The Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against

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The death penalty, also referred to as capital punishment, can be defined as “the premeditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person” (White 1). It is, perhaps, the most controversial aspect of law enforcement. To prove its controversy, the death penalty has been abolished in a number of countries after being implemented for years. In most executions, people take to the streets in protest over the killing of the convicted person. This is usually the case if the public believes that the person on death row is innocent. It has been the case for a number of death penalties in the U.S. For instance, in Troy Davis’ case, many people believed that Troy was innocent and thus there were numerous protests related to his case. Before he was executed, his supporters staged a protest in the White House. A number of prominent people and celebrities also called for the review of the case to ensure that he was not innocently executed (Vogue and Osunsami 1). The suspected killer was executed by lethal injection after confessing his innocence to the family of his alleged victim, “off-duty policeman, Mark McPhail” (Vogue and Osunsami 1). This paper evaluates the pros and cons of the death penalty and comments on the appropriateness of abolishment of the death penalty.

Arguments for the Death Penalty

One of the main arguments supporting the death penalty is that the execution of a capital offender gives some form of closure to the relatives and friends of the victim. Although some family members and friends never recover from losing a loved one, the execution of the person responsible brings some kind of finality to a chapter of their lives that would otherwise remain to haunt them. If the person responsible for the death of their loved one is sentenced to life imprisonment, he/she is there to stay and thus the family of the victim may be haunted by this fact.

Proponents of capital punishment argue that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. They argue that as much as life imprisonment is effective in deterring crime, some offenders need more deterrent punishment. In addition to the aforementioned reasons for having capital punishment, it is common knowledge that justice demands a punishment that fits the crime that has been committed. Most people who are sentenced to death are serial offenders and thus it is wrong for a justice system to have pity for them by commuting death penalties to life imprisonment. This is especially because some of the victims of the accused person may be waiting for justice at the time when the offender is convicted of yet another crime. This means that justice will be served for several victims if the convict is sentenced to death.

If capital punishment is abolished, people who are imprisoned for life will be in an interesting situation. There will be no substantial deterrent to stop them from killing while in prison. The convicts may also escape from prison. In this case, any person trying to turn them in will risk being killed since the punishment for killing would be the same as the punishment they will receive when they are turned in. A person who is handed life in prison without parole may even escape from custody and go on a murder spree.

Among the biggest arguments against capital punishment is the possibility of executing an innocent person. In contemporary justice systems, especially in the United States, sophisticated biotechnology is used to prove the guilt of offenders beyond a reasonable doubt. This biotechnology also helps to hasten the process since without it; the process would be characterized by innumerable appeals that would render the conviction of a capital offender nearly impossible.

Even though only a small number of convicts are executed in a year, capital punishment substantially leads to the reduction of the problem of prison overcrowding. The death penalty also leads to a reduction of costs and gives prosecutors an additional bargaining chip in cases that are characterized by plea-bargaining.

Arguments against the Death Penalty

There are numerous reasons why countries should ban capital punishment. Firstly, the cost implications of capital punishment are more as compared to the corresponding cost incurred in the life imprisonment of convicts. Despite the controversy surrounding the definition of cruelty in the bill of rights, the death penalty is arguably cruel and thus it violates the bill of rights. This shows how weak capital punishment is with regard to constitutional anchorage (Messerli 1).

Capital punishment is characterized by numerous appeals and lengthy procedures that have increased the clog in court systems. These procedures have often come under attack by the public for their failure to prove the guilt of death row suspects beyond a reasonable doubt. This was the case in the recent execution of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia. In this case, many people were convinced that Troy was innocent, especially after some of the people who had testified against him revealed details of how they were coerced by police to give their testimonies (Vogue and Osunsami 1). Additionally, it is of the essence for humanity to stop the uncivilized idea of avenging death with death, and that of killing convicts to deter people from killing. Despite the numerous risks that have been associated with imprisoning death row convicts for life, the punishment can serve as a better deterrent for capital offenses. There is also the possibility that States/countries will kill an innocent person if he/she is unable to prove his/her innocence.

