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Essays About the Death Penalty: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

The death penalty is a major point of contention all around the world. Read our guide so you can write well-informed essays about the death penalty. 

Out of all the issues at the forefront of public discourse today, few are as hotly debated as the death penalty. As its name suggests, the death penalty involves the execution of a criminal as punishment for their transgressions. The death penalty has always been, and continues to be, an emotionally and politically charged essay topic.

Arguments about the death penalty are more motivated by feelings and emotions; many proponents are people seeking punishment for the killers of their loved ones, while many opponents are mourning the loss of loved ones executed through the death penalty. There may also be a religious aspect to support and oppose the policy. 

1. The Issues of Death Penalties and Social Justice in The United States (Author Unknown)

2. serving justice with death penalty by rogelio elliott, 3. can you be christian and support the death penalty by matthew schmalz, 4.  death penalty: persuasive essay by jerome glover, 5. the death penalty by kamala harris, top 5 writing prompts on essays about the death penalty, 1. death penalty: do you support or oppose it, 2. how has the death penalty changed throughout history, 3. the status of capital punishment in your country, 4. death penalty and poverty, 5. does the death penalty serve as a deterrent for serious crimes, 6. what are the pros and cons of the death penalty vs. life imprisonment , 7. how is the death penalty different in japan vs. the usa, 8. why do some states use the death penalty and not others, 9. what are the most common punishments selected by prisoners for execution, 10. should the public be allowed to view an execution, 11. discuss the challenges faced by the judicial system in obtaining lethal injection doses, 12. should the death penalty be used for juveniles, 13. does the death penalty have a racial bias to it.

“Executing another person only creates a cycle of vengeance and death where if all of the rationalities and political structures are dropped, the facts presented at the end of the day is that a man is killed because he killed another man, so when does it end? Human life is to be respected and appreciated, not thrown away as if it holds no meaningful value.”

This essay discusses several reasons to oppose the death penalty in the United States. First, the author cites the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, saying that the death penalty is inhumane and deprives people of life. Human life should be respected, and death should not be responded to with another death. In addition, the author cites evidence showing that the death penalty does not deter crime nor gives closure to victims’ families. 

Check out these essays about police brutality .

“Capital punishment follows the constitution and does not break any of the amendments. Specific people deserve to be punished in this way for the crime they commit. It might immoral to people but that is not the point of the death penalty. The death penalty is not “killing for fun”. The death penalty serves justice. When justice is served, it prevents other people from becoming the next serial killer. It’s simple, the death penalty strikes fear.”

Elliott supports the death penalty, writing that it gives criminals what they deserve. After all, those who commit “small” offenses will not be executed anyway. In addition, it reinforces the idea that justice comes to wrongdoers. Finally, he states that the death penalty is constitutional and is supported by many Americans.

“The letter states that this development of Catholic doctrine is consistent with the thought of the two previous popes: St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. St. John Paul II maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.” Benedict XVI also supported efforts to eliminate the death penalty. Most important, however, is that Pope Francis is emphasizing an ethic of forgiveness. The Pope has argued that social justice applies to all citizens. He also believes that those who harm society should make amends through acts that affirm life, not death.”

Schmalz discusses the Catholic position on the death penalty. Many early Catholic leaders believed that the death penalty was justified; however, Pope Francis writes that “modern methods of imprisonment effectively protect society from criminals,” and executions are unnecessary. Therefore, the Catholic Church today opposes the death penalty and strives to protect life.

“There are many methods of execution, like electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, firing squad and lethal injection. For me, I just watched once on TV, but it’s enough to bring me nightmares. We only live once and we will lose anything we once had without life. Life is precious and can’t just be taken away that easily. In my opinion, I think Canada shouldn’t adopt the death penalty as its most severe form of criminal punishment.”

Glover’s essay acknowledges reasons why people might support the death penalty; however, he believes that these are not enough for him to support it. He believes capital punishment is inhumane and should not be implemented in Canada. It deprives people of a second chance and does not teach wrongdoers much of a lesson. In addition, it is inhumane and deprives people of their right to life. 

“Let’s be clear: as a former prosecutor, I absolutely and strongly believe there should be serious and swift consequences when one person kills another. I am unequivocal in that belief. We can — and we should — always pursue justice in the name of victims and give dignity to the families that grieve. But in our democracy, a death sentence carried out by the government does not constitute justice for those who have been put to death and proven innocent after the fact.”

This short essay was written by the then-presidential candidate and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to explain her campaign’s stance on the death penalty. First, she believes it does not execute justice and is likely to commit injustice by sentencing innocent people to death. In addition, it is said to disproportionally affect nonwhite people. Finally, it is more fiscally responsible for abolishing capital punishment, as it uses funds that could be used for education and healthcare. 

Essays About Death Penalty

This topic always comes first to mind when thinking of what to write. For a strong argumentative essay, consider the death penalty and list its pros and cons. Then, conclude whether or not it would be beneficial to reinstate or keep the policy. There is an abundance of sources you can gather inspiration from, including the essay examples listed above and countless other online sources.

People have been put to death as a punishment since the dawn of recorded history, but as morals and technology have changed, the application of the death penalty has evolved. This essay will explore how the death penalty has been used and carried out throughout history.

This essay will examine both execution methods and when capital punishment is ordered. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Thousands of years ago, “an eye for an eye” was the standard. How were executions carried out in ancient history?
  • The religious context of executions during the middle ages is worth exploring. When was someone burned at the stake?
  • The guillotine became a popular method of execution during the renaissance period. How does this method compare to both ancient execution methods and modern methods?
  • The most common execution methods in the modern era include the firing squad, hanging, lethal injections, gas chambers, and electrocution. How do these methods compare to older forms of execution?

