The death penalty should be abolished Essay Example

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The Death Penalty should be abolished


The death penalty should be abolished throughout all nations and states of the world. In recent times, the debate has been mired by controversy based on the sensitivity of the issue and the unwillingness on the part of key stakeholders namely the governments. At the centre of this controversy lie empirical and theoretical researches that have underpinned the need and urgency to abolish the death penalty. Death penalty is viewed as a tool to drag the racial injustices of the 19th century into the 21st century. It is a tradition that goes against the grains of religious, social and cultural norms of the modern societies. Debate has arisen regarding the countries, which still practice the death penalty. In accordance to this, debates have also arisen as to the major costs associated with this severe penalty in comparison to alternatives and the legalities surrounding the death penalty. Death penalty has been viewed as a human rights violation.

In both contemporary and historical contexts the death penalty is used in an unjust manner against those who are disadvantaged in life with education and money. Those parts of religious, political, racial and ethnic groups of society are more likely to be given the death penalty rather than those who do not have a stance in life. Many religious groups in the world regard executions as immoral although many have been quoted in favor of the death penalty. Historically, the death penalty was much more prevalent in societies that practiced tyranny and hierarchal rule. Death penalty has been used by regimes that have zero tolerance to law and democracy (Amnesty International, 2003, p 16).

The National Coalition for Abolishing the Death Penalty in the United States (2014) argues, “Race is a significant factor in the death penalty.» Studies backdating 30 years, shows the majority of death penalty cases are racial discriminative in one way, or another. “The system has thus proved itself as being wildly unjust, inaccurate, unable to wholly separate the innocent people from the guilty ones and, most at times, it is a fully racist system,” (Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Governor 10th January 2003) (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 2014). This means that there may be a possibility of a lapse in judicial accuracy culminating to a wrongful execution, an error that can never be corrected. The reinstatement of the death penalty has witnessed the survival of 142 death row victims escaping execution by a whisker. Further evidence according to King, Law review on; Address the Death penalty shows that in the past two years four men may have been the victim of execution for crimes they hardly committed. On this note, the issue at hand is a matter of life or death which must not be taken for granted by any authority (King, 2008, Pg 601; King, 2008, Pg 605).

Legal representation remains a contentious factor in determining the fate of a capital offender. Most capital offenders lack adequate representation moreover due to the stigma associated with their acts. It is a costly affair for a capital offender to maintain a competent lawyer throughout a lengthy murder case (Bedau, 2004). The states’ attorneys are provided to them are inexperienced, underpaid, overworked and therefore incapable of adequately represent a capital offender. Incidences of inappropriate representation in regard to capital offenders have warranted many unfair executions. This can be further proved by the California Governor’s Office statistics that seven people mistaken as capital offenders have been released after proving their innocence since 1977 (Bedau, 2004).

Ultimately, race plays a role in determining who is given the death penalty and who is not. A study carried out in the state of Georgia showed that black murder offenders towards white victims had 11 times more likelihood to get a death sentence than for black victims. This was partially however admitted by the legal fraternity though statistical data on verdicts that followed proved otherwise (Bedau, 2004).

Critical argument has demonstrated statistically that prevalence of racial biases in administering death penalties is not only unconstitutional but violates the equal protection clause stipulated by the Fourteenth Amendment. This is what might have prompted senator Feingold, (2003) to declare that America cannot claim justice for all yet racial disparities infects the very same society that imposes the ultimate punishment (Bedau, 2004).

Moreover, more than 140 nations are against the death penalty and do not condone it, whilst the US, Iraq, China and Iran are part of the major supporters and users of capital punishment (Bedau, 2004). Each nation carries out the executions in a different manner. Iran and most of the Middle East publicly hang the victim on the streets as a warning for everyone else who dares to commit a similar crime or even any such particular crime at all (Bedau, 2004). The US has carried out executions allowing the victims family and friends as well as some of the media to witness the brutality. Although by mid-nineteenth century the death penalty statutes sanctioned and imposed in America was being reduced by state legislatures, many states still condone the act (Bedau, 2004).

