Professor Chrissie Auger
Analytic & Persuasive Writing
7 November 2011
Capital Punishment: The Death Penalty
Capital punishment in the United States dates back to colonial times when the death penalty was given out more liberally, for crimes such as “stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians” (1). Today, however, the death penalty is reserved for crimes of greater magnitude, including murder, treason, and terrorism (4). Methods of execution today include lethal injection, firing squad, and electrocution (4). Though the subject of capital punishment often elicits strong feelings for or against the practice, both arguments have their merits, specifically on the points of deterrence, financial costs, racial distribution, and constitutionality.
Deterrence, because it is difficult to quantify, is a highly debated aspect of capital punishment. Those who are pro-capital punishment argue that the death penalty is a strong deterrent for crime. In an editorial for the New York Times, Earnest Van Den Haag, asserted that “murders clearly prefer [life in prison] to execution – otherwise, they would not try to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death” (2). Because life in prison is seen as less of a punishment than capital punishment, “a life sentence must be less deterrent than a death sentence” (2). Those arguing against capital punishment would refute this, arguing that capital punishment does little in the way of deterrence. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “there is no credible evidence that capital punishment deters murder or makes us any safer” (3). 80 percent of executions have taken place in the South since 1977; while the South has the highest murder rate, the Northeast, which has the lowest murder rate, accounts for only one percent of the executions since 1977, implying that the death penalty might not be as strong of a deterrent as those who are pro-death penalty would believe.
Financial costs are...