Capital punishment is one of the most popularly debated topics in the nation today. Since colonial times, more than 13,000 people have been legally executed and a large percentage of these executions occurred during the early 1900's. In the 1930's, approximately 150 people were being legally executed each year. However, the number of executions started to decrease, as public outrage became apparent. Currently, over 3,500 people are on death row. The death penalty violates the Eight Amendment because the act is cruel and unusual, and because the punishment discriminates against the poor and the minorities, the punishment also violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Surprisingly, many victims on death row are mentally retarded or disabled. Unfortunately, the death penalty has many supporters, and their main claim to why the death penalty should be constitutional is that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but research has proved their claim to be false. The most disturbing factor of all is that a significant number of the inmates are innocent. For many reasons, capital punishment should be illegal throughout the nation.
Capital punishment is not acceptable because it is unconstitutional. Capital punishment has been proven to violate the Eighth Amendment, which is the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It is also a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws and due process. The death penalty, which was legal with no objections through the 1900's, became a controversial issue in 1972. In 1972, the Furman vs. Georgia trial caused the Supreme Court to cancel hundreds of scheduled executions and to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. However, in 1976 in Gregg vs. Georgia, the Court reinstated the death penalty. After this decision, several states reenacted the capital punishment laws. However, capital punishment indeed violates the Eighth Amendment, which became a part of the United States Constitution in 1789. Capital punishment is both a cruel and an unusual punishment. No punishment can be crueler than death, especially if it is applied to an innocent person. In Wendy Kaminer‘s book, It's All the Rage, Kaminer describes the death penalty as, “barbarously cruel . . . . shocking, unjust, and unacceptable” (106). The Fourteenth Amendment is also violated in cases of the death penalty. Once again, the Fourteenth Amendment in the United States Constitution promises equal protection of the laws and due process to everyone, but Vilbig says, “Death penalty critics say defendants, many of whom are poor, frequently get a poor legal defense, often by court-appointed lawyers“ (4). This fact indicates that the unfortunate are not being given equal protection under the law. However, the death penalty was found to be discriminatory based on the color of one's skin (Bedau 6). Therefore, the death penalty clearly violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
The application of the death penalty sentence shows racial discrimination, sex discrimination, and socio-economic class discrimination all over the nation. Over the years, the statistics of the executions have been studied. According to these statistics, from 1930 to 1990 the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reports an interesting conclusion about racial discrimination. The GAO confirmed that, “. . . a consistent pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in charging, sentencing and the imposition of the death penalty after the Furman decision . . . . race of victim influence was found at all stages of the criminal justice system process . . . ” (Bedau 5). Along with this finding, they also asserted that “. . . those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks” (Bedau 6). This information revealed that the convict's race, as well as the race of the victim, influenced the criminal justice process. In 1987, a study taken in New Jersey showed that of all the executions made that year, fifty percent of the cases involved a black defendant with a white victim, while only twenty-eight percent of the cases involved a white defendant with a black victim. In California, studies indicated that while six percent of those convicted of killing whites got the death penalty, only three percent of those convicted of killing blacks got the death penalty; “Since 1976 only four executions involved a white defendant who killed a black victim” (Bedau 6). In 1986, studies in Georgia demonstrated that those convicted of killing whites were four times more likely to be sentenced to death than convicted killers of non-whites were. African Americans are only about twelve percent of the United States' population. Of the 3,859 persons executed for a crime since 1930, fifty percent have been black. Also, the application of the death penalty was disproportionate to other minority populations (Bedau 6). It could be argued that minorities do not commit more crime than whites, but rather they are more often punished with the death penalty. In all, only thirty-one of the eighteen thousand executions in this country’s history involved a white person being punished for killing a black person. Sex discrimination is another factor that enters into determining the death sentence. During the ten years from the 1980's to the 1990's, only about one percent of those on the death row were women while a disproportionate number, fifteen- percent, of the criminal homicides were committed by women. Furthermore, research indicates that only thirty-three (twelve of them black) women were executed in the United States since 1930 compared to 3,826 men. Finally, socio-economic class discrimination influences judgments made about the death sentence. Statistics showed that ninety percent of those on the death row are too poor to hire a lawyer. A man named Clinton Duffy, former warden at California’s San Quentin Prison once said, “. . . the term capital punishment is ironic because only those without capital get the punishment” (Bedau 6). This statement seems to be true today. Without capital, one cannot be tried equally, since he or she cannot afford private investigators, psychiatrists, and expert criminal lawyers to help with the trial. Therefore, the poor suffer the harshest punishment. Racial, sex, and socio-economic discrimination plays an important role in deciding the punishment placed on the crime, which is clearly not equal protection from the law.
Capital punishment has many supporters. One of the major arguments that these supporters express is that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime. The supporters argue that if the death penalty is legalized and practiced, it will discourage others from committing a crime. However, by comparing the data of the states with the death penalty and the states without the death penalty, one can easily see that the death penalty has no effect in deterring crime. According to the National Research Council in 1976, “the available studies provide no useful evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment” (Bedau 141-42). The states that use the death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates than the states without such laws because according to an FBI report, which states that “. . . states which have abolished the death penalty averaged lower murder rates than states which have not” (Bedau 142). Furthermore, the states that establish death penalty laws do not reap any significant benefits in reducing crime or murder rates. Research shows that a large percentage of the murderers do what they do because of passion, malevolence, and/or because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Bedau 170). This statistic demonstrates the fact that the murderer gives little thought to the consequences he or she might have to face later on for the crime. According to Bedau, murderers are not influenced by the death penalty as a punishment, since they carefully plan their murders thinking that they will not get caught (171). Therefore, the criminals do not think about the consequences they will face if they are captured.