Choose a country, preferably your home country, and look into the death penalty status: is it being implemented or not? If you wish, you can also give a brief history of the death penalty in your chosen country and your thoughts. You do not necessarily need to write about your own country; however, picking your homeland may provide better insight. 

Critics of the death penalty argue that it is anti-poor, as a poor person accused of a crime punishable by death lacks the resources to hire a good lawyer to defend them adequately. For your essay, reflect on this issue and write about your thoughts. Is it inhumane for the poor? After all, poor people will not have sufficient resources to hire good lawyers, regardless of the punishment. 

This is one of the biggest debates in the justice system. While the justice system has been set up to punish, it should also deter people from committing crimes. Does the death penalty do an adequate job at deterring crimes? 

This essay should lay out the evidence that shows how the death penalty either does or does not deter crime. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Which crimes have the death penalty as the ultimate punishment?
  • How does the murder rate compare to states that do not have the death penalty in states with the death penalty?
  • Are there confounding factors that must be taken into consideration with this comparison? How do they play a role?

Essays about the Death Penalty: What are the pros and cons of the death penalty vs. Life imprisonment? 

This is one of the most straightforward ways to explore the death penalty. If the death penalty is to be removed from criminal cases, it must be replaced with something else. The most logical alternative is life imprisonment. 

There is no “right” answer to this question, but a strong argumentative essay could take one side over another in this death penalty debate. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Some people would rather be put to death instead of imprisoned in a cell for life. Should people have the right to decide which punishment they accept?
  • What is the cost of the death penalty versus imprisoning someone for life? Even though it can be expensive to imprison someone for life, remember that most death penalty cases are appealed numerous times before execution.
  • Would the death penalty be more acceptable if specific execution methods were used instead of others?

Few first-world countries still use the death penalty. However, Japan and the United States are two of the biggest users of the death sentence.

This is an interesting compare and contrast essay worth exploring. In addition, this essay can explore the differences in how executions are carried out. Some of the points to explore include:

  • What are the execution methods countries use? The execution method in the United States can vary from state to state, but Japan typically uses hanging. Is this considered a cruel and unusual punishment?
  • In the United States, death row inmates know their execution date. In Japan, they do not. So which is better for the prisoner?
  • How does the public in the United States feel about the death penalty versus public opinion in Japan? Should this influence when, how, and if executions are carried out in the respective countries?

In the United States, justice is typically administered at the state level unless a federal crime has been committed. So why do some states have the death penalty and not others?

This essay will examine which states have the death penalty and make the most use of this form of punishment as part of the legal system. A few points worth exploring in this essay include:

  • When did various states outlaw the death penalty (if they do not use it today)?
  • Which states execute the most prisoners? Some states to mention are Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Do the states that have the death penalty differ in when the death penalty is administered?
  • Is this sentence handed down by the court system or by the juries trying the individual cases in states with the death penalty?

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Numerous states allow prisoners to select how they will be executed. The most common methods include lethal injections, firing squads, electric chairs, gas chambers, and hanging. 

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Some of the points this essay might explore include:

  • When did these different execution methods become options for execution?
  • Which execution methods are the most common in the various states that offer them?
  • Is one method considered more “humane” than others? If so, why?

One of the topics recently discussed is whether the public should be allowed to view an execution.

There are many potential directions to go with this essay, and all of these points are worth exploring. A few topics to explore in this essay include:

  • In the past, executions were carried out in public places. There are a few countries, particularly in the Middle East, where this is still the case. So why were executions carried out in public?
  • In some situations, individuals directly involved in the case, such as the victim’s loved ones, are permitted to view the execution. Does this bring a sense of closure?
  • Should executions be carried out in private? Does this reduce transparency in the justice system?

Lethal injection is one of the most common modes of execution. The goal is to put the person to sleep and remove their pain. Then, a cocktail is used to stop their heart. Unfortunately, many companies have refused to provide states with the drugs needed for a lethal injection. A few points to explore include:

  • Doctors and pharmacists have said it is against the oath they took to “not harm.” Is this true? What impact does this have?
  • If someone is giving the injection without medical training, how does this impact the prisoner?
  • Have states decided to use other more “harmful” modes of execution because they can’t get what they need for the lethal injection?

There are certain crimes, such as murder, where the death penalty is a possible punishment across the country. Even though minors can be tried as adults in some situations, they typically cannot be given the death penalty.

It might be interesting to see what legal experts and victims of juvenile capital crimes say about this important topic. A few points to explore include:

  • How does the brain change and evolve as someone grows?
  • Do juveniles have a higher rate of rehabilitation than adults?
  • Should the wishes of the victim’s family play a role in the final decision?

The justice system, and its unjust impact on minorities , have been a major area of research during the past few decades. It might be worth exploring if the death penalty is disproportionately used in cases involving minorities. 

It might be worth looking at numbers from Amnesty International or the Innocence Project to see what the numbers show. A strong essay might also propose ways to make justice system cases more equitable and fair. A few points worth exploring include:

  • Of the cases where the death penalty has been levied, what percentage of the cases involve a minority perpetrator?
  • Do stays of execution get granted more often in cases involving white people versus minorities?
  • Do white people get handed a sentence of life in prison without parole more often than people of minority descent?

If you’d like to learn more, our writer explains how to write an argumentative essay in this guide.

For help with your essay, check our round-up of best essay writing apps .

good hooks for essays about death penalty

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Death Penalty Essay Introduction — a Quick Guide

Table of Contents

The death penalty is a state-sanctioned practice where an individual is executed for an offense punishable through such means. Death penalty essay is a common topic given to students where the essay writer argues this controversial issue and takes a stand. The death penalty essay intro consists of the opening sentence, the background information, and the thesis statement.

Writing a compelling introduction isn’t easy. But with the tips and examples in this guide, you’ll be able to write a captivating introduction.

What Is a Death Penalty Essay?

