The Debate over the merits of capital punishment has endured for years, and continues to be an extremely indecisive and complicated issue. Adversaries of capital punishment point to the Marshalls and the Millgards, while proponents point to the Dahmers and Gacys. Society must be kept safe from the monstrous barbaric acts of these individuals and other killers, by taking away their lives to function and perform in our society. At the same time, we must insure that innocent people such as Marshall and Millgard are never convicted or sentenced to death for a crime that they did not commit.
Many contend that the use of capital punishment as a form of deterrence does not work, as there are no fewer murders on a per- capita basis in countries or states that do have it, then those that do not. In order for capital punishment to work as a deterrence, certain events must be present in the criminal’s mind prior to committing the offence. The criminal must be aware that others have been punished in the past for the offence that he or she is planning, and that what happened to another individual who committed this offence, can also happen to me.
But individuals who commit any types of crime ranging from auto theft to 1st-Degree Murder, never take into account the consequences of their actions. Deterrence to crime, is rooted in the individuals themselves. Every human has a personal set of conduct. How much they will and will not tolerate. How far they will and will not go. This personal set of conduct can be made or be broken by friends, influences, family, home, life, etc. An individual who is never taught some sort of restraint as a child, will probably never understand any limit as to what they can do, until they have learned it themselves.
Therefore, capital punishment will never truly work as a deterrent, because of human nature to ignore practised advice and to self learn. There are those who claim that capital punishment is in itself a form of vengeance on the killer. But isn’t locking up a human being behind steel bars for many years, vengeance itself? And is it “humane” that an individual who took the life of another, should receive heating, clothing, indoor plumbing, 3 meals a day, while a homeless person who has harmed no one receives nothing? Adversaries of capital punishment claim that it is far more humane then having the state take away the life of the individual.
In February 1963, Gary McCorkell, a 19 year old sex offender, was scheduled to hang. But just days before his execution, the then Liberal cabinet of Lester Person commuted McCorkell to life in prison. Less than 20 years later, McCorkell was arrested, tried, and convicted for the kidnapping and rape of a 10-year old Tenessee boy. He was sentanced to 63 years in prison. Prior to leaving Canada, he was sought by Metro Police in the attempted murder of an 11-year old boy. What has been gained by this? Had McCorkell been executed in 1963, two boys would never have had to have gone through the horror of being sexually abused.
These individuals may themselves become sex offenders, as many sex offenders were sexually abused as children. McCorkell may have been a victim of sexually assualt in the past, but that does not justify what he did. He did not do this once, he killed two boys, and assaulted two others, leaving one for dead. He knew exactly what he was doing. What right does this man have to live? He has ruined the lives of 4 children, what will he do in life that will compensate for that? What kind of a life would the state have been taking away in this case? An innocent life?
A forgiving life? No, a life that was beyond the realm of reform, and did not care to be. We must be careful. We must be very careful to never, even when suspicion may cause considerable doubt, send an innocent person to be executed. It could have happened to David Millgard, it could have happened to Donald Marshall. It probably has even occured numerous times in the history of the earth. But with proper police investigations, and where the evidence shows that the individual is a threat to the peace of society as long as he or she is alive, capital punishment must be used.
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Throughout the history of man, the penalty of death was given to criminals who broke the law. Capital Punishment is the extreme penalty for crime (Compton’s) and is still in use today in many countries. A criminal can be sentenced to death for various crimes. Even more were the methods used to execute, many being cruel and unusual. There have been many debates on whether or not to abolish the death penalty. There are many pros and cons to this complicated issue. Capital Punishment is in use for many reasons and has been enforced in numerous ways throughout the years.
The condemned prisoner on death row may have broken the law, but does that give us the right to take the life of another human being? Why have we used the death penalty? The death sentence permanently removes law-breakers from our society and “prevents the executed criminal from continuing his criminal career (Hollywood Studio). ” We kill in desperate hopes that these killers and rapists will not be able to strike again, murdering or raping more innocent victims. In many cases, the criminal has broken the law, but if he is let off easily and slips through the system, he may go out and commit the crime again and again.
The death penalty is the ultimate punishment; it gets the point through and teaches the lesson that society will not put up with the people who break the law. It is a very real punishment and leaves no room for rehabilitation of the criminal. Repeat offenders must be kept from breaking the law once more. They have had their chances to repent and reform. The only other way to stop repeat offenders is to merely eliminate them (Electric Chair). Why not just sentence them to life imprisonment? Life imprisonment just isn’t as effective as the Death Penalty because it is not as severe and harsh (KSCOffices).
Life imprisonment is soft and only succeeds in removing the criminal for a certain amount of time. Life imprisonment is also very expensive. The criminal who broke the law should not be allowed to mooch money off the system, receiving heating, clothing, in-door plumbing, and three meals a day, whilst a homeless person has nothing and has not harmed anyone. It costs roughly $30,000 each year to keep an inmate in jail, and many people do not feel it’s worth their money to keep Capital offense criminals alive. We use the death penalty to teach a lesson to law-breakers; but does deterrence really work?
