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The Death Penalty Debate

While the death penalty has been utilized for centuries, we continue to debate the morality and efficacy of this punishment. Many people argue that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to potential murderers, terrorists, and other violent criminals. However, others find the death penalty completely incompatible with the ethical standards of modern civilization. Although some states have since outlawed the practice, the US remains one of few democracies to maintain the capital punishment.

The term “capital punishment” originates from the Latin word “caput,” which means head. Capital punishment, therefore, was a punishment reserved for serious crimes that warranted decapitation. Such serious crimes, referred to as capital offenses, are generally limited to treason and murder in the U.S. However, in different legal systems of foreign countries, the death penalty may be given for a lesser crime, like robbery. The most common modern methods of execution are electrocution and lethal injection. These methods are seen as more humane than previous methods, which included use of a firing squad, burning at the stake, crucifixion, decapitation, hanging and gassing.

Even with these more “humane” treatments, many people have trouble justifying the taking of human life – no matter how heinous the crime. Opponents of the death penalty argue that it is immoral. They ask, “How can the government condemn killing by killing?” To these critics, the death penalty is the ultimate betrayal of human rights and it has no place in our society. Furthermore, they argue, criminal proceedings are fraught with human error, causing innocent people to be executed. Finally, opponents of the death penalty argue that capital punishment is not an effective criminal deterrent.

Supporters of the death penalty assert that capital punishment deters violent crime. In addition to the question of deterrence, supporters of capital punishment argue that such retribution is morally justified. In many cases, especially involving murder and terrorism, execution is the best remedy, because it will guarantee that a monstrous person will be incapable of harming society. Finally, from an economic standpoint, executing a criminal will be less expensive than the seemingly limitless access to appeals in the U.S. courts.

The death penalty debate calls into the question the role and boundaries of the justice process. Should the government have the right to kill? Is the death penalty morally justifiable?

Submitted by:

Kenny Du

OpineTree encourages debate on today’s most controversial political topics, including abortion, affirmative action, cloning, the death penalty, euthanasia, gay marriage, gun control, health care, social security, stem cells, as well as other debate topics. Go to http://www.opinetree.com/deathpenalty.html to join the death penalty debate.




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