Death Penalty Essay
May 14, 2009
The death penalty has been used throughout history, and has evolved from stoning women to death in Afghanistan for committing adultery to giving lethal injections in the U.S. to serial killers (Amnesty International). Today, the death penalty is reserved only for the absolute worst criminals, but that could change if the anti-death penalty fanatics that are so prominent in today’s media have their way. They claim that the death penalty is barbaric, unconstitutional, and should be banned. This view is the most prominent in the media when in fact 75% of Americans support the use of the death penalty (Koch 561). So why is the anti-death penalty movement so prominent today? Members of this movement take an activist position and are trying to change the laws, while pro-death penalty people take a more passive stance. They know that the death penalty is the law and they expect it to be carried out. The arguments that the anti-death penalty activists use look good on the surface, but upon close inspection they really don’t amount to much of anything.
The anti-death penalty activists in this country would have you believe that every time a murderer is executed the justice system has just committed murder as well. They would have you believe that every person on death row is a victim. What they don’t talk about is what that person did to get onto death row. They forget about the people that where killed, and the people whose lives where affected by the murders; these are the real victims. They had a right to live just like every else in the world but their lives where snuffed out by a murderer. In my opinion, every one has a right to live, but as soon as you murder another human being you forfeit that right. I cannot see a convicted felon as some sort of victim, because it was his own actions that brought about his fate, not the actions of another person.
Some people would argue that putting a murderer to death will not bring their victims back to life, or console their victims family, so what is the point? Well, putting someone in prison for the rest of their lives, or any other punishment for that matter, won’t bring their victims back to life either. So do you suggest we just don’t punish the killer for his actions? What punishment is supposed to do is prevent the killer from ever killing again, and what better way to do that than to take their own life away from them. If the most severe penalty a person can receive is to spend the rest of his/her life in jail, then what do you do when this is no longer enough? For example, a New York prisoner named Lemuel Smith, while serving six life sentences for his various crimes, including murder, strangled a female security guard, then mutilated and dismembered her body. Because New York has no death penalty, there is nothing that can be done to punish him beside another meaningless life sentence (Koch 562). What better way to preserve innocent life than to eliminate the people that would seek to destroy it? As for consoling the victims family, true, the death of their loved ones murderer may not make them feel better, but at least they can rest easy knowing that the killer is dead and gone instead of sleeping soundly in a prison bed.
What about all of the innocent people that are on death row? Before a prisoner is executed they go through a very extensive and effective appeal system. True, with new DNA evidence, we have been able to exonerate many people that were on death row, however, “there is, in fact, no proof that an innocent has been executed seance 1900”(Sharp). That’s right even with DNA testing anti-death penalty activist can’t truthfully say that America has executed an innocent person in the past 100 years.
Death penalty critics would argue that the death penalty does nothing to deter people from committing violent murders. If this is true, then why do people fear the death penalty so much? Every day people confess to their crimes in the hope that they won’t get the death penalty for them. If the death penalty doesn’t deter criminals, then why did Luis Vera murder Rosa Velez? He burglarized her Brooklyn apartment then shot and killed her when she recognized him. He later admitted “Yeah, I shot her. She knew me and I knew I wouldn’t go to the chair” (Koch 561). This seems proof enough to me that the death penalty deters criminals. I think John McAdams says it best. “If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call (McAdams).” I think that the main thing that would boost the deterrent effect of the death penalty would be to use it more often. 5900 people where sentenced to death between 1973 and 1996. Of those 5900 people only 358 people where actually executed (DPIC). That is only one execution for every 1600 murders in the United States, which means that the possibility of someone being put to death if they kill someone is extremely low (Sharp). If we increased the possibility of being executed, then we would increase the deterrent effect that the death penalty has.
What would you do if Osama Bin Laden walked into the room right now? Most people would say they would kill him for the crimes he committed against our country. This is the same thing that the family’s and friends of most murder victim’s feel about the person that took their loved one away from them. Then the anti-death penalty activists complain that the death penalty is cruel and unusual. They don’t like the quick and painless death that is awaiting the convicted murderer. They cite the way the prisoner is treated, the way he has to wait for the inevitable. I hope that this is the most terrifying experience of his/her life. While it is not possible to let victims family’s personally strangle the murderer, they will know that the killer felt, at least a small part, the fear that their victims felt just before they where brutally killed. Is the death penalty barbaric? No: raping, beating, torturing and killing people is barbaric. Fast, effective, painless execution of someone convicted of the aforementioned crimes is not barbaric; it is justice.
In conclusion, I hope that next time you hear about a death penalty being carried out that you will be able to see through the media about the murderer being a victim, and remember who the real victim’s are. The death penalty is justice; it is not wrong. Think about the horrible crimes that the person committed to get himself on death row and remember that they brought this upon themselves. I value human life, and the best way to preserve it is to send a message to those people that would seek to destroy it; we will not tolerate murder.
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