Since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated by the United States Supreme Court there has been approximately 1,317 convicted criminals executed. Out of those executed, 12 were female. These executions have been held in 34 different states with Texas being the highest at 37 percent. The majority of the time lethal injection and the electric chair were used. However, gas chambers, hanging, and a firing squad have also been utilized (“Stewart”). Since the reestablishment of the death penalty in the United States, if it is considered cruel and unusual punishment or if it is an effective and moral way of punishing criminals has been an ongoing issue (“Update: Death Penalty”).
Debate over the constitutionality of the death penalty has been a part of U.S. history due to the strong emotions and standpoints citizens hold on it. Supporters say that if a person is convicted of murder then he or she deserves death as their punishment. They often believe that executing convicted murderers will benefit the victim’s family members and many of the states who held executions allowed the victim’s family to observe. Opponents believe that the death penalty is outdated and a gruesome robbing of a prisoner’s human right to live (“Update: Death Penalty”). The question remains on if the death penalty should be outlawed in the United States or remains a legal procedure.
Critics state that there are too many flaws in the U.S. criminal-justice system to validate a punishment as irrevocable and extreme as the death penalty. Putting criminals to death sends a confusing and morally difficult message to the U.S. population (“Update: Death Penalty”). Innocent past victims of the execution have undoubtedly been killed and there are currently people on death row that are not guilty of the crimes they are charged with committing. Even though the death penalty is legal in the United States, opponents say that it is an immoral practice and that life in prison would be better for these admitted criminals (“Update: Death Penalty”).
These people also believe that the evil done by criminals should not be returned with state-sanctioned evil (“Mott”). Another issue brought up by death penalty critics is a jury and judge can never be 100 percent positive that the trial was accurate. The sentence of putting a convicted criminal to death could actually be killing an innocent person. Over 100 innocent people who have been acquitted from death row are an example of why they believe this penalty should be abolished in the United States (“Update: Death Penalty”). One of the reasons that these people will favor a life sentence over death penalty is that if a convicted criminal’s sentence is reversed and they are found to be innocent, they can attempt to attain a normal life (“Update: Death Penalty”).
Supporters of this type of punishment say that capital punishment is a completely moral way to handle dangerous criminals. These people argue that when a person chooses to take the life of a human being they forfeit their right to live. Popular opinion throughout the nation supports the death penalty which overturns the belief that the practice is an undemocratic act (“Update: Death Penalty”). A Gallup poll in 2009 showed that 65 percent of the American public was in favor of the death penalty while 31 percent were against it. However, the votes were split when people were asked if they would choose death penalty or life imprisonment for an offender (“Death Penalty”). Supporters have confidence that executing a murder is realistic and important for a victim’s family to cope with the tragedy of losing a loved one. This is why states will allow a victim’s family to witness the execution believing it to be a type of closure to the troubles the family faced (“Update: Death Penalty”).
Advocates state that eliminating known killers from society is of value to the nation. Researchers in 2002 confirmed that states that reinstated the death penalty in 1976 have had murder rates decrease. They also calculated that for each of the convicted murderers who are put to death, the lives of 18 potential victims are saved. This research is often used to support that the death penalty saves the lives of many innocent people by taking the life of one guilty person (“Update: Death Penalty”).
Since the year that the death penalty was reinstated supporters and critics have both stated claims as to whether or not the death penalty should be abolished from society or remain a legal route to the punishment of convicted criminals. Critics argue that State-sponsored executions infringe upon an American’s most basic civil rights (“Update: Death Penalty”), while supporters state that the death penalty is a morally correct punishment (“Update: Death Penalty”). When taking the life of another, murderers will completely surrender their fate to the opposing viewpoints of the United States society.
“Death Penalty.” Gov Spot. 2012. Web. 29 Nov 2012. <http://www.govspot.com/issues/ deathpenalty.htm>.
Mott, Jonathan. “Is the death penalty Constitutional?”. ThisNation.com. American Government & Politics Online. Web. 29 March 2012. <http://www.thisnation.com/question/018.html>. Stewart, Steven. “U.S. Executions Since 1976”. Prosecuting Attorney. Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney, 2012. Web. 28 March 2012. <http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/ death/usexecute.htm>.
“Update: Death Penalty.” Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 29 June 2009. Web. 28 Nov 2012. <http://www.2facts.com/article/i1100420>.