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The Death Penalty

By Jeff (Target for Aggression)

This is a persuasive essay I wrote for English class. This barely scrapes the surface in my opinion, even

with its long length.

In modern civilization, there exists the concept of punishment for committing a crime. This concept began with the earliest forms of civilization and has grown into a very organized system. Under the well known pretense of "an eye for an eyeŠ" modern government legislates the execution of those convicted of murder and other violent crimes. In order from most to least common, methods of execution in the USA include: electrocution, lethal injection, gas chamber, hanging, and the firing squad. Past methods in the world have included: stoned, beaten or whipped to death, drowned, boiled alive in water or oil, and even eaten by insect or poisonous snakes. The only methods used in the USA include electrocution, lethal injection, and the gas chamber (Kronenwetter, 172-3). These methods and the principles show the inhumanity of the death penalty. Upon examination, human beings must abolish the death penalty because

it is ethically wrong, kills innocent people, and does not deter murder.

Christianity and other religions provided the background for the laying down of laws in this country. A direct correlation exists between the Ten Commandments found in the bible and the Constitution of the United States. God1s words in the bible, "Thou shalt not kill," transcended into modern society making it illegal to commit murder. However, somewhere along the line, human beings made an exception to this huge social more and decided to legalize murder in cases necessary for carrying out justice. Courts have even denied the humanity of the death penalty. In 1972, in the case of Furman vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court declared that "arbitrary and capricious" application of capital punishment violated Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment (Stephens, 110). The death penalty simply sends the wrong message to all. The practice contradicts its own ethics by trying to justify the taking of a human life, after already condemning murder. The mindset of those in favor of it is that killing a convicted murderer will in some way cancel out the crime and heal the wounds of the living victims. In this manner, the government confuses the word "justice" with the word "revenge." By utilizing this punishment, the government actually promotes revenge, which in turn condones the abominable crime of murder in the minds of its people. Citizens of this country must realize the inconsistencies in these teachings and strive to abolish this punishment. Nothing arouses contempt for the judicial system from citizens more than the conviction of an innocent human being. The LAPD arrested Caryl Chessman,a 27 year old parolee from Folsom Prison, in January 1948 as the "Red Light Bandit." A 12 year struggle began in which Chessman tried to prove his innocence by writing 4 books in his defense. The state of California executed Chessman on May 2, 1960. The

popularity of his books led to much support from famous writers and figures. Evidence proved of Chessman1s innocence years after he died in the gas chamber (Caryl Chessman). Any innocent being easily sympathizes with another innocent being, and when the government convicts one, the other feels that they suffer the injustice as well. Everyone agrees that the death penalty holds the title for the ultimate punishment in its principle and irreversibility. Therefore, when the courts send an innocent human being

to die, it should be known as the greatest injustice done to a fellow human being. This would not occur as a problem if courts demonstrated infallibility, but evidence shows that they make fatal mistakes. Professors Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet published a study of death sentences in the "Stanford Law Review." This study revealed and named 350 people incorrectly convicted of capital offenses between 1900 and 1987. Some of these escaped execution by a matter of minutes, but 23 were

executed (Kronenwetter, 46-47). A US Congressional report by the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights in 1993 concluded, "Judging by past experience, a substantial number of death row inmates are indeed innocent, and there is a high risk that some of them will be executed." The same report also listed 48 condemned men who freed from death row since 1972 (Amnesty International). The government can free innocent men from prison, but they cannot restore the life of an innocent man. The death penalty remains an irrevocable practice. Such a practice has no place in a nation whose judicial system makes such flaws. Excusing the execution of an innocent human by a government differs in no way from excusing the murder of a citizen by a citizen. Any such irrevocable punishment after proof of one's innocence must be abolished. Those in favor of capital punishment argue that the death penalty provides the strongest deterrent to crime, because they regard death as the ultimate punishment. However, a 1988 study for the United Nations on the relationship between the death penalty and homicide rates concluded that, "This research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. The evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis." (Amnesty

International) At the same time, countries that have abolished the death penalty find no increase in their crime rate. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976 and actually saw their homicide rate fall from 3.09

(per 100, 000 pop.) to 2.41 from 1975 to 1980. 17 years later, the rate remains somewhat stable and even fell down to 2.19 in 1993. This change from 1975 represents a 27% drop (Amnesty International). In New York, between 1903 and 1963, executions continued as the homicide rate rose. Evidence fails to display substantial evidence that the death penalty deters murder. For this reason, the argument of the death penalty as effective punishment falls to pieces. The death penalty deters crime in no way.

Abolition of the death penalty requires work from a large amount of supporters for the movement. 96 countries retain the death penalty but have not executed in 10 or more years. 15 countries reject the death penalty except during wartime. 57 countries have completely abolished the death penalty. You can play a part in making America number 58. Now that you understand the need for the abolition of the death penalty, you may wonder what action to take. Rehabilitation provides the best alternative to the death

penalty. A 20 year-old condemned prisoner spoke to the Warden Thomas Mott Osborne his last words, "I am sorry to go without the chance to do enough good in the world to balance the harm I've done." (Kronenwetter, 23) This prisoner understood the way the system should work. To combat the death penalty, support bills for prison reform that strive to rehabilitate prisoner into people willing to benefit society. Show your support for groups that oppose the death penalty such as:

Amnesty International

322 Eighth Ave.

New York, NY 10001

(202) 614-6464


American Civil Liberties Union (Legislative Office)

122 Maryland Ave. NE

Washington, DC 20002

(202) 544-1681

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

1325 G St. NW

Washington, DC 20005

(202) 347-2411

Exercise your natural and American rights. This means join others in protests and pickets against the death penalty. These almost always occur on days when states execute a prisoner. Simple practices such as this and such as petitioning may not change the minds of government, but will prove successful in gaining more support from the public to fight the death penalty. Like most social movements, change begins with the actions of a single person. Join others in the fight to abolish the death penalty. Word.



American Univ.

Leonard Hall #507

4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20016-8002