Capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty is a controversial form of punishment for certain crimes. In many countries, it is executed through practices that include hanging, an injection with a toxic substance, and execution by a firing squad. The issue has been widely debated with regard to its moral, social, and legal implications. Globally, 56 countries retain the punishment and use it in special circumstances that include war and atrocious crimes. Opponents argue that the practice is unethical because it violates individuals’ right to life. Killing is wrong in every way, yet governments make exceptions to make it right. Proponents maintain that it gives closure to the families of victims, it deters crime, and mitigates the challenge of overpopulated correctional facilities. The death penalty is a wrong form of punishment for any human being, for any crime, and the punisher goes unpunished.
Death should be God-Ordained
Killing people should not be administered by human beings using chemicals and machines as it is God’s responsibility to take an individual’s life. The laws that operate in contemporary society are based on the Ten Commandments, which are found in the Bible. The Holy Book clearly states that only God possesses the authority to kill. Capital punishment laws exempt executioners from the crime of murder when ordered by a court to kill a convict (Breyer, 2016). However, taking a person’s life is immoral whether sanctioned by a government or not. Ending a person’s life using a lethal injection or an electric chair does not change the fact that the act amounts to murder (Garrett, 2017). As mentioned earlier, death should be ordained by God only and not any human being or law. Killing people is a direct violation of God’s sovereignty, and it is based on the misconception that His will for people who commit certain crimes is to get the death penalty. Life imprisonment would be a better form of punishment as it would give the criminal an opportunity to get rehabilitated and become a better member of society.
One of the main criticisms against the death penalty is its counterproductive effect. It is important to foster responsibility and accountability for crime in communities (Unklesbay, 2019). However, it is senseless to kill a person because they committed murder. This action promotes the “eye for an eye” doctrine that is against God’s teachings as presented in the Bible (Breyer, 2016). This revenge philosophy is a deterrent to the advancement of civilizations because it does not solve the underlying problem. For instance, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has persisted for decades because both nations believe in the revenge doctrine (Garrett, 2017). The death penalty teaches that it is right to pay a wrong with another wrong. Surveys have shown that it has not reduced the rate of crime, even though proponents argue that it is a deterrent measure (Unklesbay, 2019). A more effective approach would be rehabilitation and the promotion of the teaching that revenge causes more harm than the injury itself.
The Possibility of Biased Judgment
The determination of guilt or innocence is not based on the commission of a crime, but on the ability of involved parties to convince a jury panel, which depends on the strength of their arguments. Several death penalty convictions have been overturned as investigators found new evidence that exonerated the offenders (Unklesbay, 2019). For example, more than 150 people have been set free from death rows after fresh investigations since 1973 (Breyer, 2016). The development of advanced technologies has played a key role in finding justice for many individuals who were handed unfair sentences. For example, DNA evidence has been used in various instances to overturn death penalty convictions (Garrett, 2017). This has led to renewed criticisms of the death penalty. Opponents argue that had the death sentences of many convicts been postponed, may be the advanced technologies would have been applied to serve them justice. DNA evidence has been provided in numerous cases to show that the government executed innocent people. The United States legal system is flawed because poor defendants cannot afford qualified lawyers to argue their cases (Breyer, 2016). In many situations, cases are lost due to a defendant’s inability to hire a highly-qualified attorney. Moreover, race and the geographical location where a crime occurred influence the ruling of juries during hearings.
In many instances, the media, society, and the court systems deem suspects that are placed in custody as guilty even before investigations are conducted. The media is a highly powerful tool that can be used in advocacy initiatives to uphold justice (Unklesbay, 2019). However, it is widely used to promote injustice as it portrays suspected criminals as guilty. It is the role of the media to promote fairness by seeing the innocence of suspects not passing the guilty verdict before the trial. This bias is augmented by the criminal court system’s propensity to seek conviction other than the truth. For example, police officers might get entangled with the media and provide misleading information regarding a certain case. Besides, media coverage of capital cases is prejudiced because they determine the topics to cover and the information to give to the public. Defendants have a right to a fair hearing by an impartial jury as provided under the Sixth Amendment (Garrett, 2017). However, extensive media coverage influences the decision of jurors owing to the biased information that they consume from the media. Research has shown that like jurors, judges are also influenced by the pre-trial publicity accorded to capital cases by the media (Unklesbay, 2019). For example, when a case is given a large amount of coverage, the sentences are more punitive than in less publicized cases.
