In other words, we, as society, need to play our part in preventing thesenightmares and tragedies from taking place. This is where capital punishment, whichWebsters School and Office Dictionary defines as punishment by death for a crime; thedeath penalty, can play a crucial role (p 125). The death penalty is a form of punishmentthat, when applied in the correct context, is morally and ethically justified by thephilosophies that shape our society. If capital punishment was legalized in all fifty statesand was carried out more frequently, our countrys problems would significantly decrease.
Family and friends of the victim would feel better knowing that the punishment of thecriminal would fit the crime, and less innocent lives would be taken as well (Roark 58). We are not the first civilization to invoke the death penalty. Both Biblically andhistorically, the death penalty was found to be an effective method to end the criminal actsof convicted offenders. For instance, in ancient Israel, it was socially acceptable to throwstones at an adulterous woman until she died from the injuries (New Oxford AnnotatedBible 563-OT) . In the colonial periods of our great nation and even in more moderncircumstances worldwide, treason is a crime punishable by death. Shields 2In recent times, the culture of the United States has become more humane in itsmethods of execution.
No longer will crowds of townspeople gather at the square towitness the hanging of thieves and murderers. Instead, the United States has opted to doaway with any punishment viewed by the citizens and by the Supreme Court as violatingthe Eighth Amendment (Lowi and Ginsberg A20) This guarantees every citizensprotection from what the courts perceive as cruel and unusual punishment (Constitutionof the United States, 1791). It is important to note that the 74 men and women that wereput to death in the United States in 1997 were not killed in such a way that could furtherdetract from their, or their families dignity (U. S. Government: Bureau of Justice StatisticsDecember 1998) The methods of execution to be used are delegated by each individual state.
Of allthe possible alternatives, only three are found humane in most of the United States(Bureau of Justice). These are the lethal injection, the gas chamber, and the electric chair. None of these are considered to be, by many, more painful or dehumanizing than the next. Some people still choose to oppose these methods too, citing that all form of the deathpenalty are cruel and unusual. Such was the case when the Supreme Court decidedagainst its invocation in the case of Furman vs.
Georgia in June of 1972 (Hood 47). (Dueto the courts decision in this case, many death sentences given prior to 1972 werereopened. Also, all state and federal laws prescribing the death penalty were thrown out(Knowenwetter 88). ) Others who choose to oppose the death penalty base their arguments on the factthat they believe that life, in itself, is a commodity worth preserving despite thecircumstances of the crime. This theory may be valid in a very abstract manner, but only Shields 3as long as that abstraction perpetuates. Even the most devout believer in the Sanctity ofLife is sure to consider the options when the victim of some heinous crime is a sibling, a child, or a parent.
Retribution for such crimes at the hands of some monster is sure to bedemanded swiftly by the public as well as the grieving family enduring the loss Such retribution can also have a second purpose. Davis notes that the deathpenalty, like no other form of punishment of those humanely available, has the ability todeter potential criminals from committing such horrible acts (9-13) Any criminal, whetheror not he is a reasonable man, will consider his options when the consequence of hisactions may lead to his own finality. A finality within itself can be considered yet anotherpositive bi-product of the application of modern methods of capital punishment. This isultimately the fact that a dead murderer will never be given the opportunity to kill anotherinnocent human being.
In fact, there is no case to date where a killer that has been put todeath has ever committed another crime of any degree (Leiser 222-230) The deathpenalty, as a form of justifiable incapacitation, is met with no significant opposingargument. For decades the philosophical debate over whether or not the death penalty isjustifiable has been a controversy amongst lawyers, authors, philosophers and religiousspokespeople. Numbers of books and articles have been written about the subject and itsrelevance to society. Movies have been made about the issue. Dead Man Walking is themost recent film concerning the issue.
This was based on Sr. Prejeans novel of the samename. The most difficult points in the debate are that both sides are strongly supported byvalid philosophical and ethical claims. Even more problematic is the idea that eachindividual case has to be treated subjectively, without allusion to the events that Shields 4have occurred outside of the case context. This makes each and every case contextspecific meaning that once the circumstances are brought to question, the debate beginsonce again from the beginning.
Capital punishment is one of the most controversial topics of the world today. Manypeople feel very strongly about their opinions and will express themselves any way theycan in order to prove a point. Often times though, people may even change their beliefsafter hearing the opposing argument. They may learn information they never were awareof, which could change their whole perspective on the topic.
These controversies couldreally be used as valuable lessons to teach people how to listen to the opposing argumentsand then make a decision on what they believe. Sometimes it just takes listening to otherpeoples points of view and maybe a little research to make valuable judgments anddecisions that could really affect society. BibliographyShields 5BibliographyCapital Punishment. The Pocket Webster School and Office Dictionary , 1990Davis, Michael. Justice in the Shadow of Death. Lanham, MD: Rowan and LittlefieldPublishers Inc.
, 1996Hood, Roger. The Death Penalty: A World-Wide Perspective 2nd ed. , New York:Oxford University Press, 1996Kronenwetter, Michael. Capital Punishment: A Refference Handbook Santa Barbara,CA: ABC-CLIO Inc. , 1993New Oxford Annotated Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994Leiser, Burton M.
. Liberty, Justice, and Morals: Conteporary Value Conflicts New York:MacMillan Publishing Co. , Inc. , 1973Lowi, Theodore J. , and Benjamin Ginsberg.
American Government: Freedom and Power5th ed. , New York: W. W. Norton and Company Inc.
, 1990Roark, Anthony P. . Retribution, the Death Penalty, and the Limits of Human JudgementInternational Journal of Applied Philosophy 13. 1 (1997) : 57-68United States. U. S.
Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. WashingtonGPO. December 1998