The death penalty is an extremely controversial topic that is developing within our society today. According to Andre and Velasquez in “Capital Punishment: Our Duty or Our Doom,” 2000 people in the United States are currently awaiting capital punishment due to atrocious crimes (Andre and Velasquez 2013). This issue is becoming more controversial as more states are beginning to consider ratifying this concept states Andre and Velasquez (Andre and Velasquez 2013). The reason this issue is becoming more controversial is due to the fact that this punishment is at the peak of severity. Capital punishment is the legal process for a court to deem death upon an individual due to the severity of the crimes committed. These crimes can range anywhere from murder, to treason under certain circumstances.
Sociologically, numerous activist groups due to the fact of the extreme controversy of the task at hand are questioning this issue. Does living in a free country necessarily give the courts the right to take a person’s life just due to the crimes, or is another punishment necessarily acceptable in certain circumstances? Does a judge, or any person for that matter, have the rights to sentence a person to death? Andre and Velasquez state that morally, the death penalty is wrong on the basis that society has a moral obligation to save as many lives as possible, not take them (Andre and Velasquez 2013).
Andre and Velasquez further state that there is no supporting evidence to say that another punishment has a stronger effect then let’s say death (Andre and Velasquez 2013). The death penalty is an extremely controversial topic due to the severity of the punishment; however, certain measure must be understood to fully implicate the reasons for the establishment of this punishment within our society today.
The death penalty can be considered a benefit towards criminals for many reasons. A person who has nothing to lose can think to himself or herself that they can commit an extreme crime because the assumption that they are going to die anyways is made. Basically in a sense, this means that a person can consider no repercussions for committing an atrocious crime. With no consequence towards the individual, what can a person lose in a morally absent perspective. Andre and Velasquez state that those favoring the death penalty do so in the perspective that it has always been a known factor within our society, as well as establishing the basis for good and wrong (Andre and Velasquez 2013).
In other words, supporters of the death penalty can easily establish that in a sense, they are doing God’s work and there should be an absolute punishment for those who consider and commit an atrocious crime. According to Andre and Velasquez, people who support the death penalty carry the issue in the name of justice as well as taking the perspective of God in determining moral issues within the issue as well (Andre and Velasquez 2013).
Justice can be defined as the moral rights of society to determine what is right and what is wrong. It can also be taken in the perspective that justice is the determinant that allows people to determine the factors and outcome of an issue without taking the moral perspective meaning that since moral is absent; a just decision can be made on an issue. According to the case of Kennedy vs. Louisiana, a man was charged with the death penalty on the basis of the crime of committing sodomy towards his eight year old stepdaughter (Case 2008).
The court reviewed this case under morally absent terms and deemed that is was unconstitutional for the state of Louisiana to sentence this man to death for this crime due to the rarity of a death penalty for a crime of this sort, as well as considering that this punishment is only supposed to be given towards the very most extreme of crimes, usually involving murder (Case 2008). This strikes the very heart of these proponents who support the death penalty, because a great amount of controversy was raised from this verdict because many people consider sodomy to be an “atrocious” crime that deserves the death penalty.
This arises the question of what is necessarily considered a crime atrocious enough to enact the punishment of capital punishment. So we can easily ask ourselves, what is considered a crime that is worthy of establishing the punishment of death?
This is where the issue arises of opponents against the death penalty. Many of the people who are against the death penalty argue numerous reasons for doing so. Andre and Velasquez state in “Capital Punishment: Our Duty or Our Doom,” that the death penalty creates numerous problems for society rather then eliminating them (Andre and Velasquez 2013). The death penalty, contrary to the expected belief, is very costly to our society in just pure terms of financing because numerous factors must beconsidered. The trials for this crime are not cheap by any means and can have a huge impact upon both the state and the national courts if the accused cannot afford attorneys or general requirements and evokes sixth amendment.
This amendment states that if the person is unable to afford an attorney, one will be provided to them at the expense of the state. This amendment was enacted due to the fact that society deems that everyone deserves a fair trial and should not have to contest the case on his or her own. Because the state has to appoint one, and the fact that numerous cases can arise, it can easily be deduced that the price for both the state and the national government can be extremely high. Also, the death penalty can be enacted upon numerous individuals that are actually innocent. In the case of North Carolina vs. Jones, a man was accused due to the fact of lack of evidence within the case (Case Jones 1977).
