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Capital Punishment History

He is escorted down to a room with handcuffs on both arms and feet. The tension in the room causes nervousness and a stirring in his stomach, which entombs his dinner from the night before. He is told to take a seat. Still in doubt of his fate he notices the witnesses and their various expressions. His family is grief-stricken, a sharp contrast to the family of the brutally murdered, for which he was found guilty of. If only they knew what he knew; for they would not be strapping him into the chair, soaking a sponge, and placing it on top of his head along with the metal skullcap.

If they knew the truth there would be someone in his place today. But alas, the truth dies along with the innocent. Capital Punishment, as read in the scene above, has importance in times dating back to ancient civilizations. It’s purpose is to permanently disband those unfit to live with society. Even knowing its prominent background, in modern times there is doubt whether or not it is still necessary. Today, in the twenty-first century, there are currently 38 states with the death penalty. The other twelve have life with out parole as the maximum sentence.

In the practicing states there were 66 executions carried out in 2001, 85 in 2000, and 98 in 1999. If this trend continues there will be even fewer this year. The states leading execution are Texas and Oklahoma, as of 2001. Texas carried out nearly 26% of the 66 executions and Oklahoma leads with 28%. By region; the South carries out 79% of the U. S. executions, with the Midwest at 15%, the West at 6% and the Northeast at 0%. (Death Penalty Info. ) The reasons why someone may be sentenced with capital punishment vary from state to state.

The most common factors include first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. According to the poet Hyman Barshay, “The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down. ” Barshay and other pro death penalty supporters believe that the death penalty deters would be killers. A person would be less likely to do something if he or she thinks that harm will come to them.

This is basic human nature, and capital punishment is used as a prime example of it. “Indeed, the decision that capital punishment may be the appropriate sanction in extreme cases is an expression of the community’s belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death” -Supreme Court of the United States. (Pro Death Penalty) Opponents of the death penalty present that the cost of the death penalty is so expensive, at least $2million per case, and that we must choose life without parole (“LWOP”).

However, in the long run at $34,200/yr for the average cell, for 50 years, (TIME Magazine 2/7/94) along with a 2% annual cost increase, and an additional $75,000 for trial and appeals the cost of sentencing life without parole comes out to approximately $3million. Where as a maximum security cell runs $60,000/yr, needed for say 6 years (on death row), a 2% annual cost increase, plus $1. 5 million for the trial and appeals, still come out under $2million. With higher annual cost increases a LWOP case can cost up to $3million more than a death penalty case.

So although the initial capital punishment trial may cost more, in the long run it is a cheaper alternative. (Pro Death Penalty) A study performed by Isaac Ehrlich, published in 1976, “eight murders are deterred for each execution that is carried out in the U. S. A. If one execution of a guilty capital murderer deters the murder of one innocent life, the execution is justified. ” Ehrlich and other supporters feel saving one life is worth the execution of the guilty, and that the theory of society engaging in murder when executing the guilty is invalid. They feel that it expresses the great value society places on innocent life.

A revised study was also done by Professor Stephen K. Layson of the University of North Carolina 1986, showing that 18 murders were deterred by each execution. (Pro Death Penalty According to a national poll issued by the Greenberg/Lake and Tarrance Group 1993, 44% of people prefer live without parole as the maximum sentence and 41% support the death penalty. So public support of the death penalty is weaker than that of alternative punishments. (Death Penalty Info) A main reason for the disagreement of capital punishment comes from the opinion that many consider it inhumane. Take this botched execution for example; “August 10, 1982.

Virginia. Frank J. Coppola. Electrocution. Although no media representatives witnessed the execution and no details were ever released by the Virginia Department of Corrections, an attorney who was present later stated that it took two 55-second jolts of electricity to kill Coppola. The second jolt produced the odor and sizzling sound of burning flesh, and Coppola’s head and leg caught on fire. Smoke filled the death chamber from floor to ceiling with a smokey haze. “(Denno) A comeback to this may be that more modern means of execution are offered, however, they have their flaws too.

May 8, 1997. Oklahoma. Scott Dawn Carpenter. Carpenter was pronounced dead some 11 minutes after the lethal injection was administered. As the drugs took effect, Carpenter began to gasp and shake. This was followed by a guttural sound, multiple spasms and gasping for air’ until his body stopped moving, three minutes later. ” (Kwok) Here is another article of an execution using lethal injection; “June 8, 2000. Florida. Bennie Demps. It took execution technicians 33 minutes to find suitable veins for the execution. They butchered me back there,’ said Demps in his final statement.

I was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin; they cut me in the leg. I was bleeding profusely. This is not an execution, it is murder. ‘ The executioners had no unusual problems finding one vein, but because Florida protocol requires a second alternate intravenous drip, they continued to work to insert another needle, finally abandoning the effort after their prolonged failures. ” (Karwath) Another reason why some disapprove of capital punishment is the fact that the guilt of the accused is sometimes not completely valid.

Many of the accused have been released from death row, and if people are being let out before they are executed, then there must be others not so lucky. Since 1973, 100 people in 24 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. (DPIC) “Perhaps the bleakest fact of all is that the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent. ” -Justice William J. Brennan Jr. , 1994. Surprisingly many law enforcement officers have a negative view on capital punishment.

I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime. ” –Willie L. Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA. (R. Abramson) “The death penalty does little to prevent crime. It’s the fear of apprehension and the likely prospect of swift and certain punishment that provides the largest deterrent to crime. ” –Frank Friel, Former Head of Organized Crime Homicide Task Force, Philadelphia. (Press Release) I have mixed opinions on this subject and cannot fully support one side or the other.

I feel that in some cases the death penalty should be implied, however, many of the accused are looking for death as an easy escape from this world, and would consider life in solitary confinement a worse punishment. Due to the fact that it costs more to support life with out parole, the money saved from capital punishment can be used to help society in a better way. Both sides have their point in this argument. Although many oppose capital punishment, in most states it is still active whether they believe in it or not, and are still punishable by it. It’s the choice of society to take a stance and show their opinion.

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