Deterrence is “the idea that punishing an offender deters others from committing similar crimes (Reviving). Anti-death penalty campaigners argue that it is not deterrent because it’s doubtful to have a significant effect on criminal’s behavior and the crime-rate. If we were to take our desire to stop crime seriously, we’d have to keep firm and sentence it to anyone who breaks the law, regardless of their sex, age, races, and other factors that can lead to bias. We would have to strictly carry out more executions, like in the past.
During the Inquisition, in the 13th century, executions were carried out publicly on a regular basis so that they got their point through to the people by striking fear into their hearts. Now, our executions seem to be more like we carry out an occasional execution just to show that we still can. The occasional execution of ‘the unlucky guy’ will not deter criminals from committing crimes. We need to be more firm and show criminals the consequences of their actions; that is the only way that deterrence could possibly work.
A Criminal must know and be aware that since others have been punished in the past for that crime, it could also happen to him. But it’s doubtful that the criminals who commit these crimes will ever take into account the consequences of their actions. Deterrence is rooted in the individual himself for everyone has a personal set of conduct. This conduct is made by their environment: their family, friends, home, life, influences, etc. It lies in what they are taught as youths and how they are raised. Interestingly enough, there has been a debate on whether or not executions should be public.
Currently they are open to a few chosen witnesses, but in the 1800’s, public hangings were held in which thousands of people gathered around and crowded to witness the execution, many spectators on top of roofs and leaning out windows to get a better view (Reference Shelf, 39). Gradually, executions became more and more private, being carried out behind prison walls and witnessed by a few observers, to the way the are presently. The invention of television posed the question on whether or not executions should be televised.
Proponents of Capital Punishment explained that with the public viewing, the viewers may get disgusted and then oppose the death penalty (Reviving, 15). Either way, there have been many incidents in the past where the public has not only witnessed, but taken apart in the execution, such as in during a public stoning. Through the years there have been many methods of execution, many of them being cruel or unusual. In the US, there are five methods of execution currently in use. These methods are: electrocution, lethal injection, the gas chamber, the firing squad (used only in Utah), and hanging (Compton’s).
The electric chair was first brought into use in 1890 as a more humane and less painful method of execution compared to hanging. The first electrocution was of a man named William Kemler on August 6th, 1890 (Clark). In an electrocution, the offender is strapped into the oak chair across the chest, thighs, legs, and arms to prevent any violent movement. Then, two copper electrodes are attached — one to the right leg and the other to the crown of the head, which has been shaved (Methmon). A sponge that has been treated with brine or a naturally conductive gel is attached to the electrodes so they don’t have direct contact with the skin.
The prisoner is allowed to make a last statement, and then a leather mask is placed on his head. A signal is given and the executioner engages the switch and the automatic cycle begins. The first step in the cycle is 2,300 volts for 8 seconds, followed by 1,00 volts for 22 seconds, and then 2, 300 volts for 8 more seconds. During this gruesome exercise, the offender’s body may experience a heaving chest, gurgles, a foaming mouth, bloody sweat, burning hair and skin, and release of feces. Body temperature goes up to about 138 Fahrenheit and initially is too hot to touch.
The heat destroys the body’s proteins and “bakes” the inner organs (Clark). A physician examines the body and if the offender is not dead, orders a second cycle to continue. It was thought that the prisoner felt no pain, but in actuality, he does. He is so firmly attached that he isn’t able to move, and non-movement does not mean a lack of pain. It is known that, “a prisoner being electrocuted will feel himself being [literally] burnt to death while he is conscious of his inability to breathe (Reviving, 24).
Death by lethal injection was first used to a man name Charles Brooks on December 8, 1982 in Texas. Twenty-eight states now use lethal injection. During the execution procedure, the prisoner is strapped to a gurney and trained technicians insert a catheter into a vein in each arm. After a last statement, three drugs are manually injected. The first is sodium thiopental, which is supposed to the render the person unconscious, then comes a saline flush. Next comes pancuronium bromide, which is a muscle relaxant, to collapse the diaphragm and lungs to prevent breathing, followed by another saline flush.
Then potassium chloride is administered to stop the offender’s heart (Methmon). IN most cases, the prisoner dies within 4-5 minutes. The problem with lethal injection is that technicians often have trouble finding veins to inject into so the prisoner may be pierced several times. Often times during the execution, the prisoner may have a violent physical reaction (gasping, heaving chest, choking, etc. ) (Clark). Death by the gas chamber is used in four states. During the procedure, the prisoner is strapped into the chair in the air-tight room.
