The Death Penalty in the Civilized World
There is no doubt that each person has the right to express his/her opinion about different issues. If this person is a scholar, a writer or a journalist, then his opinion can be revealed to public. However, it does mean that everybody will support him/her and agree with his/her point of view. Some social issues like capital punishment can be especially controversial. This paper analyzes the article, which supports the death penalty, and proves that in spite of the author’s arguments there is no place for capital punishment in the civilized countries.
In the article written by David B. Muhlhausen, entitled “How the Death Penalty Saves Lives,” the author claims that the U.S. states and countries that have legalized the capital punishment are more successful in crime reduction process comparing to those that do not use the death penalty. In order to prove his point of view, Muhlhausen told about a violent homicide committed by Earl Ringo Jr., who consequently was executed in Missouri. The author added more details about this cruel crime to persuade the readers that the court’s decision was correct. Therefore, Muhlhausen tries to influence the emotions and ethical principles of people to demonstrate that such criminals, as Earl Ringo Jr., deserve a capital punishment.
With all respect to the opinion expressed by the author, death penalty does not seem to be a civilized way to punish criminals. There are certain phrases in the article, the validity of which is doubtful. For example, “Some crimes are so heinous and inherently wrong that they demand strict penalties – up to and including life sentences or even death. Most Americans recognize this principle as just” (para. 3). It is quite logic that a robbery is not as heinous as homicide or rape. Both case, such as one drunken man or a drug-addict killing another drunken man in a fight by accident or a criminal killing an innocent person on purpose, are homicides and they are equally heinous for the members of the victims’ families. However, the court may consider one crime more violent than the other one. The question of which crime is violent and which is not is a foundation for an ethical dilemma that is especially difficult to solve. Thus, the question here is how well the legislation of the country should be organized to classify crimes, taking into consideration all the details and setting the objective degree of their severity not to execute those, who do not deserve it.
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Another contradictory thought author expresses in the article is the following: “indeed, other recent investigations, using a variety of samples and statistical methods, consistently demonstrate a strong link between executions and reduced murder rates” (para. 6). It is possible to believe that the research on the effectiveness of the capital punishment is vast. However, many other alternative punishments for criminals possibly give even better results. The law enforcement organizations cannot stop the legal process to study each form of punishment separately. While the capital punishment and its effectiveness were investigated, other criminals were sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole and maybe this sentence contributed to the reduction of violent crimes. If a person is capable of committing illegal actions, then nobody can be sure what he/she has on mind, what forces him/her to commit a violent crime and which punishment frightens him/her the most. Thus, any actions of the law enforcement bodies and any possible verdicts make the criminals precautious and, thus, the most effective method to fight crimes is developing rational sentences for each type of illegal actions.
The next important quotation that may arouse interest of the readers is “In short, capital punishment does, in fact, save lives. […] The execution of Ringo was morally just. And it may just save the lives of several innocents” (para. 10). Actually, this is a purely subjective opinion of the author. There are no universal moral principles or ethical rules in a sense that a person considers each situation through his/her personal set of moral attitudes. Even in the case of the discussed violent crime, no matter which illegal action Earl Ringo Jr. has committed, most likely his family would not consider the death penalty to be moral. It is also quite headforemost to state that Ringo’s capital punishment has saved several lives as nobody can state for sure that he was going to kill more people or that his case made other criminals think thoroughly before committing a violent crime. Thus, Muhlhausen’s personal opinion expressed in the article is based on his individual ethical principles that may not be universal for everybody.
All three cited phrases seem to be based on Mulhausen’s personal attitude towards the death penalty. He also mentions some statistical data and states “a Gallup poll from May on the topic found that 61 percent of Americans view the death penalty as morally acceptable” (para. 4). However, these facts are just a general information. More data is needed to evaluate the objectiveness of the Americans’ opinions. They may base their ideas purely on individual experiences. Those citizens, who supported the idea of executing Ringo, did not think well about the conditions in which people live nowadays and the means for crime reduction available. The value of a person’s life is low and executing more people on a state level may cause serious public disturbances. Modern scientists and psychologists have already offered some effective ways to work with the criminals on the psychological and psychiatric levels. It is important to define which punishment can make a criminal suffer more with fewer negative consequences, such as a life sentence or a death penalty. If the officials and prosecutors are guided purely by personal moral views to bring the criminal as much pain as he/she brought to his victim or to show all other criminals that they will experience the same in case of killing people, then they should thoroughly think about how to implement their ideas in the best way. Not a poll, but a professional psychological research may prove that a violent criminal suffers more being sentenced to imprisonment for life without parole. A more effective method of crime reduction may be showing each year the life of a criminal in prison than demonstrating how he is executed once and forever. It is also significant to remember the attitudes of the international community to the countries, where the capital punishment is legalized. All states have some connection with each other and there is no reason to break it with the actions that may cause indignation. Thus, the opinion of the Americans mentioned by Mulhausen should be taken into consideration, but only among all other not less important legal and social factors.
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The idea expressed by Muhlhausen about how the capital punishment should be protected by the main law of the state seems to be reasonable, but the author does not mention any exact possible ways for implementing his suggestion. “Federal, state and local officials must continually ensure that its [death penalty] implementation rigorously upholds constitutional protections, such as due process and equal protection of the law” (para. 8). It is understandable that if the capital punishment is commonly practiced in the USA, then its execution will be completely guided by the constitution. However, then the author had to mention a separate section in the U.S. Criminal Code developed in accordance with the Constitution and the fact that this process may take a long time. The life of many people will depend on how well the lawyers and the governmental officials work to coordinate the articles about the capital punishment with the laws, protecting people’s essential rights. It is also important to think about the forms of the capital punishment not to make the families and friends of the criminals suffer even more. Another aspect of the death penalty to be considered is people, who will execute the judgment. It is a purely ethical dilemma for the law enforcement bodies, and a serious psychological investigation should be performed to determine the right candidates. It is logic to conclude that Muhlhausen clearly expresses his support of the death penalty in the article, but he does not describe any practical ways of implementing this sentence.
Considering everything, it is worth concluding that the usual people and the leaders of all civilized states discuss the theme of the article. Mulhausen is categorical and just in supporting the death penalty as an appropriate way for punishment in the USA. However, his argumentation is vague and is subject to an ambiguous interpretation. A death penalty is an archaic form of a punishment that has no educational or social meaning. The law enforcement should approach each criminal individually and sentence him in a way, which will encourage all other criminals to make corresponding conclusions, but not just see the state fighting crimes in the same way they are committed.