Death Sentence is a very controversial topic that has a long history of a discussion. The Capital Punishment was a common practice several centuries ago and remains accepted across the world up until this moment. Yet in the recent decades, the public has begun to discuss and actively criticize this measure. Most of the opponents of the Capital Punishment see it as being highly outdated and ineffective. Nevertheless, the supporters of this measure also provide arguments advocating for their opinion. While some of the facts presented by both sides have to do with their beliefs, most of the participants of this debate draw upon statistics, researches, and expert opinions. Despite the usage of the Capital Punishment was until recently widely spread and accepted as an effective measure, today’s practice of the juridical system shows that the Death Penalty should not be supported because it does not prevent people from committing crimes, it costs more than a life sentence, and there is always the risk of accusing an innocent person.
While discussing this topic, one must, first of all, consider the fact that neither side is right nor wrong. The effect Death Penalty has on the overall homicide rate is mostly ambiguous. The research performed by Manski and Pepper suggests that even the quantitative analysis of the data cannot determine if Death Penalty has any lingering influence over the crime rates (27). This suggests that whether or not Capital Punishment must be used concerning reducing the criminal activity mostly depends on the opinion of the disputant. To further expand this point, the work by Chen on the death penalties during World War I states that “Many historians believe that the military command confirmed or commuted sentences for reasons unrelated to the circumstances of a particular case and that the application of the death penalty was essentially a random, “pitiless lottery.” (1). This leads to further supporting the fact that the decision about passing a death sentence will most likely depend on the human factor, and the person’s opinion as well. All of this evidence suggests that Capital Punishment lacks organizational measures and, therefore, is ineffective.
The problem of Capital Punishment also lies in the attitude towards the condemned that they automatically receive in many cases. While providing a more personal perspective, the book by Van den Haag and Conrad illustrates the lack of respect towards the criminals that were about to pass the procedure (1-5). The attitude that the condemned faces is mostly described as indifferent and mean. The condemned is most likely to be denied all human rights because of the belief that his needs are not important due to the impending execution. Therefore, Capital Punishment leads to the discrimination, and the denial of the human rights that every prisoner or condemned has independent of the crime they have committed. Which again leads to an assumption that a significant amount of controversy that occurs around the Capital Punishment is due to the opinions and human factor. In turn, Capital Punishment is perceived as an imperfect tool of delivering justice with too much of serious consequences that may follow the process.
When it comes to the consequences that may follow the decision of sentencing someone to a Capital Punishment, the serious problem emerges. After the condemned is informed about the Death Sentence, he will probably accept any guilt that he is accused of rather than die. An article by Dervan and Edkins concludes that although “… guilty defendants are more likely to plead guilty than innocent defendants…”, the number of innocent defendants pleading guilty is still above 50% (35). This means that innocent prisoners are more likely to admit the indictment. Any third party can use this fact to their advantage to avoid the responsibility that they may have or to benefit from the situation in other ways. Research performed by Jones further expands this point by stating that six states of the U.S. have abolished Capital Punishment because of the false accusations of the innocent people over the last nine years (1-2). The overall decrease of the practice of the death sentences leads to an idea of redundancy and obsolescence of Capital Punishment. To conclude, not only does Capital Punishment prove to be less preferable, but it also poses a threat to possibly innocent people that may also receive the death sentence, though this seems to happen extremely rarely.
Still, a moral codex of the opposers of Capital Punishment is not the only reason for it to be denied. The point of a bigger interest is the practicality of the matter which also proves to be controversial. Research by Marceau and Whitson concludes that death prosecutions essentially require more time in court compared to prosecutions of life sentences (162). This is even more impractical when the fact that death proceedings do not result in any palpable profits is taken into account. If the studies on just one state are insufficient, one can also pay attention to an even more detailed analysis on the topic of death penalty’s cost performed by McLaughlin which specifically focuses on the amount resources that are being ineffectively used to support the death penalty (688- 703). All the evidence supports the idea of the resources being overused in the prosecution of the death sentences.
Although most of the evidence against the Capital Punishment are equally important, personal agenda is probably the most fundamental one. What it means is that some people will use a variety of reasons for a person to be sentenced to death. It was, for instance, concluded in the research by Levinson, Smith, and Young that a race of an accused is one of the decisive factors that determine their view on whether the defendant has to be sentenced to death or not (573). With this being said, one can easily conclude that Capital Punishment falls too much under the human factor. Furthermore, even if people dedicated to supporting the death penalty are presented with the argumentative evidence that death penalty is an ineffective deterrent against crime, they still hold their ground. As seen in the research performed by Lord, Ross, and Lepper, people tend to become even more polarized in their opinions when exposed to the studies supporting and opposing their point of view (2104-2105). Which again proves that Capital Punishment is a practice that endangers possibly innocent people as well as society as a whole.
To sum it up, Capital Punishment is not a topic for a precipitate judgment. It has a continuous history as well as a large amount of support. Yet the opponents of this practice are not few, too. While the proposition of Capital Punishment refers to it as a useful tool in a fight against crime, the opposition denies death sentences for their inhumanity. Many studies show both effectiveness and impotence of Capital Punishment, and the discussion about its nature will probably continue in years to come. Moreover, the practice of the Capital Punishment persists in many cultures. Still, lasting nature of the death prosecutions, a chance of executing an innocent person, and involvement of personal agenda make the Capital Punishment an ineffective and costly measure that also has significant perils to it.
Chen, Daniel. The Deterrent Effect of the Death Penalty? Evidence from British Commutations During World War I. ETH Zurich, 2013.
Dervan, Lucian, and Vanessa Edkins. “The Innocent Defendant’s Dilemma: An Innovative Empirical Study of Plea Bargaining’s Innocence Problem.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 103, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-48.
Jolie, McLaughin. “The Price of Justice: Interest-convergence, Cost, and the Anti-death Penalty Movement.” Northwestern University Law Review, vol. 108, no. 2, 2014, pp. 675-710.
Jones, Jeffry. “U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years.” Gallup, 2013, www.gallup.com/. Accessed 4 May 2017.
Levinson, Justin, et al. “Devaluing Death: An Empirical Study of Implicit Racial Bias on Jury-eligible Citizens in Six Death Penalty States.” New-York University Law Review, vol. 513, 2014, 513-581.
Lord, Charles, et al. “Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 37, no. 11, 2016, pp. 2098-2109.
Manski, Charles, and John Pepper. “Deterrence and the Death Penalty: Partial Identification Analysis Using Repeated Cross Sections.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, vol. 29, no. 1, Springer, 2013, pp. 123-141.
Marceau, Justin, and Hollis Whitson. “The Cost of Colorado’s Death Penalty.” U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper, vol. 3, no. 13-09, 2013, pp. 145-163.
Van den Haag, Ernest, and John Phillips Conrad. The Death Penalty: A Debate. Springer Science+Business Media, 2013.