The death penalty is the practice of executing a person guilty of capital murder, a crime in which the loss of life is intentional. This method of punishment has been around for as long as human civilization.

The death penalty has been controversial for a long time, with people on both sides of the fence. Supporters claim it works to deter crime, but there is no evidence to prove it. Opposers claim it is cruel and is not the best way to serve justice. 

A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. This essay topic is a typical assignment given to college students. Common death penalty essay topics are as follows:

  • About the Death Penalty
  • Does the Death Penalty effectively deter crime?
  • The Death Penalty should not be legal
  • The Death Penalty should be abolished.
  • Death Penalty and Justice
  • Pro-Death Penalty
  • Is the Death Penalty Morally Right?
  • Death Penalty is Immoral
  • Religious Values and Death Penalty
  • Ineffectiveness of Death Penalty
  • Punishment and the Nature of the Crime
  • The Death Penalty and Juveniles.
  • Is the Death Penalty Effective?
  • The Death Penalty is Politically Just
  • The Death Penalty: Right or Wrong?
  • Abolishment of the Death Penalty
  • The Death Penalty and People’s Opinions
  • Is Death Penalty Humane?

How to Write an Interesting Death Penalty Essay Intro

Like other essays, the death penalty essay intro comprises three parts. The hook, a strong opening sentence, grips the reader, sparks their curiosity, and compels them to read the rest of the piece.

Subsequent sentences provide background information on the topic and define the argument’s terms. The last part is the thesis statement, which summarizes the central focus of the essay.

1. the Opening Sentence/Hook

The hook is a statement that grips the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on . The hook should be an exciting statement that sparks the readers’ curiosity, and sets the tone for the essay. It should give an overview of the topic. You could begin with a thought-provoking question, an interesting quote, an exciting anecdote, or a shocking statistic or fact. 

2. Background Information

Provide more information about the subject you are discussing. Create context and give background information on the topic. It could be a social or historical context. Define key terms that the reader might find confusing and clearly but concisely state why the issue is important.

3. Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the overarching idea – the central focus of the essay. It summarizes the idea that you’ll be explaining throughout the entirety of the piece. Once this statement has been established, you’ll smoothly transition into the main body of your essay. Make the thesis clear and concise. 

Death Penalty Essay Introduction Example

Does the death penalty deter crime, especially murder? The death penalty has been controversial for years. Over the years, public opinion about the death penalty seems to have changed. But there are still people who think it is a proper punishment. I have heard the phrase “An eye for an eye” most of my life. Most people firmly believe that if a criminal took someone’s life, their lives should be taken away too. But I don’t think that will discourage anyone from committing crimes. I believe that the criminal should be given a lighter punishment. 

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

The death penalty or capital punishment is the execution of a criminal by a government as punishment for a crime. In the United States, the death penalty is the most common form of sentence in murder cases.

A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. The essay introduction begins with an attention-grabber , followed by background information on the topic and then the thesis statement.

Death Penalty Essay Introduction — a Quick Guide

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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Human Rights Careers

5 Death Penalty Essays Everyone Should Know

Capital punishment is an ancient practice. It’s one that human rights defenders strongly oppose and consider as inhumane and cruel. In 2019, Amnesty International reported the lowest number of executions in about a decade. Most executions occurred in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt . The United States is the only developed western country still using capital punishment. What does this say about the US? Here are five essays about the death penalty everyone should read:

“When We Kill”

By: Nicholas Kristof | From: The New York Times 2019

In this excellent essay, Pulitizer-winner Nicholas Kristof explains how he first became interested in the death penalty. He failed to write about a man on death row in Texas. The man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was executed in 2004. Later evidence showed that the crime he supposedly committed – lighting his house on fire and killing his three kids – was more likely an accident. In “When We Kill,” Kristof puts preconceived notions about the death penalty under the microscope. These include opinions such as only guilty people are executed, that those guilty people “deserve” to die, and the death penalty deters crime and saves money. Based on his investigations, Kristof concludes that they are all wrong.

Nicholas Kristof has been a Times columnist since 2001. He’s the winner of two Pulitizer Prices for his coverage of China and the Darfur genocide.

“An Inhumane Way of Death”

By: Willie Jasper Darden, Jr.

Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. was on death row for 14 years. In his essay, he opens with the line, “Ironically, there is probably more hope on death row than would be found in most other places.” He states that everyone is capable of murder, questioning if people who support capital punishment are just as guilty as the people they execute. Darden goes on to say that if every murderer was executed, there would be 20,000 killed per day. Instead, a person is put on death row for something like flawed wording in an appeal. Darden feels like he was picked at random, like someone who gets a terminal illness. This essay is important to read as it gives readers a deeper, more personal insight into death row.

Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. was sentenced to death in 1974 for murder. During his time on death row, he advocated for his innocence and pointed out problems with his trial, such as the jury pool that excluded black people. Despite worldwide support for Darden from public figures like the Pope, Darden was executed in 1988.

“We Need To Talk About An Injustice”

By: Bryan Stevenson | From: TED 2012

This piece is a transcript of Bryan Stevenson’s 2012 TED talk, but we feel it’s important to include because of Stevenson’s contributions to criminal justice. In the talk, Stevenson discusses the death penalty at several points. He points out that for years, we’ve been taught to ask the question, “Do people deserve to die for their crimes?” Stevenson brings up another question we should ask: “Do we deserve to kill?” He also describes the American death penalty system as defined by “error.” Somehow, society has been able to disconnect itself from this problem even as minorities are disproportionately executed in a country with a history of slavery.

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author. He’s argued in courts, including the Supreme Court, on behalf of the poor, minorities, and children. A film based on his book Just Mercy was released in 2019 starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

“I Know What It’s Like To Carry Out Executions”

By: S. Frank Thompson | From: The Atlantic 2019

In the death penalty debate, we often hear from the family of the victims and sometimes from those on death row. What about those responsible for facilitating an execution? In this opinion piece, a former superintendent from the Oregon State Penitentiary outlines his background. He carried out the only two executions in Oregon in the past 55 years, describing it as having a “profound and traumatic effect” on him. In his decades working as a correctional officer, he concluded that the death penalty is not working . The United States should not enact federal capital punishment.

