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Death Penalty - The Only Justice for Killers?

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In the USA, a majority of the people supports capital punishment and vote for those politicians that take a strong stand against crime. Those who support the death penalty use such arguments as:
  • An eye for an eye!
  • Society should not have to pay for someone so dangerous that they can never return to live around normal people.
  • The threat of execution is enough to make criminals think twice about committing a capital crime.

Those who oppose the death penalty argue their position with statements such as:

  • Although the act of murder is horrific and inexcusable, executing the killer does nothing to bring the person back.
  • It often costs more to execute a criminal than it would to keep him/her alive in jail.
  • It is irrational to assume that a criminal is going to consider the consequences of his actions before committing a criminal act.

The compelling question is: if justice is served by putting a murderer to death, in what way is it served? As you will see, both sides offer strong arguments. With which do you agree?

Current Status

In 2003, a Gallop report showed public support was at a high level with 74 percent for the death penalty for convicted killers. A small majority still favored the death penalty when given a choice between life in prison or death, for a murder conviction.

A May 2004 Gallup Poll found that there is a rise in Americans that support a sentence of life without parole rather than the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

In 2003 the outcome of the poll showed just the opposite and many attribute that to the 9/11 attack on America.

In recent years DNA testing has revealed past mistaken convictions. There have been 111 people released from death row because DNA evidence proved they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted. Even with this information, 55 percent of the public feels confident that the death penalty is applied fairly, while 39 percent say it is not.

Source: The Gallup Organization

Background

Use of the death penalty in the United States was practiced regularly, dating back to 1608, until a temporary ban was established in 1967, during which time the Supreme Court reviewed its constitutionality.

In 1972, the Furman v. Georgia case was found to be a violation of the Eight Amendment which bans cruel and unusual punishment. This was determined based on what the Court felt was an unguided jury discretion which resulted in arbitrary and capricious sentencing. However, the ruling did open the possibility of reinstating the death penalty, if states redrafted their sentencing laws to avoid such problems. The death penalty was reinstated in 1976 after 10 years of being abolished.

A total of 885 death row prisoners have been executed from 1976 until 2003.

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