Although many arguments can be made in favor of capital punishment, the arguments against capital punishment are more convincing. First, the justice system is not infallible. Too many innocent people lose their lives for a crime they never committed; “At a time when capital punishment has become widely accepted for the worst crimes, critics say a strange brew of prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias and inadequate legal defense is sending innocent people to death row” (Vilbig 2). The risk of executing the innocent is too high. Unlike the other criminal punishments, the death penalty is final. If new evidence is brought up proving the innocence of a convicted criminal, he or she would lose this chance at freedom since the death penalty was already applied. Once the court rules that one is guilty and the state executes that person, it is impossible to reverse the execution. Since 1973, 1,861 cases, thirty-five percent, of all death row cases were called back for process reasons. From those 1,861 cases, as many as 52 of those cases were invalidated based on some evidence of innocence. Even with those destructions, further studies demonstrated that at least twenty-three innocent persons were executed since 1900. Additionally, another 350 cases, out of the 7,200 cases, were considered wrongly convicted. That is almost four cases per year in which an innocent person was convicted for a murder. These statistics show the fallibility of human judgment and how erroneous a decision of death penalty can be. As Marquis de Lafayette from the French Chamber of Deputies once said, "I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me" (Bedau 8).
In all, there are many different difficulties exist with the use of the death penalty as an attempt to decrease and prevent crime. Since the issue of capital punishment started in the early 1900's, it has been a burning issue throughout the nation. The country is divided between people who support capital punishment and people who are against capital punishment. After evaluating the arguments on both sides, it is very clear that the death penalty is unreasonable and should be illegal. Capital punishment is not deterrence to crime. Although it does eliminate the chance of a criminal to commit another crime because the person is dead, it could also end the life of an innocent person. Statistics gathered from comparisons between the states with and without capital punishment reveal that the death penalty does not deter criminals from committing crimes. There are many arguments against capital punishment including its unconstitutionality because capital punishment violates two amendments, the Eighth Amendment, since the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment, and secondly, the Fourteenth Amendment, since it displays unequal protection of the laws and due process. Racial discrimination, sex discrimination, and socio-economic class discrimination are factors that unfairly decide the death penalty. The last two reasons that support the claim that the death penalty should be illegal are the risks of executing an innocent person and the obvious fact that the death penalty does not deter crime. For these reasons, capital punishment should be illegal throughout the nation.
Bedau, Peter. Death is Different. Massachusetts: Northeastern University Press, 1987.
Kaminer, Wendy. It’s All the Rage: Crime and Culture. New York: Addison-Wesley
Publishing Company, 1995.
Vilbig, Peter. “Innocent on Death Row.” New York Times Upfront 18 Sept 2000: 1-11.
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Topic for Your Research Paper on the Death Penalty
Conducting research on the death penalty is not easy. Whereas this a topic with a heated debate, as a writer, you should use facts and opinions to support your views. To make your work relevant, do some thorough research to come up with a great topic. Choosing a topic requires wisdom. You need a topic that you can get resources for to enable you to come up with a great report.
Research a Broad Topic
Study comes first in investigating and evaluating the issues surrounding the case of the death penalty. Get the facts and opinions so that you are informed before you start writing your paper. Decide what arguments you would like your paper to represent. As the death penalty debate will have people opposing and others proposing, choose which side you would like your paper to focus on.
Be Passionate About Your Topic
Select something of interest or concern to you since it will be easy to follow your ideas as you write. The topic should also be interesting to others. To come up with a successful paper, ensure that the topic you choose has various sources of information that you can refer to.
Do not be too Broad or too Narrow
Avoid too broad topics as they can make you lose focus. Too narrow topics can lack wide sources of information. Throughout your paper, avoid personal stories and information. All the information provided must be supported by some authority.
Challenging Research Paper on the Death Penalty Thoughts
The death penalty is a heated debate all over the world. As a writer, you need to think and ask yourself some questions such as: which countries have the death penalty and why? What are the views of the countries that do not have the death penalty, in your opinion is it morally right to condemn someone to death? What justifies death penalty? How are the families of the prisoner affected? Who should really face the death penalty? As you develop these questions, try to imagine what other people think of them. The moment you develop such challenging questions, you will have started the process of developing an interesting topic for your research paper on the death penalty.
Get Some Samples
Use your search engines to get sample academic papers that you can look at around your issue. This will further stimulate your thinking and get more information as you develop your idea. As this topic has been debated and explored before, there is a lot of material online that you can find. Going through several of these materials, you get a wealth of information that will help you to come up with a unique topic and piece of work.
The best materials to give you knowledge and information are the social media debates from where you can get different opinions and information.
Which Countries Use Death Penalty?
Considering how capital punishment is judged globally, you could know which side to base your arguments. It will be very important to note that:
- Over 100 countries have outlawed capital punishment in the world,
- Some states in the United States still practice it.
Get the reasons as to why some countries have banned capital punishment while others are still practicing it. As you adopt your position on the topic, find out other people’s opinions on it. This will comfortably help to support your ideas.
What is The Cost of Death Penalty?
Some people support the death penalty, but again, they are willing for it to be outlawed. Find out why this is so. What are the financial costs of executing this type of penalty? In some countries, people that have been sentenced to the death penalty may take several years before it is executed. This person can appeal to test the validity of the sentence. This can be expensive.
To come up with a good research paper on the death penalty, firstly, choose an interesting topic. Secondly, ensure that the topic has a lot of background information to support your arguments. You can always refine your topic after reading and getting more opinions. Ensure that you use current information regarding your topic. Finally, evaluate whether what you have found answers to the questions you had developed.
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