Frank Thompson served as the superintendent of OSP from 1994-1998. Before that, he served in the military and law enforcement. When he first started at OSP, he supported the death penalty. He changed his mind when he observed the protocols firsthand and then had to conduct an execution.

“There Is No Such Thing As Closure on Death Row”

By: Paul Brown | From: The Marshall Project 2019

This essay is from Paul Brown, a death row inmate in Raleigh, North Carolina. He recalls the moment of his sentencing in a cold courtroom in August. The prosecutor used the term “closure” when justifying a death sentence. Who is this closure for? Brown theorizes that the prosecutors are getting closure as they end another case, but even then, the cases are just a way to further their careers. Is it for victims’ families? Brown is doubtful, as the death sentence is pursued even when the families don’t support it. There is no closure for Brown or his family as they wait for his execution. Vivid and deeply-personal, this essay is a must-read for anyone who wonders what it’s like inside the mind of a death row inmate.

Paul Brown has been on death row since 2000 for a double murder. He is a contributing writer to Prison Writers and shares essays on topics such as his childhood, his life as a prisoner, and more.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

The Case for the Death Penalty: Ensuring Justice and Deterrence

This essay is about the arguments in favor of the death penalty, highlighting its role in delivering justice and acting as a deterrent. It discusses how the death penalty provides closure for victims’ families, matches the severity of heinous crimes, and prevents reoffending by dangerous individuals. The essay also addresses the deterrent effect of capital punishment and the advancements in forensic science and legal safeguards that reduce the risk of wrongful convictions. Additionally, it touches on economic considerations, suggesting that the death penalty can be a more efficient use of resources compared to life imprisonment without parole. Overall, the essay supports the death penalty as an essential component of the criminal justice system.

How it works

The issue of capital punishment has perpetually ignited fervent discussions, sparking impassioned dialogues concerning ethics, jurisprudence, and fundamental liberties. Proponents contend that it stands as an indispensable instrument in ensuring retributive justice for the most egregious transgressions and functions as a potent deterrent against prospective offenses. Despite the contentious nature of the discourse, there exist compelling rationales to advocate for the retention of capital punishment as an intrinsic facet of the judicial apparatus.

A primary contention in favor of the death penalty lies in its function as a dispenser of justice.

For bereaved families and kin of victims, capital punishment proffers a semblance of closure and redress. It acknowledges the gravity of the transgression and the irreplaceable void inflicted upon the bereaved. In instances of particularly heinous crimes, such as premeditated homicide or acts of terrorism, the death penalty is perceived as the sole commensurate recompense commensurate with the severity of the offense. It attests to society’s repudiation of the most abominable deeds and underscores the sanctity attributed to human life.

Moreover, an argument of significant import centers on the deterrent efficacy of capital punishment. The specter of facing the ultimate sanction can exert a formidable deterrent effect on prospective malefactors. While studies proffer disparate findings concerning the deterrent impact of the death penalty, proponents posit that its mere existence can dissuade certain individuals from engaging in capital crimes out of apprehension of facing capital retribution. The mere specter of capital punishment within the judicial milieu can serve as a stark admonition of the dire ramifications awaiting those who transgress into violent criminality.

Furthermore, the death penalty can serve as a bulwark against future transgressions by ensuring that convicted malefactors are deprived of the opportunity to reoffend. Incarceration for life, while a severe punitive measure, still entails the potential for escape, parole, or perpetration of further violence within the confines of the carceral apparatus. Capital punishment obviates these risks altogether, ensuring that individuals who have perpetrated the most egregious transgressions will never have the opportunity to imperil others anew. This facet of the death penalty assumes heightened significance in cases involving perilous individuals who have evinced a proclivity for extreme violence.

Opponents of capital punishment frequently underscore the perils of erroneous convictions as a paramount concern. While it is incontrovertible that the judicial system is fallible, advances in forensic science, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) scrutiny, and legal safeguards have significantly curtailed the probability of wrongful executions. The juridical process for capital cases typically encompasses multifarious layers of review and appeals, ensuring assiduous scrutiny of each case. These safeguards serve to forestall the execution of innocents while concurrently upholding the probity of the judicial edifice.

Moreover, the death penalty can be construed as a reflection of societal mores and the collective ethos. It serves as a testament that certain infractions are so execrable that they warrant the most draconian punishment available. By upholding the death penalty, society fortifies the moral thresholds that demarcate acceptable comportment and underscores the gravity with which it regards the most odious transgressions. This, in turn, can engender a sense of security and confidence in the judicial system amongst the populace.

Economic contentions also buttress the rationale for capital punishment. Although the costs associated with capital cases may be exorbitant due to protracted legal processes, some contend that the protracted costs of housing, alimentation, and medical provisions for inmates serving life sentences sans the possibility of parole can be equally onerous on the state. Consequently, capital punishment can be construed as a means to allocate resources more judiciously within the ambit of the judicial system.

In summation, capital punishment subsists as an indispensable instrument in the pursuit of retributive justice and deterrence. It affords solace to the kin of victims, acts as a deterrent to prospective malefactors, and ensures that perpetrators of the most egregious crimes are precluded from recidivism. While apprehensions regarding wrongful convictions are warranted, advancements in forensic science and legal safeguards have significantly assuaged these concerns. The death penalty epitomizes society’s commitment to upholding justice and preserving moral rectitude. As such, it merits continued endorsement as an integral component of the judicial apparatus.


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Examining the Death Penalty: An Argumentative Perspective

Table of contents, death penalty arguments: deterrence and prevention, ethical considerations: the value of human life, implementation complexities: ensuring fairness, conclusion: weighing the arguments.

