Friday, July 1, 2011

The Morality of Capital Punishment

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The Morality of Capital Punishment

Someone who has committed the heinous crime of murder does not deserve to live and should be put to death by the controlling government, but whether or not the death penalty is moral is still debated. “Every man is judge of good and evil actions,” states Hobbes. This is the primary basis of our morality for which we determine what is right and what is wrong. Homicide and its punishment have been around almost since the beginning of man. And capital punishment has been around for almost as long. Therefore there is no reason to change something that has been a deterrent in our society for so long.

One of the hardest decisions that man has to make is what shall be the punishment for committing murder, and who shall impose this punishment. As far as man can tell there were only two different punishments for murder, banishment or death. This is very similar in today’s society. We have the death penalty or prison, which is banishment from decent society. But what gives us the right to kill just as the offender has?

There are five main arguments for and against capital punishment on the basis of morality. There is the biblical argument, the natural public law argument, the argument respecting the dignity of man, the deterrence argument and the constitutional argument.

The biblical argument for the morality of capital punishment states, “Christian ethics clearly supported the power of society to enforce order and sustain justice”. The Old Testament also clearly states, “eye for an eye”. If a man takes a life, his life shall be taken. The biblical argument against the morality of capital punishment comes from the New Testament. The New Testament states, “thou shall not kill” as one of the Ten Commandments. This argument can be very opinionated. Some people are Old Testament and some are New Testament. Yet Old Testament came before the New Testament and Old Testament also has more natural instinctual value. That obviously brings about the “eye for an eye” case.

For the natural law argument for the morality of capital punishment, Colson states this; “the sanctity of human life is rooted in the universal creation ethic and thus retains its force in society.” Therefore punishment should be inflicted by the morale of society as a whole. The side against the morality of capital punishment stated that the natural public law argument started in 1764 and started the awareness for the “principles of the new physical and moral sciences-the principles of the enlightenment-to crime and its treatment”. This just argues that man has a natural right to life. The problem with that argument is not that a person has a natural right to life, but that there is no word on what would constitute as a serious enough punishment other than death.

For the argument about respecting the dignity of man in regard to the morality of capital punishment, it is stated that public executions or even watching someone die is barbaric, but there are other ways around that. For instance, using nitrogen asphyxiation, the victim will feel no discomfort. As the nitrogen enters the chamber, the victim breathes normal because the body does not know that there is a lack of oxygen. The victim’s body breathes normally until oxygen runs out, and the victim just passes out, never to wake again. This process is unfaultable and not barbaric. The argument against the morality of capital punishment in regard to respecting the dignity of man states that public executions or even watching someone die is barbaric. With the right to life, a man also has the right to a non-violent death no matter what the man has done. But using the nitrogen asphyxiation is clearly not barbaric. The inmate will feel no discomfort and it will simply look like he or she is falling asleep.

The forth argument for capital punishment being moral is the death penalty as a deterrent, “for thirty years the economics journals have been publishing evidence for large deterrent effects when death penalties are enforced”. If a life sentence is given to a prisoner, there is nothing that the prisoner has to live for, therefore harming other inmates and prison faculty has no other consequences but another life sentence. On the other side which is against capital punishment as a deterrence states that the “purpose of punishment can only be to prevent the criminal from inflicting new injuries on citizens and to deter others from similar acts, but to deter men from committing crimes-is unjust”. It is clearly ridiculous to think that deterring criminals is not right. While we’re at it we should give the guy who just robbed the 7-11 a pat on the back.

As for the constitutional aspect of the morality of capital punishment, Justice Harry A. Blackmun states that “The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…nor be deprived of life…without due process of law. This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the cruel and unusual punishments prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.” “The constitutional argument against the morality of capital punishment states that the Eighth Amendment clearly and expressly forbids the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments”. But as we stated earlier, the nitrogen asphyxiation is not cruel way to be put to death.

While both sides of capital punishment provide excellent cases against each other and have been argued for many years it is clear that everyone should be for capital punishment. Before reading this paper some may be for capital punishment and although the against side may make you question whether it was morally right or wrong, the for side came through with morally just reasons. The main point that everyone should agree with is the fact that “life prisoners have nothing to live for but life itself”, and who’s to say that some of these prisoners are not going to harm other prisoners or harm prison faculty only to be punished with another life sentence. “Law should not be considered unimportant morally. It has a great body of experience that no individual can ignore or replicate from his own experience” (Barbero).

Maybe we could deter more criminals if we imposed a faster death penalty process. I know that this sort of sounds redundant but most criminals feared the consequences of murder back in the early settler days because of the short process and the casual use of capital punishment. Not to say go around and kill everyone who has murdered someone but maybe reconsider the certain level of what should enact the death penalty on someone.

It should be agreed that someone who has inflicted the serious pain of death on many people does not deserve to live. That person is a waste of time and space in our prisons. It seems that this issue is a split decision on both sides, but take a minute to decide for yourself what you would want if one of your family members were a victim. Would you be as lenient? Because someone who has committed a murder has no respect for morality, our society should not give any respect to the offender.


Works Cited

Barbero, Yves. The Morality of the Death Penalty. 1 April 2000

http//www.yvesbarbero.com/penalty.htm


Berns, Walter. For Capital Punishment Crime and Morality of the Death Penalty. New York Basic Books, 1997.

Colson, Charles W.. “The Death Penalty Is Morally Just.” The Death Penalty Opposing

Viewpoints. Ed. Paul A. Winters. San Diego, CA Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Creque, Stuart A.. “Executions Can Be Humane.” The Death Penalty Opposing

Viewpoints. Ed. Paul A. Winters. San Diego, CA Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Jacobs, Nancy R. and Alison Landes, eds. Capital Punishment Cruel and Unusual?

Wylie, Texas Information Plus.

Sowell, Thomas. “The Death Penalty Is A Deterrent.” The Death Penalty Opposing

Viewpoints. Ed. Paul A. Winters. San Diego, CA Greenhaven Press, Inc.


Scalia, Antonin. “The Death Penalty Is Legally Just.” The Death Penalty Opposing


Viewpoints. Ed. Paul A. Winters. San Diego, CA Greenhaven Press, Inc.

Jacobs, Nancy R. and Alison Landes, eds. Capital Punishment Cruel and Unusual? Wylie, Texas Information Plus.




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