Criminology/ Death Penalty term paper 12486

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The Death Penalty

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." This is another way for someone to

say they are supportive of the death penalty. The death penalty, to me, is

revenge. It kills innocent people every year. Many of the families of

victims do not want the criminals to be put to death. The death penalty

costs more than a life sentence in jail. It is also racists.

"Since 1976, there have been five hundred twenty-three executions in

the United States, twenty-three in 1999 alone. There was only eleven before

1984. Then the number rose to twenty-one that year. The number of execution

stayed around twenty then dropped to eleven in 1988. Then it steadily rose

from there to seventy-four executions in 1997. That was the highest since

1976."(Death Penalty Information Center, P.1)

There are many different methods of execution used by the government.

The most common is lethal injection used by thirty-four states.

Electrocution is another method, which is used by ten states. The gas

chamber is used in five states. There are still two states today that use

hanging as a method of execution. And two other states use a firing squad.

The death penalty is also extremely racist. There have been

significantly more executions of minorities than white Americans. Capital

punishment also goes against the Constitution of the United States.

Amendments eight and fourteen state that no cruel and unusual punishment can

be inflicted, and no state can deprive any person of life liberty or

property. The death penalty clearly takes these privileges away from

American citizens.

"More than 2000 people are on death row today. Virtually all are

poor, a significant number are mentally retarded or other wise mentally

disabled. More than forty percent are African American and disproportionate

numbers are Native American, Latino, and Asian." (American Civil Liberties

Union) It does not seem fair that only these people are dying. The

Constitution states that everyone should be given a fair trial. These

statistics do not prove to me that these people had a fair trial.

Everybody makes mistakes. If a jury makes a mistake and a person is falsely

accused of murder when they find out they messed up they want to take the

sentence away. If the sentence is life in prison, they can tell the person

they are sorry and they can go free. It does not work that way if they

sentence a person to death.

If a jury falsely accuses a person of a crime they did not commit

with a sentence to death, they can not take it back. It will be too late.

The person will not be able to get their life back. Every year four innocent

people are put to death. "Since 1976, seventy people on death row were found

innocent of the charges they were accused of." (Death Penalty Information


Although some people feel the death penalty is a good thing, I think it is

wrong. When someone has committed the crime of murder it creates a great

loss for the victims family. Does putting the killer to death make the

family of the victim feel any better? They still have to live with the loss

of their loved one for the rest of their lives. Taking the life of someone

else does not redeem the life of the person that was killed.

In many cases, the families of the victims do not want the murderer to be put

to death. One case I read about a nine year-old girl was abducted and

murdered. Her father said, "She was shy, joyous, and happy she would never

hurt anybody. Hurting someone for her would not really be for her, would not

honor her, or help us." (Diego Ribadeneira, p.2) What he said is true, it

does not help the victim or the family to kill the criminal. Her father knew

she would not want anyone to be hurt for her so the death penalty would not

help in any way.

When we put criminals on death row for committing the crime of murder, we are

stooping to their level. Murderers are not role models. Why should we

follow what they do and kill them in return? "An eye for an eye makes the

whole world blind."(Ghandi) If we kill people for killing other people we

are basically saying murder is a good choice. If the government can say that

a person deserves to die then why can't an ordinary person do the same?

Last year in Boston, a fifteen year-old boy was killed in a fight over

jewelry. The boy, Cerrone Hemingway, was shot in the head and died. A

family member said, "The notion that your child must die because my child

died? That does not satisfy. It does not bring peace. It only turns our

hearts to stone." (Diego Ribadeneira, p.3)

This family experienced the great loss of having a loved one killed. Yet

they still do not feel it is right to put the killer to death. If the family

of the victim does not think the killer deserves to die, who has the right to

say they should die? The family is the one who is suffering so they should

have the right to say they do not want to kill anyone.

Sometimes murderers will kill themselves after committing the crime so they

will not have to face the consequences of what they have done. That, to me,

is taking the easy way out. These people would rather be dead, as well as

the people they killed, then spend the rest of their lives in jail. It is a

proven fact that the murder rates are lower in states that have done away

with the death penalty. No one wants to spend his or her life wasting away

in jail.

The death penalty is another easy way out. If a person commits a crime as

horrible as murder they would probably rather die themselves then sit in

prison for the rest of their lives. They have so much free time to think

about how they mad the wrong choice. I feel they should have to suffer

through that in jail not end their lives right away. Life in prison should

be their punishment not death.

There is a debate going on now in Massachusetts on whether or not the death

penalty should be implemented. Cardinal Bernard Law, the leader of the

Archdiocese of Boston, said, "The teachings of the church are clear, for a

well-informed Catholic to support capital punishment, it would be morally

wrong. And if one knowingly rejects the teachings of the church it is wrong,

morally evil, and a sin." (Boston Globe, Diego Ribadeneira) People who call

themselves Catholics usually follow the church's rules. If they know it is a

sin and it will go against their beliefs why would they support the death


Cardinal Law was talking to Governor Paul Cellucci on this topic. The

Governor, who is a Catholic himself, strongly supports capital punishment.

He stated "I'm trying to do what I think is right for Massachusetts. I

happen to believe putting the death penalty on the books will deter a certain

amount of horrific violent crime." (Boston Globe, Diego Ribadeneira)

Through these statements it shows that Governor Cellucci and Cardinal Law

have two different views of how Catholics should think of the death penalty.

Looking at it as head of the church in Boston, Cardinal Law feels it is

morally wrong and it is a sin to have the death penalty. Paul Cellucci,

being a Catholic and the head politician in Massachusetts, feels it is a good


The Cardinal feels Cellucci, being a Catholic, should not want to

have capital punishment in his state. How can he call himself a Catholic

when the Cardinal flat out told him God is not for the death penalty? A

person's fait is in the hands of God not a jury.

"Certainly, in general, the punishment should fit the crime. But in

civilized society, we reject the, an eye for an eye, principle of literally

doing to criminals what they do to their victims. The penalty for rape

cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonists house. We

should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death. When the government

meets of vengeance disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers

undervaluing human life." (American Civil Liberties Union)

In conclusion, capital punishment is morally wrong. It is legal murder. The

government does not have the right to end a person's life or say when it

should end. The punishment should fit the crime. That is why criminals

should spend their lives in jail. Capital punishment should not be

implemented on Massachusetts.

Word Count: 1460


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