The death penalty violates the constitution of the United States of America that illegalizes cruel punishment and offers equal protection under the law. Justice is denied and human rights are violated when a government or state confers upon itself the power to kill in the name of law. Opponents of the practices argue that capital punishment denies individuals their civil liberties as it is unfair and inequitable in practice. The unfairness is in part due to the arbitrary and irrevocable imposition of the sentence. In that regard, it denies due process of law as a defendant could be executed by the time fresh evidence emerged that could lead to the reversal of a conviction. The impartiality of the system is also an issue because the rate of sentencing is higher among the poor and people of color. Therefore, the death penalty is an ineffective form of crime control.
Mental and Psychological Suffering
The death penalty causes severe suffering because it affects the families of both the victim and the guilty party. The family members of the victim might receive justice, but at a cost that involves psychological damage and mental anguish. The loss of life due to such punitive sentencing can lead indirectly to the development of injustice, racial hate, and the mistreatment of other members of society (Manzano, 2018). This is likely to happen if the defendant is declared innocent and released. Issues such as racism, white privilege, and socioeconomic discrimination emerge as key issues that could polarize relationships between members of different ethnic groups. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it gives closure to family members and gives a punishment that is equivalent to the crime committed (Garrett, 2017). However, psychologists have refuted this claim. In many cases, the families of victims do not get any relief after the execution of the defendant because taking a life does not fill the void of losing their loved one (Manzano, 2018). Instead, they express empathy for the family of the condemned because of their experiences with pain.
The greatest effect of the death penalty is fully felt after execution by the family and friends of the defendant. In case they had children, the reality of losing their father could affect their psychological stability in they fail to receive professional assistance. Studies have shown that these families suffer a variety of mental health conditions that include depression, anxiety, and in rare cases, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Garrett, 2017). Families of death row inmates also suffer stigma because of their connection to convicted individuals (Manzano, 2018). Discrimination in communities leads to adverse psychological trauma, especially for women and children. Moreover, the family members of the guilty party suffer at the hands of their government. Government-sanctioned sentences that lead to the loss of life can inspire hate towards federal laws and policies (Manzano, 2018). The search for revenge could motivate friends of the condemned to engage in crime as a way of expressing their disappointment and dissatisfaction with the decision of the justice system.
The death penalty is an unethical, barbaric, and inhumane form of punishment that causes adverse psychological trauma to the families of both the victim and the defendant. The individuals who give the sentence and those that execute them are exempted from the crime of murder, even though they kill people, some of whom are innocent. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it is right because it gives the families of victims’ closure and deters crime. However, killing a person for committing a heinous crime is still murder. The power of death should not be in the hands of human beings because of the possibility of unfairness. For instance, bias and poor representation can lead to the execution of innocent individuals. The justice system is flawed, and its main objective is sentencing people other than finding the truth. The exoneration of criminals after the provision of DNA evidence after trial has shown that the many innocent people have been killed. Recent advancements I technology have played a great part in fostering justice and saving the lives of people who were wrongly accused and tried. The application of the death penalty system in the US is marred with unfairness and injustice. It is unethical to convict someone because of their race and socioeconomic status.
Breyer, J. S. (2016). Against the death penalty. Brookings Institution Press.
Garrett, B. L. (2017). End of its rope: How killing the death penalty can revive criminal justice. Harvard University Press.
Manzano, M. (Ed.). (2018). The death penalty. Greenhaven Publishing.
Unklesbay, R. (2019). Arbitrary death: A prosecutor’s perspective on the death penalty. Wheatmark.