The debate about capital punishment is a never-ending one that continues to polarize opposing and supporting camps. Capital punishment has always been reserved for use against the criminal who commits the most heinous crimes. Still, there are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to the death penalty. People who are against the death penalty believes in the reformation of the perpetrator, while the other school of thought believes that certain crimes place the criminal beyond reformation. Many countries have abolished capital punishment in recent years, either by repealing the law itself or maintaining the law and abolishing the practice. The penalty must fit the crime especially in the case of heinous crimes reserved for capital punishment, no other form of sentence would suffice.
The Morality of Capital Punishment
Capital punishment is reserved for the most despicable crimes. It is reserved for those criminals who have exhibited a total lack of empathy and consciousness as they committed these crimes against their victims. It has been casually and disrespectfully painted as a lottery among murderers, where the state picks one unlucky murderer for execution. This could not be further from the truth (Vaughan et al., 2019). There are specific and stringent filters and thresholds that a murder case must meet before capital punishment can contend. Not all murder cases are the same, the nature of the murder determines whether it will be capital punishment case or not.
Perhaps this is the reason why it is challenging to overturn a death row indictment. By the time a criminal is convicted to death row, the case has usually been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Murderers who commit these heinous crimes cannot be sentenced to long periods in prison because that would not be proportional to their crimes. In such cases, any sentence less than death would be an injustice to the victim and their loved ones. This is a point that jurors, prosecutors, and the victim’s loved ones are well understood. There is no other way to ensure that victims of heinous crimes get the justice they deserve (Vaughan et al., 2019). The alternative would be for these murders to serve out long sentences, which would only curtail their freedom but would not adequately punish the nature of their crime.
Constitutionality of Capital Punishment
The petitioners who are sentenced to die because of the crimes they committed often challenge the sentence by basing their argument on the eighth amendment. They attempt to argue that it is an unusual and cruel punishment. One such case included a petitioner who was accused of raping an 11-month-old baby, who still had the confidence to suggest that he was a harsh punishment (Steiker & Steiker, 2017). All of the death row convicts petition the courts based on the eighth amendment is because there are no other grounds they can rely on for leniency since they do not deserve any. These are convicts who have been charged with murder by a sovereign state and found guilty by a jury of their peers. The constitutional process has been duly followed before they are condemned.
It is a process that is steeped in constitutionality that, at the end of it, when these convicts attempt to petition the court, it usually bears no fruit. Never in the United States history has the court that the death penalty is not permitted (Steiker & Steiker, 2017). The fifth amendment does not stop the death penalty but offers guidance for such cases. It states that for capital punishment to be considered in a case, the accused must be heard by a grand jury and taken through due process. The courts strictly follow the framework set out for capital punishment cases in the fifth amendment before delivering a judgement. All this goes to reinforce the fact that capital punishment is constitutional.
Retribution of Capital Punishment
The courts and justice system are responsible for punishing criminals who deserve it but to the degree that they deserve the punishment. Punishing someone to the degree they earn points to fairness and proportionality of the sentence to the crime committed. If criminals who commit heinous crimes end up with living their lives in prison that very thought would haunt the family of the victim (Walsh & Hatch, 2018). Capital punishment as retribution is justified, again the sentence must be deserved. In that way, the penalty becomes just to the criminal, the victim and the victim’s family.
Capital punishment to the victim because it is proportional to the crime that was committed on them. It is essential to clarify that retribution is not revenge, a fact that is often overlooked by those who campaign against capital punishment (Walsh & Hatch, 2018). Revenge does not have any boundaries, while retribution is proportional, limited and applied appropriately. Only the worst of the worst who deserve it, as discussed earlier it is not meted out randomly.
Counterarguments and Concessions
Crusaders who are opposed to capital punishment argue against its morality. The implication is that all life should be respected, and everyone has a right to life regardless of their crimes. Opposers hold to the fact that all life is sacred. This is a simplistic view of the sanctity of life. The law must be applied in such a way that both the victim and accused are considered. In reasoning that the life of the murderer is sacred, it leaves out the victim, whose life was also just as sacred before the murderer ended brutally (Räsänen, 2018). There have also been opinions that attempt to challenge the legality of capital punishment, and these arguments are based on the eighth amendment, which has prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishments.
Crusaders against capital punishment categorize it as cruel and inhuman. However, this could not be further from the truth; justice cannot be cruel. When due process is followed as set out under the legal frameworks for a capital punishment case in the fifth amendment, the outcome of that process cannot be cruel. When it comes to the sanctity of life, there is a case against capital punishment because, which in the long run leads to the loss of life.
It can be argued that the perpetrator’s life is not worthless and that all life is sacred. Despite all these counter arguments as well as the dissenting voices, I strongly believe that there is still a valid case to maintain capital punishment. While families of victims can never be made whole again, capital punishment offers them a form of justice. They can move on with their lives knowing that the person responsible for the crimes against their loved ones got a fitting punishment.
Räsänen, J. (2018). Why pro‐life arguments still are not convincing: A reply to my critics. Bioethics, 32(9), 628-633.
Steiker, C. S., & Steiker, J. M. (2017). Capital punishment. Reforming criminal justice: A report of the Academy for Justice on bridging the gap between scholarship and reform, volume 4, Eric Luna 147-168.
Vaughan, T. J., Bell Holleran, L., & Silver, J. R. (2019). Applying moral foundations theory to the explanation of capital jurors’ sentencing decisions. Justice Quarterly, 36(7), 1176-1205.
Walsh, A., & Hatch, V. L. (2018). Capital punishment, retribution, and emotion: an evolutionary perspective. New Criminal Law Review, 21(2), 267-290.