Capital Puinishment

.. fers. The methods of capital punishment in use in 1997 included hanging, firing squad, electrocution, suffocation in the lethal gas chamber, and lethal injection (NCADP). The traditional execution by hanging is still used in a few states today. Death on the gallows can make for a slow and agonizing demise by strangulation if the drop is too short.

Or, if the drop is too long, the head will be torn off. Two states still use the firing squad method, in which the condemned is hooded, strapped into a chair, and a target is pinned on the chest. Five marksmen take aim and fire (NCADP). During the twentieth century, electrocution has been the most widely applied form of execution in the United States, and still used in eleven states. The prisoner is placed in the death chamber and strapped into the chair with electrodes strapped to the head and legs.

When the chair is activated the body strains and jolts as the intensity of electricity is raised or lowered. It is not known how long the prisoner retains consciousness. In some cases, as with the electrocution of John Evans in Alabama, it takes more than one jolt of electricity to kill the prisoner. An eyewitness illustrated the barbaric ritual in which it took three charges at thirty second intervals and ten minutes before doctors pronounced Evans dead (NCADP). The witness then went on to Jewett 7 say that the officials were apparently embarrassed and one official remarked that the execution was supposed to be a very clean manner of administering death (NCADP). The gas chamber was supposed to be a step ahead of the electric chair.

In the gas chamber method, the prisoner is strapped into a chair with a container of sulfuric acid underneath. the chamber is then sealed and cyanide is dropped into the acid to create a lethal gas. As with electrocution, suffocation by inhalation of a lethal gas is not always a quick and clean way of death. In the case of the execution of Don Harding in Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that it took Harding more than ten minutes to die. The latest mode of infliction of the death penalty is lethal injection.

Some believe that this method is more humane, although killing in itself is plainly inhumane (NCADP). The U.S. Court of Appeals stated that there is substantial and uncontested evidencethat execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel, protracted deatheven a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation (NCADP). As with the other methods of execution, death by lethal injection does not always proceed smoothly as planned. In 1985 the authorities jabbed needles intoStephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had been a drug abuser (NCADP).

In a 1988 case during the execution of Raymond Landry, a tube attached to a needle inside the inmates right arm began leaking, sending he lethal mixture shooting across the death chamber toward witnesses. Adam Bedau writes that its veneer of decency and subtle analogy with life-saving medical practice no doubt makes killing by lethal injection more acceptable to the public (NCADP). Jewett 8 After witnessing an execution, Journalist Susan Blaustein said We have perfected the art of institutional killing to the degree that it has deadened our natural, quintessentially human response to death (NCADP). Most people who observe an execution are mortified and disgusted. Public executions were common in this country during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One of the last public executions occurred in Kentucky when 20,000 people gathered to watch the hanging of a young African American male (NCADP).

It is that inhumane delight in brutality and pain that the supporters of death penalty have cause against, yet they are at the level of murder themselves. Society must insist that the law not encourage such violent crime, for when the government ceremoniously carries out the cruel execution of a prisoner, the violent side of human nature is being allowed. Cesare Beccaria, an Italian jurist said The death penalty cannot be useful, because of the example of barbarity it gives men. Even if capital punishment was useful it would still be an example of the very brutality and violence the death penalty is supposed to prevent (Against the Death Penalty). Such methods of human torture and killing is allowed by retentionists to be hidden in the system we call justice.

Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Godberg wrote the deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest conceivable degradation of the dignity of human personality (Against the Death Penalty). Society not only suffers from the burden of dealing with those lives which have been lost to an immoral and brutal execution, but will also suffer from the great deal of tax dollars spent to put their unjustified ways into action. From the time of arrest to the point of execution, it can be estimated that a single death sentence costs between one to three million dollars per case (NCADP). Some studies have figures as high as seven million per case.

Life imprisonment, including incarceration, costs roughly five hundred thousand dollars. The millions of dollars spent Jewett 9 on the unnecessary killing of one individual cuts into funds for more important needs, such as public safety and education (NCADP). Justice often insists that the death penalty is the suitable punishment for brutal crimes. According to Bedau, by its nature, all punishment is retributive (Against the Death Penalty). Therefore, a punishment can be satisfied without killing.

Moreover, the death penalty could only be used for the crime of murder and not for any of the several other crimes that have recently been considered as capital crimes such as rape, kidnaping, treason, drug trafficking, and espionage. Execution is an unnecessary punishment for murder. Albert Camus wrote that for there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life (Warner). It is also often argued that death is what murderers deserve, and that those who oppose the death penalty violate the eye for an eye principle, the ideal of making the punishment fit the crime.

If this rule means that punishments are unsuitable unless they are like the crime, then the principle is unacceptable. Such an ideal would mean that we must rape the rapists, torture the torturers, and inflict other degrading punishments on the convicted (Nathanson 133). We would have to betray traitors, and kill multiple murderers multiple times, which are obviously penalties impossible to impose. Since we cannot reasonably punish all crimes according to this ideal, it is irrational to impose execution as a required punishment for murder. Criminals do deserve to be punished, and the severity of punishment should be appropriate to the harm they have caused the Jewett 10 innocent.

But the severity of punishment must have limits limits enforced by both justice and our common human dignity (Barzilai). Governments that enforce these limits do not use premeditated, violent homicide as a tool in society. There are people who have lost a loved one to murder that believe that they cannot rest until the murderer is executed, but not all of those inflicted with such a loss feel the same. Coretta Scott King said that as one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not remedied by an evil deed of retaliation.

Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder (Barzilai). Victims to the loss of a loved one do not need to reduce themselves to the evil level of the murderer, but those families need to replace their anger and hate towards the criminal in a more healthy manner for both the offender and the survivors. Although it can be easier said than done, the right to live belongs to all of the members of society regardless of what crime one has committed. It is not the right of the government, nor the right of any individual to inflict such cruel and hateful punishments onto another human being.

Beyond the statistics we can see a brutal and unnecessary punishment. There must be limits to the power that a government has, as well as the power individuals in a society have. We degrade the murderer, yet the supporters of capital punishment reserve the passion to kill. As sane people with a respect for human life and dignity, we must not turn into the vicious murderer some of us fight to kill. According to Stephen Nathanson, we must set an example of the behavior we find acceptable in society. He goes on to say that even though this person has done wrong and Jewett 11 even though we may be angry, outraged, and indignant with him, we will nonetheless control ourselves in a way that he did not.

We will not kill him ( Nathanson 137). We must not contradict the principle that murder is wrong, including the murder of a criminal. We must not kill, nor must any government hold the power to take a human life, no matter what the crime. Bibliography Works CitedAgainst the Death Penalty. Amnesty International. http://www.amnesty.org Dieter, Richard. The Practical Burdens of Capital Punishment.

The Encyclopedia of Ethics. New York: Macmillan, 1967. Glover, Jonathan. Deterrence and Murder. New York: Garland, 1992. Mappes, Thomas A., and Jane S. Zambaty.

Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy. U.S.: McGraw, 1997. National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). http://www.ncadp.org Smart, Christopher. Innocence Found on Death Row. http://weeklywire.com Warner, Ralph.

Killing Carelessly. http://www.crimemagazine.com Government Essays.