In addition to the above arguments against the death penalty, it is indubitable that if the death penalty is abolished in America, other countries will view America in a more positive way. This is especially the case with European countries. In cases where the right perpetrator of an offense is the one executed, people will sympathize with such a perpetrator of the crime. This can be considered as an inappropriate result of capital punishment.

The family and supporters of death row inmates undergo emotional torture during appeals and after the execution of the convict. This can have entrenched effects on the welfare of society. Another argument against the death penalty is the fact that most juries are not quick to sentence somebody to death, which often leads to delayed justice. If all capital offenses were to be punished by life imprisonment, cases of delayed justice would be significantly reduced. Lastly, cases for capital offenses normally attract a lot of publicity, which draws top lawyers working without payment or for little legal fees. The lawyers oftentimes want to express their belief with regard to capital punishment and thus they work tirelessly towards the release of capital offenders. This may lead to the freeing of people who are guilty of serious offenses (Messerli 1).

Personal opinion

Despite the many arguments that have been outlined in this paper supporting capital punishment, it is my belief that the death penalty is inhumane and that it should be abolished in all countries. The possibility that innocent people’s lives may be taken by the government in cases where such people are unable to prove their innocence should be enough to make all countries abolish the death penalty. It is often argued that the number of innocent suspects who may end up being executed cannot possibly exceed the number of innocent victims who have suffered the crimes that the convicts are suspected to have committed. This is an argument that is so baseless that one wonders why it had to be used as a defense for the death penalty. You cannot just go killing innocent people because an innocent person has been killed. Killing innocent people for the death of an innocent person would be equivalent to doing exactly what the government is discouraging its citizens from doing (Messerli 1). Killing a person because he has killed is inappropriate because the government sets a bad example for the citizens.

In my view, the appropriate punishment for capital offenses is “life imprisonment without the possibility of parole” (Messerli 1). These convicts should, however, be closely watched, probably in isolation in order to ensure that they never escape from prison. In such a case, the government would have ensured that such criminals do not repeat the offenses they had committed and that the government does not act irresponsibly and inhumanely by taking the lives of convicts. If capital punishment has to be a part of the justice system, the guilt of convicts should be “proved beyond any reasonable doubt” (Vogue and Osunsami 1) before they are executed.


As evidenced in the discussion above, the death penalty is among the most controversial issues of law enforcement. As such, different people have different opinions regarding the appropriateness of the death penalty as a form of punishment. Both the proponents and the opponents of the death penalty raise valid and logical points that can potentially convince any reasonable person. However, the arguments against the death penalty are weightier in comparison with those that are raised in support of capital punishment. In this regard, it is my opinion that all countries that are currently having capital punishment as a form of punishment should abolish it and replace it with a more humane form of punishment such as life in prison without the possibility of being pardoned. It is, however, imperative for any country that commutes death sentences to life imprisonment to ensure that the death row convicts are closely guarded. This will ensure that they do not get the slightest chance to escape from prison, and thus they will not be able to commit more crimes outside the walls of the correctional facilities in which they are held. It should also be ensured that these convicts are appropriately rehabilitated and kept in isolation in order to prevent them from committing crimes against their fellow prisoners.

Works Cited

Messerli, Joe. Should the death penalty be banned as a form of punishment? 2011. Web.

Vogue, Arianne, and Osunsami, Steve. Troy Davis Executed After Stay Denied by Supreme Court. 2011. Web.

White, Deborah. Pros & Cons of the Death Penalty. 2011. Web.

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DemoEssays. (2022) 'The Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against'. 24 December.


DemoEssays. 2022. "The Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." December 24, 2022.

1. DemoEssays. "The Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." December 24, 2022.


DemoEssays. "The Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." December 24, 2022.