil acts and evade punishment in his next life. It indicates that death penalty may result in some kinds of rehabilitation (Scherer, 2011). Also, death penalty inhibits re-offending where those executed may not commit further offences. Some people do not believe that it is adequate justification for taking one’s life as there are many other means of ensuring the criminals do not commit the crime again like life imprisonment with no likelihood of parole. But many persons do not think that imprisonment for life with no parole guards society sufficiently. The criminal can no longer be the threat to the community, but he stilllives among the prison personnel and other prisoners. Thus executing can remove such menace.

In the closure for families of victims, whatever one’s emotional feelings towards the capital punishment, one thing many people will not understand is pain experienced if the family members are cruelly murdered and tortured. In 1986, a person sister, nephew, and mother were brutally shot dead by a 20-year-old gangster named John (Scherer, 2011). He was convicted to a death penalty. On the other hand, a person can argue that death penalty is the sad reminder about how the system of criminal justice provides sentence instead of remedial for the violent crime survivors. The notion of honoring the loved ones through killing another person is counter-intuitive and abhorrent (Scherer, 2011). Capital punishment brings what is in opposition to the crime survivors need: healing, accountability, and closure. It keeps remaining in grief stage of anger. Thus it is better to do away with the death penalty as it brings more harm than good to the society.


Contrary to current arguments of abolitionist, the inherent ethical of the penalty of death may not fall or stand on a fallibility of jurors, judges, and lawyers or a regime’s capability to manage justice fairly. Neither do the predicted about the abuse or application of the 18th Amendment provisions, chances of vengeance or mistaken executions on the aggrieved party. Most of the factors, volatile and powerful as they inform of debate over death penalty are inadequate in describing an ethical standard for justice through which to gauge and attend to criminal acts. Many of them are vulnerable to human manipulation. The system of criminal justice is failing not in the unreliability of the tools the people executing justice, but it is in public failure to implement and acknowledge an abiding ethical standard.


Melusky, J. A., & Pesto, K. A. (2012). Capital punishment. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

Meranze, M. (2011). The death penalty. America’s Death Penalty, 1(1), 72-105. doi:10.18574/nyu/9780814732663.003.0003

Phillips, S. (2014). Status disparities in the capital of capital punishment. Law & Society Review, 43(4), 807-838. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5893.2009.00389.x

Scherer, L. S. (2011). The death penalty. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Wilson, R. (2013). Capital Punishment. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.