Capital Punishment: Sometimes or Never?

by nboyer on September 18, 2014 - 10:17pm

Ethics Short Paper – Capital Punishment

            In the article from October 2002, “Florida Execution of Aileen Wuornos: Another Morbid Media Spectacle”, by Kate Randall, the matter of capital punishment is covered in great detail. This article reports the case of Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute from Florida, who was executed in 2002 after confessing to murdering seven men. She was reported to have killed these men while hitchhiking during 1989 and 1990. Randall describes the scandal that arose in reaction to this female killer, who was one of the few women to have received the death penalty since its reinstatement in the court of law. The author further describes the factors that might have lead Wuornos to commit these crimes, such as a possible psychological disorder and violent childhood. As this case was quite popular in the media, people all throughout the United States had a chance to ponder over the troubling question: was the execution of Aileen Wuornos immoral? In order to answer this question, however, it must be determined whether or not capital punishment itself is immoral.

            According to the principle Kate Randall holds in her article, capital punishment is immoral under certain circumstances. She seems to imply that in Wuornos’ case, for instance, there were many factors that played a role in her violent actions. Wuornos’ past of sexual abuse may have lead her into a state of delusion. In fact, a group called Florida Support described her as “borderline psychotic”. Even if she had been completely sane, Randall seems to suggest that it still would not be moral to execute someone who has dealt with that level of trauma and abuse.             In comparison, I also believe that capital punishment is immoral, though in my opinion, it is immoral to use capital punishment no matter the circumstances. Indeed, according to my position, the death penalty is immoral because it is morally wrong to murder humans for punishment. First of all, killing as a form of punishment is hateful and has a negative effect on society. In the article “Instruments of Death” by Tobias Winright, sociologist Kim Philip Hansen states that the death penalty numbs people to the brutality of the act of murder itself. She explains that it has a “coarsening” effect on society. Second of all, capital punishment has a negative effect on the executioner. Winright points out that those who participate in executions experience a form of “moral injury” which is similar to what soldiers experience during war. As this act negatively impacts the offender, the executioner and the society as a whole, it cannot be deemed moral.

            On the contrary, some people believe that the death penalty is not really a form of punishment, but rather a way to protect the society. This belief is somewhat contradictory because, as mentioned previously, the death penalty in the United States sends a cruel message to society because it shows acceptance of horrific acts such as killing. Although eliminating an offender is a perfect guarantee of safety, it cannot be viewed as protection when it goes against the common good of society and the dignity of human beings. Taking the lives of criminals is irreversible, whereas sentencing them to a lifetime in jail shows respect for both the protection of human life and the safety of the society.   

            In brief, capital punishment is unethical because it involves the retribution of people through murder. As a result, the execution of Aileen Wuornos was immoral. Despite the fact that she committed terrible crimes and had no evident remorse, it remains inhumane for any human to be subject to this form of cruelty.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Randall, Kate. “Florida Execution of Aileen Wuornos: Another Morbid Media Spectacle.” World Socialist Web Site. 11 Oct. 2002. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2002/10/exec-o11.html>.

 

Winright, Tobias. "Instruments of Death." Christian Century. 131.18 (2014): 4. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. 

 

Comments

Hi! I just read your aticle and I couldn't agree more with you. I strongly believe that death penalty is a cruel (and useless) form of punishment, that numbs society to the idea of murder, as you said yourself. It is not only immoral but sometimes mistaken too. Some people have been exectuted to be proven innoncent years later. But as we know, once you took someone else's life, it's irrevocable.

Your article is also very relevant to what's happening in the United States. There are several states, such as Florida and Texas, that still execute criminals on a daily basis. I am against this practice because it is not only unmerciful and inhuman, but also because it goes against the third article of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights : «Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person». Society should never make a public spectacle of an individual's death, regardeless of how horrible this person was, it's about basic human rights.