Beneath the seat is a metal container with cyanide pellets, and under that, a canister with a sulfuric acid solution. In the control room, there are 3 keys, and once each is turned, the bottom of the cyanide container opens, allowing cyanide to fall into the sulfuric acid, producing a lethal gas (Methmon). A heart monitor in the control room tells whether or not the offender is dead. The prisoner will begin to feel himself unable to breathe after the first breath and dies shortly afterwards. The cyanide literally chokes the bodies’ cells to death (Disadvantaged, 15).
Executions by firing squad are only used in the US in the state of Utah. A man named Gary Gilmore was the first man to be executed on January 17, 1977. The prisoner is strapped to a chair with a white Velcro target attached to his chest to show where the heart is. A squad of 6 members is ordered to fire, one gun containing a blank shot in it so they will never know who fired the fatal shots. The condemned person dies of shock or hemorrhage (Clark). If all goes well, shooting provides a quick death. Hanging is still in use is some states.
The prisoner stands on top of a trap door and a noose is put around their neck. There is a drop of 2-6 feet, so there is a powerful jerk of the rope that will break the neck (Webster’s). Sometimes problems resulted because the rope had to be the right length and size so that everything will go right. But in the past there were many incidents of agonizing death because the person ended up dying slowly of strangulation and occasionally, if the drop was too long, by decapitation (Clark). In the past, a device called a guillotine was used.
It was introduced by a French deputy named Joseph Guillotine in 1789 (Reviving, 21). The Guillotine had two uprights joined by a beam at the top with a large blade attached (Clark). The condemned one’s head was placed in it and the blade was released to sever the head. This method was very popular in Europe in the 1700 and 1800’s. It was abolished in 1977. Many people were burned at the stake during the Salem witchcraft trials in the late 1600’s (Reference Shelf, 35). They were burned on even the slightest suspicions of witchcraft or heresy and sometimes even a rumor.
People have been executed by being buried or boiled alive, sawed in half, starved to death, thrown off great heights, and drowned. During a stoning, rocks are thrown at the prisoner until death occurs. In early history, people were crucified, their hands nailed to an upright crossbeam fixed on a vertical beam, and they were left dangling there to die, usually from exhaustion, suffocation, bleeding, or heart failure. Some people were pressed, in which a person lies under a slab-like surface, and heavy objects are placed on top until the person was crushed.
Perhaps the worse method of all is called drawing and quartering which was used in the Middle Ages for extremely serious crimes such as high treason. The procedure involved first having the prisoner dragged into the square by a horse. The prisoner is then hanged on a gibbet, being partly strangled. Then he is taken down alive and is disemboweled, his intestines torn out and burned (Compton’s). Next he is decapitated and his headless body is hacked into four pieces; were the pieces put into a basket for the public’s viewing (Disadvantaged, 12).
This process was extremely cruel and barbaric. Thankfully, there are more and more attempts towards more humane executions. Although, there have been reports of people’s heads having caught on fire during an electric chair execution and screams and moans of suffering have been heard from within the gas chamber. It seems completely immoral and inhumane to allow this to happen to another human being. Does one who murders another deserve to die? Certainly, in general, the punishment should fit the crime.
But in a civilized society, we reject the “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 arsonist’s house. Therefore, perhaps, we should not punish the murderer with death. When the government performs vengeance disguised as justice, it complicit with killers in devaluing human life. Another thing to consider is if we are trying to set an example to deter other criminals from breaking the law, how can we show Governmental murder to show that murder is wrong?
What people sometimes do not remember is that criminals are real people too, who have a life and a capacity to feel pain and fear and all the other emotions. It’s easy to put this thought aside when discussing the most awful multiple murderers (such as Ted Bundy and Charles Manson), but say, an eighteen year old convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore. Another thing commonly over looked is the extreme mental torture that the criminal must suffer in the time leading to the execution. How would you feel knowing that you were going to die tomorrow at 8:00 AM?
It must be a terrifying ordeal. Knowing this, it may come as a surprise that a majority opinion in most democratic government tends to be in favor of the death penalty. Another argument against Capital Punishment is the reality that many innocent people have already been executed, and some courts still take the position that it is permissible for executions to go forward, even in the face of considerable doubt about the person’s guilt. Evidence on the defendant’s innocence may even be ignored unless it is absolutely irrefutable (Essential).
The increased rate of discovery of innocents on death row shows that even though the criminal justice system has good intentions, it makes critical errors which can’t be undone once an execution goes through. Factors that help to convict innocent people are: the current emphasis on faster executions, less resources for the defense, and an expansion of the number of death penalty cases (Essential). With so many pros and cons to the issue of Capital Punishment, it is hard not to wonder if we all, as a world, will still use the death sentence in another hundred years.
Capital Punishment is used for many different reasons and has been enforced in many different methods through the years. Is it right for us to be able to kill another human being who breaks the law? Why don’t we just use life imprisonment instead? There are so many moral issues surrounding Capital Punishment that it is impossible to find a right or wrong answer. Everyone sees it differently and each individual must decide for himself if Capital Punishment is the right answer or not.
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