Part of a report I had to do for highschool religion....
What is Capital Punishment?
Capital Punishment, also known as the Death Penalty, is the execution of a criminal by the state as punishment for a crime, usually murder.
The Death Penalty is considered an issue of morality because it takes away lives. It removes a person’s right to life, which is considered morally wrong. Most methods of the death penalty used today are also thought to be in violation of the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Pros of Capital Punishment
1) Deterrence: Executions are used to set an example on what may happen to criminals for certain crimes to try and deter future criminals from committing such crimes; less people will commit crimes such as murder because they are afraid of the consequences.
2) Incapacitation of the criminal: Executions permanently remove harmful criminals from society, which makes the world a safer place. If a criminal is incapacitated, he can no longer commit any crimes, in or out of prison.
3) No overcrowded prisons: If more prisoners are executed, prisons and especially death row will be much less crowded, which makes way for other criminals, and saves prisons money.
4) Cost: Cost is the largest aspect of a court case involving capital punishment. Many people say that an execution costs more than a sentence of life without parole. In most cases this is true, because most convictions of the death penalty are challenged by the prosecuted criminal and their families, so expensive court appearances, with even more expensive lawyers must be applied. One court case about an execution costs on average about 1 million dollars. However, if looked at in the long run, a life without parole charge costs more, at an average of 2.3 million dollars per person out of the course of said criminal’s life in prison. Therefore, in the long run, executing a criminal is less expensive than sentencing him to life in prison.
Cons of Capital Punishment
1) Death: An execution is just one more life being taken. Taking one’s life is a violation of said person’s freedom, which is a sin. Why would we kill someone, who killed someone, to show that killing is wrong?
2) Rights of the criminal: Executing a criminal takes away his/ her right to live, and is a very immediate and permanent punishment. There have been many cases in which wrongly accused criminals have been sent to death row, and even executed. Since killing someone is such a permanent act, if one person is convicted of murder then executed, but later found innocent, his life is gone, for no reason at all.
3) Rehabilitation: The death penalty makes no attempt to reintegrate the criminal into streamline society. Executing a criminal completely cuts off any chance of rehabilitation that said criminal might have had.
4) Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Most methods used to execute criminals, including lethal injection which is the most humane way to kill an inmate, can be argued as cruel and unusual, which means they violate the 8th Amendment.
Church’s Stand on Capital Punishment
The Church believes that Execution is not a valid answer to any justice, but leaves the decision to or not use the death penalty up to the state. Although the Church views capital punishment as wrong, it is clearly outlined as a just punishment for certain crimes in the Old Testament.
While the Old Testament outlines cases in which the death penalty is justifiable, Jesus teaches otherwise in the New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus promotes peace. However, a form of capital punishment is still cited in the New Testament when Jesus’ Disciples wish to call down fire upon the Samaritans for lack of hospitality. (Luke 9:54)
Church’s Stand on Capital Punishment (cont.)
Along with the Church’s current stand on Capital Punishment, Tradition also teaches that the state has the right to decide if execution is a just punishment. Such allowances can also be seen in the Catholic Catechism under Legitimate Defense:
2266: “The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.”
2267: “Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.”
As you can see, the majority of the Church thinks that the state should have the right to decide if it wants to use capital punishment as a justifiable means of punishment. However, Pope John Paul II had another view on executions. In his Encyclical from March 25, 2005 “Evangelium Vitae” which translates to The Gospel of Life, the Pontiff near totally opposed Capital Punishment unless it was “a case of absolute necessity”, to preserve more lives.
Political Aspects of Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment has been a very controversial topic in the Supreme Court and throughout the United States for many years. In 1972 the Supreme Court case Furman vs. Georgia led to a De Facto Moratorium on Capital Punishment in the United States. It was the first Supreme Court case which was brought up by the thought that the methods to carry out executions were unconstitutional in violation of the 8th Amendment, citing cruel and unusual punishment. This case ruled that there must be a required state of consistency in the application of the death penalty for executions to continue. In 1976 a consistent set of procedures was put in place to execute inmates, which ended the moratorium on the death penalty in the Supreme Court case, Gregg vs. Georgia, that reaffirmed the Court’s acceptance of the death penalty.
The main argument surrounding the death penalty is its constitutionality concerning the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 8th Amendment demands that no cruel or unusual punishment should be inflicted on prisoners. Many inmates claim that the current death penalty procedure is flawed, and that there is room for error in the
Death Penalty Procedures
The most commonly used method to execute an inmate
Is the lethal injection. It is thought to be the most humane
Method, and is currently used by 35 out of 44 states with the
Death penalty. The lethal injection consists of a 3 chemical
cocktail that sends the inmate into cardiac arrest. The three
chemicals used are Sodium Thiopental which is used as an
anesthesia, Pancuronium Bromide which is a paralytic agent, and finally Potassium Chloride, which stops the heart.
Death Penalty Procedures (cont.)
The lethal injection is said to be cruel and unusual because the second drug, Pancuronium Bromide tends to cause severe pain to the victim, but said victim cannot express the pain because of his lack of muscle response. Since this pain is not meant to be present, it is considered a violation of the 8th Amendment.
Another flaw to the current procedures used during an execution is that there are no professional medical personnel overseeing the executions. In February of 2007, a Florida execution was botched when under knowledged medical personnel failed to find a suitable vein to insert the IV needles after 35 minutes of attempts.
Public Opinion & Statistics on the Death Penalty
There have been many polls over the past few years that have shown how much of the general public accepts and denies the death penalty. The most recent poll in 2006 showed that 63% of the public population agreed with capital punishment, 30% were against it, and 7% were undecided.
The above chart shows the number of inmates executed from each race…1802 Whites, 1352 African Americans, 35 Asians, 28 Native Americans, and11 inmates from other races.
From what I have researched, I do not believe that the public is fully informed on the topic of capital punishment. They may read the news and see that another moratorium has been out in place, but I do not think they realize how in-depth this topic goes, and exactly how the death penalty works.
Based on the excessive research I have done, I do feel that Capital Punishment is a necessary part of our judicial system, but it must be regulated to a higher degree, and there must be more fail-safes put in place to ensure that all procedures go as expected, so the 8th amendment is not violated, along with the rights of the convicted inmate. I believe that Capital Punishment is a just punishment for certain crimes because some crimes such as murder are so severe that the offender must be incapacitated so he commits no more crimes, because someone who kills once is more than likely to kill again. Since doing this paper my opinion has not changed, but I feel much more informed on the topic being discussed, so I feel much more comfortable talking about my views on Capital Punishment.