I also agree with you that criminals should be punished by jail-time, because death penalty only contributes to the cicle of violence that compromises the security of every citizen. Moreover, having a criminal convincted to a life sentence in prison still costs less to society that an execution.

If you ever want to take action go to Amnesty International's website : http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/? where you can sign petitions online to try and abolish death penalty all over the world. Gradually, death penalty is disappearing...only 21 countries out of 198 still use it, there is hope!

I would like to congratulate you on bringing on the point of view of the executioner. It is a point too often neglected and it is refreshing to hear new ideas. In terms of arguments, we do agree that murder is immoral. Although, I don't think of capital punishment as on the same level of murder and think of it on the same level is illogical. The circumstances of a murder and an execution are totally different. I think I must make you remember that on a trial there is twelve juries and the execution is not an arbitrary irrational decision. Also, I would like you to explain to me why should we respect the sanctity of life of a person who neglected the same right to someone else... This column by Sam Wallace ( http://www.diamondbackonline.com/opinion/article_9cb10f32-4509-11e4-9971...) does a great job representing the pro side of this issue. It impossible to not acknowledge the rationality behind his arguments. He presents ideas that I personally qualify as new. The con side of this debate does not often explore value of victim's life and put more emphasis on the murderer's life. This issue is well described in Wallace's and is worth reading about.

It is a well written article and good to see that you also voiced the other side's opinion. I also believe that the death penalty is immoral because it is killing a defenseless human being.

Another opposite opinion that you did not mention is how much putting people in jail cost. It cost New York city about 167,731$ just to hold one inmate in jail for a year since you have to feed them, house them and hire people to guard 24/7(New York Times, 2013). If they gave the death penalty to all criminals serving a death sentence and are 100% guilty, the city would save a lot of money that they can either use somewhere else or give back to the people since New York is a very expensive city to live in.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/nyregion/citys-annual-cost-per-inmate-...

It was great to come up with the argument of psychological disorder or the difficult personal background which a criminal may have experienced. It leads the situation to another level and makes it harder to position ourselves on whether or not approve for capital punishment, since the individual did not ask to live with such problems. It brings a more sensitive aspect to the case and thus, people are more likely to question it. However, what about the other position? You only state what could be the argument of someone in favor of capital punishment. You could have gone further in your explanation by mentioning why an individual believes in the death penalty. The short paper would have been stronger and much more interesting if you would have accorded as much importance to the counter argument as your personal position on the subject. This way, people may have a broader idea on which position to take. The article "The slow death of the death penalty; Capital punishment" by the Economist Newspaper may help to expand the coutner argument since it states that capital punishment is a good deterrent for criminals. It lowers the homicide rate and therefore, a protection for the society.

It was great to come up with the argument of psychological disorder or the difficult personal background which a criminal may have experienced. It leads the situation to another level and makes it harder to position ourselves on whether or not approve for capital punishment, since the individual did not ask to live with such problems. It brings a more sensitive aspect to the case and thus, people are more likely to question it. However, what about the other position? You only state what could be the argument of someone in favor of capital punishment. You could have gone further in your explanation by mentioning why an individual believes in the death penalty. The short paper would have been stronger and much more interesting if you would have accorded as much importance to the counter argument as your personal position on the subject. This way, people may have a broader idea on which position to take. The article "The slow death of the death penalty; Capital punishment" by the Economist Newspaper may help to expand the coutner argument since it states that capital punishment is a good deterrent for criminals. It lowers the homicide rate and therefore, a protection for the society.
http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.champlaincollege.qc.ca/pqrl/docview/1...

After reading your essay, I noticed that it’s well written and your arguments are well described. I found that you were able to find good arguments to prove your point that capital punishment is unethical. However, I will argue that capital punishment is ethical. By killing a criminal, who committed murder, it sends a message to society that killing isn’t tolerated. In countries, where capital punishment is allowed, crime rates are considerably lower than countries that forbid it. Why should criminals be allowed to live in prison, where they are feed and taken care of? .I found an interesting article that shows that many people are in approval of the death penalty. In the article, you will find statistics that prove the majority of Americans were in approval of the death penalty.
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1143970?uid=2&uid=4&sid=2110483760...