This man spent up ten years in prison before finally being let out after finding out the man was innocent all along. This man was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to pay dearly because of it. This is one of the main reasons why opponents of the death penalty are so against this issue. A man having to waste ten years of his life in jail even though he knows he is innocent is by all means a terrible punishment. Why would a person have to spend any time in jail before the court realizes they made a mistake? Would money necessarily correct the fact that the court unjustly imprisoned a man due to lack of evidence?
This basically means that the death penalty allows these kinds of act to be completely irreversible and is just at the expense of the person convicted unjustly. The death penalty is just an issue of moral rights for the opponents of the death penalty. It by no means, allows a person to just declare whether a person should be sentenced to death or not. The moral sense of our society today, is to save, as many people as we can, not condemn them. Would death necessarily be a punishment worth giving to a person, or are alternate solutions plausible?
Walter Berns states his concern with this issue in his journal “For Capital Punishment,” by stating that the death penalty is a main issue of controversy because of the emotions enacted when the crime is made public (Berns 1979). What this means is that when the crime is made public, certain emotions are aroused within an individual, primarily anger, because of the fact that the crime does not fit the social norm and social morals of society. These feelings of anger are enacted and allow us to make rash decisions when facing the case in court because those feelings are so fresh and it can easily deter a judge to determine an outcome on the basis of bias.
This is why numerous people can be put to death even if they are completely innocent. In other words, the death penalty can be viewed in a cause and effect scenario. A person can commit an atrocious crime, and numerous individuals would immediately come to the conclusion that the person should be put to death. Even in the recent case of the mass shooting in the theatre, people immediately went on the basis that the person who committed the crime should be put to death. Consider our society in the perspective of a beehive. A beehive is a place where the bees are expected to follow a certain pattern and not deter in any way or else consequences will occur towards the hive itself.
A crime is no different. If a crime is committed, people begin to question the idea that a person has just went outside the social norm and social morals of society, and committed a crime that goes against the status quo of society. Feelings of anger are normal within a human being in this issue and Berns further states that anger and judgment for the death penalty are interrelated (Berns 1979). So with both the opponents perspective as well as the proponents’ perspective, an assumption can be made that the death penalty is an issue that deals with the morals of people.
The meaning of justice is different for every person and this is why this is such a controversial topic within our society today. Justice can mean death to all who commit crimes, or it can mean just a small punishment, including jail time, for those who go against the social pattern of society and commit these crimes.
On my basis however, I believe that the death penalty should be enacted upon serious consideration of the crime. A verdict should be reviewed for an extended period of time under the perspective of multiple individuals, rather then be influenced by outside sources. This punishment is the absolute punishment for anything because death is the ultimate outcome. However, in a purely moral perspective, I can see where the opponents of the death penalty are coming from. This issue is very controversial and the factor of if a person has the right to take another person’s life legally or not is debatable.
Who are we in society if not people ourselves, and what necessarily gives us the right to deem whether a person should be put to death or not even if the crime is necessarily “unforgivable”? People begin to question this issue, however with everything taken into perspective, I am a proponent of the death penalty because it can possibly deter people from committing the crimes in the first place due to the fear that is created when taking into consideration the consequences of whatever action they are proposing on committing.
Proponents and Opponents of the death penalty will continue to argue this issue to the end of our nation. A sense of justice within our society allows us to determine what is right and what is wrong, but the fact of the matter is that justice is different for every individual and that makes the decision of the punishment debatable in all perspectives.
Case studies such as North Carolina vs. Jones allow us to see the consequence of rash death penalty decisions. In perspective, rather then going against the status quo of society, we must determine what factors enable us to enact this decision on any individual and realize the consequences of a poor decision. These are just a few of the reasons why this is such a debatable topic in the sociological world today.
As quoted by Aristotle in “For Capital Punishment” by Walter Berns, “anger is accompanied by not only by the pain caused by the one who is the object of anger, but by the pleasure arising from the expectation of inflicting revenge on someone who is thought to deserve it” (Berns 1979). So as a society, we must not allow emotions to take the basis of evidence on a case that deals with the death penalty, but rather allow ourselves the time to think of the rationality of the case before a verdict is met so that we do not meet a sociological divide within our society.