Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against

The death penalty has been a matter of intense debate and it has generated a lot of controversies for ages and one comes across a large number of arguments for and against this punishment. The death penalty was prevalent at one stage or another in many nations and several of them have constitutionally abolished the death penalty from their criminal justice system. However, there are many world nations that still resort to the death penalty where serious offenses like homicides and terrorism are committed. Advocates of the death penalty argue that the death penalty is the need of time as homicides and serious offenses are increasing at an alarming rate worldwide and the provision for capital punishment can act as the strongest deterrent in a crime-prone society. Besides, there are a lot of people who believe that many innocent lives can be saved by inflicting the death penalty on dreaded criminals. On the other hand, the major argument against the death penalty is that it is against human rights and morality. The supporters of the argument hold that the death penalty cannot be justified as man has no right to take away the life of anyone. This paper tries to make a comparative study between the arguments of Stephen B. Bright, who argues that the death penalty should be abolished, with the opposing view of Louis P. Pojman.

Stephen B. Bright argues that the death penalty is an outdated form of punishment that belongs to the primitive ages when prisons and jail systems have been limited. He cites the examples of South Africa and Russia, the two nations that have abolished death sentencing in the 1990s. According to him, in the USA, there are many other factors like racism and poverty that decide the death penalty for the perpetrator, rather than the seriousness of the crime committed. To quote the author’s own words: “Upon closer examination of the criminal justice system, many have been shocked by the poor quality of legal representation provided for poor people facing the death penalty, the extent to which race influences who is sentenced to death, and improper police and prosecution practices, such as obtaining favorable testimony from criminals against those facing death by giving them lenient treatment.” (Bright, 2000). To substantiate his argument, Stephen provides a number of instances where the convicts who were sentenced to the death penalty were later proved to be innocents and thus points out how the judicial system of the nation come to hasty conclusions and sentence people for the death penalty. In the same way, in most of the cases, the accused were not given proper legal assistance and even the mentally retarded people were convicted of capital punishment. Thus, he concludes that there exists fallibility in the court system in the nation and exhorts that the government should pay heed to the public demand to abolish the death penalty from the nation.

Louis P. Pojman, on the other hand, repudiates the arguments of Simon by stating that it would be a failure of the judicial system of the nation if dreaded criminals are not punished for the retribution of their crimes. According to him, capital punishment acts as a powerful deterrent for the criminally minded people to abstain from crimes as he believes in the common sense evidence that “fear of the death penalty deters some types of would-be criminals from committing murder.” (Pojman). Besides, he holds that sparing criminals from the death penalty would pose a further threat to many more innocent lives. Thus he concludes that the nation has to “retain the death penalty because running the risk of needlessly eradicating the lives of convicted murderers is morally better than running the risk of innocent people becoming future murder victims.” (Pojman). Thus, it can be concluded from the arguments of both that the change should take place, not in the sentencing of the death penalty but in the way it is awarded. The accused must be provided sufficient opportunity to prove his/her innocence irrespective of his/ her color or financial status. No hasty decisions should be taken during trials and only the deserving convicts are to be sentenced to death.

Reference

Bright, Stephen B. (2000). Will the death penalty remain alive in the twenty-first century?: International norms, discrimination, arbitrariness and the risk of executing the innocent. Wisconsin Law Review. Web.

Pojman, Louis P. Deterrence and the death penalty. Web.