Earlier this month members of the ISIS group publicly broadcasted the beheading of two western journalists and an aid worker in the Middle East (Carter and Fantz, 2014). The footage has spread worldwide and has influenced two men in western Sydney to plot an identical attack. Although the men were caught before the damage was done, this has sparked terror alert to a high in Australia (Carter and Fantz, 2014). It becomes evident that public executions and executions alone are not a deterrent to future crimes rather an example of what to do. By terrorists carrying out executions what difference does it make by nations allowing execution by the death penalty? Shouldn’t state nations that implement the death penalty also be charged such as these terrorists (Carter and Fantz, 2014)?

The most conclusive argument against the death penalty is respecting the right of human life. There has been a social outcry against these killings showing a cultural push for human rights. A reflection of what world we want to live in is the example we give in showing dignity to human rights in both a political and cultural stance.“Death, whether considered a capital punishment, is almost if not entirely universally reckoned to be too severe…” (Jeremy Bentham, Chapter XII Section I). The death penalty is not known to alleviate crime, but it is a retrospective measure applied randomly with an intention to deter crime. It beats statistical logic to consign 100 people to death for 22000 homicide cases. According to the journal of criminal law and criminology (2009), 87% of criminology experts believe that abolishing the death penalty would not aggravate murder. 75% believed that the vehement debate on the death penalty has distracted congress and state legislatures from addressing real solutions to crime (Streib, 2003). Therefore, it is not in order to conclude that any credible evidence has linked capital punishment with crime deterrence nor had any scientific study.

It is not scientifically and empirically demonstrated that the death penalty deters crime more than long prison sentences (King, 2008). Those states that condemn or do not institute death penalties have recorded lower murder cases. This is contrary to the southern states which account for 80% of execution cases despite the presence of death penalties (King, 2008). These research findings hold relevant empirical evidence pointing to the urgency of abolishing death penalty. The next viable option would be to consign the capital offenders to life imprisonment without parole. This option alienates the criminals from the society, and it is cheaper and more humane (Amnesty International, 2003). Consigning the capital offenders to life imprisonment without parole creates a provision for correcting mistakes unlike the death penalty which ends there. California State is exploring consigning the capital offenders to life imprisonment without parole as an alternative sentence to issuing a death penalty. According to the California Governor’s Office over 3,300 people have skipped death through this initiative and only 7 have been released after proving their innocence since 1977 (Amnesty International, 2003).

The cost implication entailed in executing the death penalty exceeds the cost to hold the victim for life in prison. The state of California is on record for having spent 4 billion dollars since lifting executions in 1978 and year 2011 (Amnesty International, 2003). In the recent survey conducted by The Amnesty International, it was evident that that the cost of execution case is 20 times more expensive than a life imprisonment case. The survey also stated that California spends 184 million dollars on the death penalty related cases each year (Amnesty International, 2003).

In the year 1989, Ted Bundy made history when the taxpayer paid over 5 million dollars for his execution in the state of Florida (Carter and Fantz, 2014). The people of Florida have been in support of the death penalty, and they felt that Bundy’s fate was just. On the opposite face of the spectrum, it is evident that the American taxpayer had lost over 5 million dollars on a single sentence, owing to the number of pending death row cases Americans cannot entertain death penalty (Carter and Fantz, 2014). The federal government is always quick to exonerate the high cost citing the need for a complex process in order to safeguard the right of the inmates it is relatively expensive to gather substantial evidence to warrant a death case. The case is then reviewed by the state supreme court and may advance to the federal court case of appeals. At this stage, the budget is allocated for both the defense and the prosecution; consequently the case can drag for a long period in pretext of finding the truth (Carter and Fantz, 2014). On this note, one can conclude that the money spent on a single execution is enough to maintain a good number of criminals in jail (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 2014).