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The Death Penalty Can Ensure ‘Justice Is Being Done’

A top Justice Department official says for many Americans the death penalty is a difficult issue on moral, religious and policy grounds. But as a legal issue, it is straightforward.

good hooks for essays about death penalty

By Jeffrey A. Rosen

Mr. Rosen is the deputy attorney general.

This month, for the first time in 17 years , the United States resumed carrying out death sentences for federal crimes.

On July 14, Daniel Lewis Lee was executed for the 1996 murder of a family, including an 8-year-old girl, by suffocating and drowning them in the Illinois Bayou after robbing them to fund a white-supremacist organization. On July 16, Wesley Purkey was executed for the 1998 murder of a teenage girl, whom he kidnapped, raped, killed, dismembered and discarded in a septic pond. The next day, Dustin Honken was executed for five murders committed in 1993, including the execution-style shooting of two young girls, their mother, and two prospective witnesses against him in a federal prosecution for methamphetamine trafficking.

The death penalty is a difficult issue for many Americans on moral, religious and policy grounds. But as a legal issue, it is straightforward. The United States Constitution expressly contemplates “capital” crimes, and Congress has authorized the death penalty for serious federal offenses since President George Washington signed the Crimes Act of 1790. The American people have repeatedly ratified that decision, including through the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 signed by President Bill Clinton, the federal execution of Timothy McVeigh under President George W. Bush and the decision by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to seek the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber and Dylann Roof .

The recent executions reflect that consensus, as the Justice Department has an obligation to carry out the law. The decision to seek the death penalty against Mr. Lee was made by Attorney General Janet Reno (who said she personally opposed the death penalty but was bound by the law) and reaffirmed by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

Mr. Purkey was prosecuted during the George W. Bush administration, and his conviction and sentence were vigorously defended throughout the Obama administration. The judge who imposed the death sentence on Mr. Honken, Mark Bennett, said that while he generally opposed the death penalty, he would not lose any sleep over Mr. Honken’s execution.

In a New York Times Op-Ed essay published on July 17 , two of Mr. Lee’s lawyers criticized the execution of their client, which they contend was carried out in a “shameful rush.” That objection overlooks that Mr. Lee was sentenced more than 20 years ago, and his appeals and other permissible challenges failed, up to and including the day of his execution.

Mr. Lee’s lawyers seem to endorse a system of endless delays that prevent a death sentence from ever becoming real. But his execution date was announced almost a year ago, and was initially set for last December. It was delayed when his lawyers obtained six more months of review by unsuccessfully challenging the procedures used to carry out his lethal injection.

After an appellate court rejected their claim as “without merit,” the Justice Department rescheduled Mr. Lee’s execution, providing an additional four weeks of notice. Yet on the day of the rescheduled execution, after family members of his victims had traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., to witness the execution, a District Court granted Mr. Lee’s request for further review. That court entered a last-minute reprieve that the Supreme Court has said should be an “extreme exception.”

Given the long delay that had already occurred, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to lift the order so the execution could proceed. Mr. Lee’s lawyers opposed that request, insisting that overturning the order would result in their client’s imminent execution. After reviewing the matter, the court granted the government’s request , rebuked the District Court for creating an unjustified last-minute barrier, and directed that the execution could proceed.

In the final minutes before the execution was to occur, Mr. Lee’s lawyers claimed the execution could not proceed because Mr. Lee still had time to seek further review of an appellate court decision six weeks earlier lifting a prior stay of execution. The Justice Department decided to pause the execution for several hours while the appellate court considered and promptly rejected Mr. Lee’s request. That cautious step, taken to ensure undoubted compliance with court orders, is irreconcilable with the suggestion that the department “rushed” the execution or disregarded any law. Mr. Lee’s final hours awaiting his fate were a result of his own lawyers’ choice to assert a non-meritorious objection at the last moment.

Mr. Lee’s lawyers also disregarded the cost to victims’ families of continued delay. Although they note that some members of Mr. Lee’s victims’ families opposed his execution, others did not. Nor did the family members of Wesley Purkey’s victim, Jennifer Long, who were in Terre Haute on Wednesday afternoon. When the District Court again imposed another last-minute stoppage, granting more time for Mr. Purkey’s lawyers to argue (among other things) that he did not understand the reason for his execution, the Justice Department again sought Supreme Court review.

As the hours wore on, Justice Department officials asked Ms. Long’s father if he would prefer to wait for another day. The answer was unequivocal: He would stay as long as it took. As Ms. Long’s stepmother later said, “We just shouldn’t have had to wait this long.” The Supreme Court ultimately authorized the execution just before 3 a.m. In his final statement, Mr. Purkey apologized to “Jennifer’s family” for the pain he had caused, contradicting the claim of his lawyers that he did not understand the reason for his execution.

The third execution, of Dustin Honken, occurred on schedule, but still too late for some of his victims’ families. John Duncan — the father of the victim Lori Duncan and grandfather of her slain daughters, Kandace (age 10) and Amber (age 6) — had urged Mr. Honken’s execution for years. As John Duncan was dying of cancer in 2018, he asked family members to promise they would witness the execution on his behalf. On July 17, they did. “Finally,” they said in a statement, “justice is being done.”

Mr. Lee’s lawyers and other death penalty opponents are entitled to disagree with that sentiment. But if the United States is going to allow capital punishment, a white-supremacist triple murderer would seem the textbook example of a justified case. And if death sentences are going to be imposed, they cannot just be hypothetical; they eventually have to be carried out, or the punishment will lose its deterrent and retributive effects.

