Is Capital Punishment a Justifiable Action?

The debate about the justification of capital punishment is ongoing, with scholars debating whether this punishment is justifiable in modern society. Some perceive it as a penalty that was used in the past as the only way of maintaining social order and thus think of capital punishment as unacceptable in modern society. Others argue that democratic principles and the contemporary social and cultural environments are incompatible with the use of capital punishment. This paper aims to prove that capital punishment is an unjust practice, which cannot be used in modern democratic countries, including the United States.

Background and Justification of Capital Punishment

Historically, the death penalty was used and justified, for example, it was used in ancient and medieval societies. Different communities used capital punishment, and no one questioned the application and justification of it since it was commonplace and aligned with the views on justice and punishment. Notably, by the time of Renaissance and Enlightenment, the United States remained one of the not many democratic countries that still used the death penalty in its judiciary system.

The primary justification for using capital punishment is to overcome crime. However, it accomplished by a murder, sanctioned by a state, which creates a moral dilemma in the question of the death penalty as a way of punishment. Arguably, to enable justice, the killing allowed by a state must have distinct differences from other types of violence facilitated by its citizens (Sarat, 2018). It is not the case of capital punishment, because regardless of the implications and intentions, the result is the murder of a person. Moreover, the cultural impact capital punishment is significant, since, in countries where this penalty does not exist, the citizens do not witness an acceptable and lawful killing. Capital punishment shapes society and opposes the main principles of democracy, despite the implications of safety.

Democratic View of Capital Punishment

Democracy’s principles oppose the application of capital punishment. Artists living in the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods were the first ones to address the primacy of life as an opposition to the death penalty practice (Strat, 2018). Despite this, the United States still applies the principles of capital punishment. Strat (2018) highlights the fact that the United States uses the death penalty regardless of the “criticism in the international arena and long after almost all other democratic nations have abandoned it” (p. 13). It is evident that this practice is not often applied and can be used only in particular cases. However, the use of such a penalty for any crime goes against the doctrine of human rights. The main argument is that if a country overlooks one of the humanitarian principles, it can engage in other practices, such as restriction of freedom, movement, and other oppressive practices. Arguably, the United States can employ other forms of punishment to minimize and control crime to adhere to democratic principles.


Overall, this paper reviewed the issue of capital punishment and the main implications associated with the two opinions on the topic. Some people suggest that capital punishment is justifiable since it has been used for centuries. However, it is essential to review the death penalty from the perspective of a democratic society. When considering this view, the primacy of life suggests that democratic states cannot use capital punishment as it is an unjustifiable practice.


Sarat, A. (2018). When the state kills: Capital punishment and the American condition. Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.

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DemoEssays. "Is Capital Punishment a Justifiable Action?" February 21, 2022.