Reviving The Death Penalty


"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is one of the oldest and most
famous sayings in the world. It comes from the Mosaic Law in the Bible and it
is an edict that has ruled millions for thousands of years. Today the issue of
capital punishment has our nation split down the middle. The two sides have
drawn lines in the sand and are emphatically holding their ground. The need for
capital punishment is greater today then it has been at anytime in the past for
several reasons. The crime rate is soaring out of control. Murders are tearing
our people, our cities, and country apart. Many people have the same belief as
Thomas Draper, an author on the book called Capital Punishment, that no society
can abolish crime, so their only hope is to do everything they can to control it.
It is time for the United States to mandate the death penalty for the crime of
murder in all 50 states and to carry out the executions of those sentenced to
death. Capital Punishment is the lawful infliction of the death penalty. In
England, by 1500, only major felonies carried the death penalty: treason,
murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson. The American colonies adhered with
Englands' view on the death penalty, for there was little they could do about it.
However in the 1750's reform movements spread through Europe, and in 1847 they
reached the United States. In 1847, Michigan became the first state to abolish
the death penalty for murder.
Beginning in 1967, executions were suspended to allow the appellate
courts to decide whether the death penalty was unconstitutional. In 1972, the
Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty for murder or
for rape violated the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" (Bedau
1). Four years later the Supreme Court reversed its decision in Gregg v. Georgia.
They held the death penalty for murder and rape was not unconstitutional. The
next year executions resumed, and by 1991, some 2,350 person were under death
sentences in 36 states. About 150 prisoners including one woman, had been
executed. Current capital statutes authorize a trial court to impose either a
life or death sentence only after a post conviction hearing. Evidence is
submitted to establish which 'aggravating' or 'migrating' factors were present
in the crime" (Bedau 1). If it is in the courts mind that "aggravating" factors
prevail and hand down the death sentence, then the case is automatically
reviewed by an appellate court. Also in 1977, the Supreme Court held that death
sentences for rape were "grossly disproportionate and excessive." The methods
for carrying out a death sentence in the United States today are hanging,
electrocution, gas chamber, firing, squad, and lethal injection.
Americans feel strongly about the death penalty, but it is something
they know very little about. Their attitudes are based on emotion rather than
information or rational argument. People see the death penalty as something you
are either for or against. This idea is supported by the fact that the wording
of questions about the death penalty in public opinion polls change the
percentages by the smallest amount (Ellsworth). Hugo A. Bedau, author of Facing
the Death Penalty, states that 70% of Americans favor the death penalty for
murder. The people who favor the death penalty, favor it because they have a
goal in mind, the reduction of crime. Whether it does or not will be discussed
later. Thomas Draper, author of Capital Punishment, states that there are
certain people who do not belong in our society. There are some who have
committed such hevious crime that they don't deserve to live. Phoebe Ellsworth,
author of "Hardening of Attitudes", took a poll that stated the support declined
through the 1950's to a low of 47% in 1966, but increased steadily from 1966
through 1982 and has remained stable in the range of 70-75%. Another poll taken
by Tom Kuntz, author of "Should We Kill Those Who Kill" reflects the public view
on the deterrent effect of the death penalty. According to a poll of 651
registered voters in New York, 57% feel the death penalty does deter murder, 40%
feel it does not, and 3% had no answer. What citizens feel and why they feel
it is up for debate, one thing there is no debating, though, is that they most
definitely feel.
Those in opposition to the death penalty give several reasons for the
United States to abolish capital punishment. First, it is more expensive to the
tax payer to execute a murder than have them serve a life sentence. "A Duke
University study of 77 murder