After reading your article, I have to personally say that I am in favor of bringing back capital punishment simply by the fact that it is more practical, if not even safer to execute inmates whom have a life sentence or more, on the basis of funding by taxation, space and ressources. I agree with the fact that it paradoxily promotes the death culture it tries to go against. Although, in my opinion, it does more good than bad, in the sense of morality. I feel like it makes justice harsher and more fair, which is exactly what some cities or countries need to resolve to, mostly for high criminality cases.
Towards the end of your blog, you comment on how keeping the sanctity of their lives and respect for them as well, which is really conflicting and contradictory as well for the simple fact that I ask myself questions like: Why should society respect the sanctity of life and dignity of a murderer, a pedophile or a serial killer, when they have put immense shame and evil down on not only the victims but the society as a whole? How can they deserve anything less than to be justfully punished with their privilege of life taken from them when most of them have taken away?
In this article: (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/02/08/majority_of_canadians_supp...) you will find that about 61% of Canadians agree to the use of capital punishment, in the case of murderers, and that 63% agree that the death penalty is sometimes appropriate. The author goes on to say that 45% is in agreement for Quebec. Candadians are feeling more and more inclined to using the death penalty, where the issue is not the morality of the fact, but the wrongful criminalization of the accused leading to a mistaken death. They also agree with the paradox of killing to show its wrong to kill. The poll concludes that opinions varry on many factors like time, region and customs and politics. This is most likely the same case in the United States with your debate.

Avallone
Newsactivist Response
Learning to Learn
October 22, 2014

I do not feel like Capital Punishment really works for the intent most think it will. I don't see it as a effective method to deter people from committing crimes and for the person who would get this as a sentence I don't know if it would make it better or worse. For me, I don't believe in the death penalty or any type of capital punishment. It is just a way for the criminal to "get off easy" and I try to follow the golden rule, do onto others and I would want done on myself. Now, I am not saying I will go out and commit a crime, but I would not kill another person to seek vengeance if I was the victim.

I just read your article and you did an excellent job at explaining what capital punishment is, and why it is still today an important topic to look into. The ethical dilemma is pretty straight forward as to whether or not we have the right to decide who lives and who dies according to our own definitions of what is right and what is wrong. You explain it well when you talk about the sanctity of life.You gave excellent back-up and exemples to both sides in this blog. Your text is clear and concise, very easy to read and understand! Keep it up!

I personally don’t believe that the death penalty is a question of morality, because if someone took the life away from someone else, why is it not fair that they have their life taken away from them? They had the choice to go on with the murder in the first case (more often than not for death penalty cases specifically), so why shouldn’t they face similar consequences as their punishment? Rather than be a question of morality, I would say it is more of an ethical question and change the words “moral and immoral” to “just and unjust.” Contrary to the point I started with above, I actually believe that the death penalty and capital punishment is not the right away to go about things. I believe that the inmate would learn more from their mistakes by rotting in prison, and being forced to always think about the crime(s) they committed. I believe that the death penalty is allowing the guilty to get off easy, as they get to start over their life as another soul right away. Regarding terrorist groups, a lot of the time it is heard they would “rather die while fighting for what they believe in than not fight at all.” In this case, although the general population might feel safer with knowing that there is one less person who poses such a big threat such as this is no longer alive, however it is giving them what they want. There can also be the risk of carrying on with an execution of someone who is in fact innocent, because no matter how perfect the world may seem at times; there will always be mistakes. It has also been proven that countries who practice the death penalty have a much higher crime rate compared to countries that do not have it, and for example the US’ crime rates is six times larger than Britain’s.
http://www.antideathpenalty.org/reasons.html