Rather than forthrightly opposing the death penalty and attempting to change the law through democratic means, however, Mr. Lee’s lawyers and others have chosen the legal and public-relations equivalent of guerrilla war. They sought to obstruct by any means the administration of sentences that Congress permitted, juries supported and the Supreme Court approved. And when those tactics failed, they accused the Justice Department of “a grave threat to the rule of law,” even though it operated entirely within the law enacted by Congress and approved by the Supreme Court. The American people can decide for themselves which aspects of that process should be considered “shameful.”

Jeffrey A. Rosen is the deputy attorney general.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram .

Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Death Penalty — The Death Penalty: Arguments and Alternative Solutions


The Death Penalty: Arguments and Alternative Solutions

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Published: Feb 7, 2024

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Introduction, background information on the death penalty, arguments in favor of the death penalty, arguments against the death penalty, counterarguments and rebuttals, alternative solutions.

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good hooks for essays about death penalty

Finding Sources for Death Penalty Research

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One of the most popular topics for an argument essay is the death penalty . When researching a topic for an argumentative essay , accuracy is important, which means the quality of your sources is important.

If you're writing a paper about the death penalty, you can start with this list of sources, which provide arguments for all sides of the topic.

Amnesty International Site

Amnesty International views the death penalty as "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights." This website provides a gold mine of statistics and the latest breaking news on the subject.

Mental Illness on Death Row

Death Penalty Focus is an organization that aims to bring about the abolition of capital punishment and is a great resource for information. You will find evidence that many of the people executed over the past decades are affected by a form of mental illness or disability.

Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty

This extensive article provides an overview of arguments for and against the death penalty and offers a history of notable events that have shaped the discourse for activists and proponents.

Pro-Death Penalty Links

This page comes from ProDeathPenalty and contains a state-by-state guide to capital punishment resources. You'll also find a list of papers written by students on topics related to capital punishment. 

  • 50 Argumentative Essay Topics
  • 100 Persuasive Essay Topics
  • 100 Persuasive Speech Topics for Students
  • Capital Punishment: Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty
  • Pros & Cons of the Death Penalty
  • 5 Arguments in Favor of the Death Penalty
  • Ethos, Logos, Pathos for Persuasion
  • History of Capital Punishment in Canada
  • Recent Legal History of the Death Penalty in America
  • The Death Penalty in the United States
  • Preparing an Argument Essay: Exploring Both Sides of an Issue
  • New Challenges to the Death Penalty
  • Tips on How to Write an Argumentative Essay
  • Furman v. Georgia: Supreme Court Case, Arguments, Impact
  • "The Penalty of Death" by H.L. Mencken
  • Coker v. Georgia: Supreme Court Case, Arguments, Impact
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A Complete Guide to Writing a Winning Death Penalty Essay

Many students face the challenge of coming up with a good death penalty essay. This should not be the case since it’s only the topic that makes the work sound hard to tackle. My guide will enable you as a writer to come up with an appealing essay. Tutoriage company will provide diverse steps that will guide your essay and offer recommendations to ensure your work is professionally written, and, in the long run, attain a desirable grade. The first step towards writing a death penalty essay is to understand its meaning. According to the dictionary definition, death penalty refers to punishment by death for a crime that accords such a comprehensive punishment. Another way you can refer to the death penalty is capital punishment.

A complete guide to writing a winning death penalty essay

Types of Death Penalty Essays

To successfully write this type of paper, you should first understand what type of essay you will be tackling. For aspects such as analysis and examination of elements related to the death penalty, an analytical essay will be more appropriate. If you embark on an effort to convince a reader about an opinion you believe and stand with, a persuasive essay will be more prudent. For aspects such as evaluation or investigating the death penalty, you should apply an expository essay. An argumentative essay would be appropriate if you are to provide an argument about the death penalty, which you want to convince the reader that it’s more factual, truthful, and firm than any other stated argument within the same theme and context.

Topics Relating to the Death Penalty Essay

After deciding on the essay type to apply in writing the death penalty essay, the next step requires you to craft an interesting topic and thesis statement. Remember that the type of essay you will write will be a determination of your thesis statement (and main idea). Here are some relevant topics that you can use in writing a death penalty essay.

  • The effectiveness of the death penalty in reducing crime rates
  • The various Systems of the death penalty, and the order of effectiveness.
  • How the death penalty provides a warning to criminals willing to commit murder.
  • Is the death penalty fairly or unfairly applied?

Thesis Statements on the Death Penalty Essay

A thesis statement offers an outline of issues to be discussed on your death penalty essay for the readers to have a hint of what to expect as they go through your essay. Here are examples of thesis statements relating to a death penalty essay.

  • Only countries with inhumane legal systems still use capital punishment which is outdated and primitive.
  • Capital punishment only applies to criminals who have committed ghastly crimes. Countries that do not endorse this system are only pampering their criminals.
  • The death penalty is a sure way of restraining people from committing horrific crimes
  • The death penalty is not effective enough to restrain people from committing murder.
  • There is no fair way of administering the death penalty and thus should be eliminated.
  • The death penalty is effective enough to assure people that justice is being served.

Reliable Sources for Death Penalty Essays

After you have come up with the type of essay, main topic, and your thesis statement, you are required to find reliable sources that can either support or argue against your statement. It should not be hard to find such sources as they are available in different books, articles, or magazines that you can access online or in a library. It is a requirement to use sources that have been published within the last 3 years because any other source outside this time bracket will be too outdated to support your statement.

Examples of sources for a death penalty essay include:

  • An article on the death penalty from Wikipedia

Be mindful that some education centers restrict the type of sources you can use, number of online sources that can be used, or even the colossal amount of sources that can be used in your essay. Some time back, Wikipedia was discouraged as a source of information when writing an essay. This is because professors realized that the content was not well controlled, as anyone could post any topic even without the relevant expertise. This prompted the editorial team of Wikipedia to step up and gain control of the content posted on their website. The information added to a particular article should be correctly cited from a credible source. This has recently made colleges withdraw the restrictions, and the source can now be utilized.