The hefty budget involved in the execution fiasco could be spent on assisting dependants of murder victims and support sensitization programs (Gold, 2002). The era when humankind felt gratified by eye for an eye theory is long gone and has embraced the power of social sciences to address issues. It is time to use death penalty budget to equip the social sciences which will demystify courses and probabilities of crime (Gold, 2002). The money could also be used to facilitate counseling and crime victim hotlines.

Capital punishment goes against the grains of most world religions (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 2014). The US is privileged with a diverse religious spectrum. Christianity, which has a massive following in the US, has passion narratives of Jesus documented in the gospels that stipulate execution of the innocent. Forgiveness is viewed as the Godliest approach towards dealing with matters of great magnitude (Berns, 2009). To my opinion forgiveness may mean a new lease of life to a criminal, who then goes through a recollection process and ultimately repent.

Buddhism has explicit teachings on the sanctity of life contained in the five precepts (panca-sila) contained in Dhamapada that states that everyone fears punishment, everyone fears death, just as you do (Berns, 2009). Therefore, states should learn and practice to not kill or even cause to kill. It is also apparent that everyone fears punishment in the form that takes life; everyone without exception loves life, just as you do. It is, therefore, imperative to preserve human life at every cost possible (Ehrlich, 2003). Buddhists in the non-traditions interpret the teachings as an injunction to prohibit any measure that may lead to the death penalty. Isolated passages in religious literatures that are in support of the death penalty do exist, but in their conclusion all regard executions as immoral (Ehrlich, 2003).

Conclusively, evolving standards of decency has awakened the legal fraternity to evaluate circumstances, defendants and crimes prior to concluding a death sentence. This test exempts the mentally compromised individuals from execution. Capital punishment will for a long time continue to haunt the conscience of those who perceive the underlying evil in it. After capital punishment was lifted in 1976 several disturbing controversies have been witnessed (Ehrlich, 2003). A total of 50 mentally compromised individuals have been executed, another nine juveniles have been executed, and the cost of executing an individual is six times more than confining him in prison for life. These revelations have not sent a message to any of the 38 states still practicing capital punishment citing the constitutionality in the practice (Ehrlich, 2003). This augment demands more research to identify the underlying factors behind why, when, and how capital crimes are committed. The findings will address modalities to prevent crimes instead of punishing already committed crimes.


Amnesty International, (2003). The United States of America. Death by discrimination — the continuing role of race in capital cases, 1, 1-60.

Bedau H. A., (2004). ‘An Abolitionist’s Survey of the Death Penalty in America Today,’ in Debating Death Penalty: Must America Have the Capital Punishment? The Experts/Specialists on Either Side Make a Stand for their Case, eds. Paul Cassell and Hugo Bedau, The Oxford University Press.

Berns, W. (2009). For the capital punishment: Crime and the case for and against morality of death penalties (p. 91). New York: Basic Books.

Carter and Fantz, C. C., A. F., (2014). Australian PM: Public execution terror plot foiled. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 September 14].

Ehrlich, I. (2003). The deterrent effects of the capital punishment: the question of arguing for life and/or death.

Gold, R., (2002). «Counties Struggle with the High Cost involved in Prosecuting the Death Penalty Cases; Result is Often Higher Taxes, Less Spending on Services; ‘Like Lightning Striking.'» The Wall Street Journal (January 9).

Jeremy Bentham, Chapter XII, Section 1: ‘Advantageous Properties of the Punishment of Death’, in the Rational of Punishment

Jeremy Bentham, Chapter XII, Section 1: ‘Advantageous Properties of the Punishment of Death’, in The Rational of Punishment m/rp/rp.b02.c12.s01.html

King, T. K., (2008). Address The Death Penalty. Cumberland Law Review, 39, 597-608.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, (2014). Racial Bias. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 September 14].

Streib, V. L., (2003). Death Penalty in a Nutshell