  • An article on the death penalty from Google Scholar

Google scholar is another reliable source for information regarding the death penalty essay. As a search engine, it offers a wide array of quality resources relating to all debatable issues; it provides an option of accessing resources, from scholarly articles, magazines, to books. Several of the books and articles are accessible for free; others only offer specified pages, as others require payment to access them. Additionally, you can access citations for the books and articles easily.

  • An article on the death penalty from Encyclopedia Britannica

As a highly recognized source, the Encyclopedia Britannica has improved from a 5.25 disc to a CD-ROM and DVD. Currently, you can access its online website and find tons of resources relating to your work.

Citing Death Penalty Sources

To achieve this, you must research and acquire recently written sources on the death penalty. Additionally, you should have a good understanding and knowledge relating to the citation of sources within your essay, and filling up a well-formatted bibliography or reference page. The citation method should be in line with the specifications. Examples of citation methods include MLA – Modern Language Association , APA – American Psychology Association , or the Chicago , Turabian Style.

Here are examples of sample works with sources used within the essay on death penalty along with the required entry for the bibliography.

With a review of various denominations, each has its own view about the death penalty. For instance, approximately 69% of the Protestants support the death penalty. Moreover, 53% of the people with no specific religious association also support the death penalty (Son).

Source format for bibliography or work cited:

Son, M. “The support and praise the death penalty receive from the American people.” Legal Report, 201418(6), 67-85. Doi: 10.12940/jfb.2014.18.6.67

“Criticisms of executions under the confinements of capital punishment to administer justice face consequences of it being applied, when the defense rests its case on retribution.” (Leotard, 2017)

Leotard Jean-François, (2017) “Review of the death penalty as it is in America today.” Manchester University Press, pp. 23-49.

Death Penalty Structure

On this area, you are required to write an overview of that included the definition of the death penalty, how it is applied in law, and how many executions have been done in each state.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Death Penalty

It is important to understand the pros and cons of the death penalty, as it will help you argue for, or against the subject. Through this, you will be able to provide valid points with relevance to your chosen topic. Also, you should narrate the reason for your opinion based on your moral gauge concerning such issues, or financial and logistical aspects associated with capital punishment.

Global Perspective on the Death Penalty

The death penalty stretches its point of view across every country, with no single standard perspective carried out by all the countries. Most western countries have eliminated capital punishment, with others taking necessary steps to achieve this. For instance, many states using the death penalty have limited its application to specific scopes. This act of law can not punish Children, the mentally ill, and the mentally disabled. Below are several countries and their status on the death penalty.

The death penalty in America

While reviewing the actions related to the death penalty in America, highlight its historical perspective, socio-political arguments for and against capital punishment, and the current stance of America on the death penalty.

The death penalty in India

When you examine capital punishment in India, be sure to highlight aspects such as the historical outlook, socio-political arguments for and against the penalty and India’s current stance on this issue.

The death penalty in Australia

While trying to gain information about capital punishment application in Australia, examine the issue from an ancient viewpoint, socio-political opinions that are for, and those against the death penalty, and their status as per now on the same issue.

The death penalty in South Africa

Similarly, you should examine this issue in South Africa accordingly, utilizing dynamics such as historical perspective, socio-political arguments against or for the death penalty, and the current standpoint of South Africa on capital punishment.

Historical Outlook on the Death Penalty

As you give a historical perspective about capital punishment for a specific country, apply issues that concern the social, legal, religious and political perspectives. The death penalty evolution can be traced from the fatal corporal punishment which the public would be physically involved in administering the punishment, to provoke fear to those with the intentions of committing offenses with a magnitude high enough to be awarded such a punishment.

Social Judgment on the Death Penalty

When you are required to give your opinion concerning this type of essay, most people believe you are supposed to advocate for, or against the death penalty. This way of thinking is influenced by the moral obligation and orientation we have on human life. However, the moral balance as to whether capital punishment is wrong or right is not yet clear. However, different sources argue their viewpoint using justifiable factual data, and you can use them to gain enough information that will help you weigh in your stance about it.

Pros of the Death Penalty

Sources that provide information on the benefits of capital punishment examine rates of repetition of an offense, the costs to be incurred if incarcerated, and the immediate execution of the offender. Most of the sources argue in line with financial and logistical aspects; thus you can utilize such information to come up with your own argument that relates to your perspective.

Shortcomings of the Death Penalty

You can find such information in resources that offer anti-death standpoints. They cover aspects such as wrongful executions, the cost estimate of a single execution, the lack of a deterrent effect even after the penalty has been applied several times, and the religious and moral orientation that argue against the death penalty.

How effective is the Death Penalty?

While arguing about this dynamic, first define the judicial system goals in administering punishments to offenders. Criminal punishments focus its impact on a specific defendant while serving society with related functions. These functions may be retribution, punishment, and deterrence. How well or bad the death penalty fulfills these three functions will determine how effective capital punishment is.

Legalizing the Death Penalty

Even though it is considered an effective form of punishment, its legalization or use should focus on consideration of questions other than its effectiveness. Your argument about this aspect should be technical or offer personal reasons that support or opposes the death penalty. After achieving this relevant conclusion can be drawn whether it is right to legalize or reject incorporation of the death penalty into the law.

Death Penalty on Teenagers

While discussing the issue of application of the death penalty on teenagers, consider the stance of different states on this issue. Most jurisdictions bar the application of this law on teenagers and young adults, while others grant it in relation to the degree of their offense. Studies do suggest that the teenage mind has not matured enough to fully comprehend the degree of the harm their actions cause to the general public or an individual. This begs for a debate on the legality and appropriateness of such a law towards people of such age. In your essay, you should base your argument on such dynamics to come up with a first-class death penalty essay.

Death Penalty Essay Examples

To gain perspective on how to write a competent death penalty essay, going through another student’s essay or a professionally written essay would prove to be of advantage. Sample essays will help you outline quality topics, thesis statements, arguments and correctly cite resources related to your topic. Utilize online resources to gain a sample death penalty essay that you can go through to help you come up with your original work.

A point to remember: While writing a death penalty essay, there are various types of essays that can apply to this topic of discussion. The topic you choose should follow its specified outline template to ensure the work has structure and logic. The topic you choose has to address various aspects that this practice entails, and the arguments you put across should highlight a high level of authenticity, and backed up with reliable information to make it credible.

good hooks for essays about death penalty

Persuasive Essay Writing

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

Cathy A.

Craft an Effective Argument: Examples of Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

Published on: Jan 27, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 29, 2024

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

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No matter what topic we're discussing, there is usually a range of opinions and viewpoints on the issues. 

But when it comes to more serious matters like the death penalty, creating an effective argument can become tricky. 

Although this topic may be difficult to tackle, you can still write an engaging persuasive essay to convey your point.

In this blog post, we'll explore how you can use examples of persuasive essays on death penalty topics.

So put your rhetorical skills to the test, and let’s dive right into sample essays and tips. 

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What Do We Mean by a Persuasive Essay?

A persuasive essay is a type of writing that attempts to persuade the reader or audience.

This essay usually presents an argument supported by evidence and examples. The main aim is to convince the reader or audience to take action or accept a certain viewpoint. 

Persuasive essays may be written from a neutral or biased perspective and contain personal opinions.

To do this, you must provide clear reasoning and evidence to support your argument. Persuasive essays can take many forms, including speeches, letters, articles, and opinion pieces. 

It is important to consider the audience when writing a persuasive essay. The language used should be tailored to their understanding of the topic. 

Read our comprehensive guide on persuasive essays to know all about crafting excellent essays.

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Let's move on to some examples so that you can better understand this topic.

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty Examples

Are you feeling stuck with the task of writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty? 

Looking for some examples to get your ideas flowing? 

You’re in luck — we’ve got just the thing! Take a look at these free downloadable examples.

Example of a Persuasive essay about death penalty

Persuasive essay about death penalty in the Philippines

Short Persuasive essay about death penalty

Persuasive essay about death penalty should be abolished

The death penalty pros and cons essay

Looking for some more examples on persuasive essays? Check out our blog about persuasive essay examples !

Argumentative Essay About Death Penalty Examples 

We have compiled some of the best examples to help you start crafting your essay.

These examples will provide dynamic perspectives and insights from real-world legal cases to personal essays. 

Have a look at them to get inspired!!

Argumentative essay about death penalty in the Philippines

Argumentative essay about death penalty with introduction body conclusion

Argumentative essay about death penalty should be abolished

Argumentative essay about death penalty conclusion

6 Tips To Write an A+ Persuasive Essay

We know it can be daunting to compose a perfect essay that effectively conveys your point of view to your readers. Worry no more. 

Simply follow these 6 tips, and you will be on your way to a perfect persuasive essay.

1. Understand the assignment and audience

 Before you start writing your essay, you must understand what type of essay you are being asked to write. Who your target audience should be?

Make sure you know exactly what you’re arguing for and against, as this will help shape your essay's content.

2. Brainstorm and research

Once you understand the topic better, brainstorm ideas that support your argument.

During this process, be sure to do additional research on any unfamiliar points or topics.

3. Create an outline

After doing your initial research, create an outline for your essay that includes all the main points you want to make. 

This will help keep your thoughts organized and ensure you cover all the necessary points cohesively.

Check out our extensive guide on persuasive essay outlines to master the art of creating essays.

4. Make an argument

Use persuasive language and techniques to construct your essay. Strong evidence, such as facts and statistics, can also help to strengthen your argument.

5. Edit and revise 

Before you submit your essay, take the time to edit and revise it carefully. 

This will ensure that your argument is clear and concise and that there are no grammar or spelling errors.

6. Get feedback

Lastly, consider asking someone else to read over your essay before you submit it.

Feedback from another person can help you see any weaknesses in your argument or areas that need improvement. 

Summing up, 

Writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With these examples and tips, you can be sure to write an essay that will impress your teacher.

Whether it’s an essay about the death penalty or any other controversial topic, you can ace it with these steps! 

Remember, the key is to be creative and organized in your writing!

Don't have time to write your essay? 

Don't stress! Leave it to us! Our persuasive essay writing service is here to help! 

Contact the team of experts at our essay writing service. We can help you write a creative, well-organized, and engaging essay for the reader. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most persuasive argument for the death penalty.

The most persuasive argument for the death penalty is that it is a deterrent to violent crime. 

The idea is that by punishing criminals, other potential criminals will be less likely to act out of fear of similar punishment.

How do you start a persuasive speech on the death penalty?

When starting a persuasive speech on the death penalty, begin by introducing and defining the topic. Provide an overview of the controversial issue. 

Outline your points and arguments clearly, including evidence to support your position. 

What are good topics for persuasive essays?

Good topics for persuasive essays include 

  • Whether or not the death penalty is a fair punishment for violent crime
  • Whether harsher punishments will reduce crime rates
  • Will capital punishment is worth the costs associated with it
  • How rehabilitation should be taken into consideration when dealing with criminals.

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good hooks for essays about death penalty

Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against Essay

Introduction, arguments against death penalty, arguments for death penalty, death penalty policies around the world.

The area of the current research concerns the death penalty and whether it might be abolished in the future. Various experts have argued against the lethal sentence policies claiming that they are unethical, barbaric, and economically unfavorable. However, in the academic field, some authorities continue to justify this punishment method. The current research reviews various articles and websites concerning the lethal sentence controversies and establishes the correlation between the existing works. As a result, the main flaws within the present scholarship are the unresolved issue of whether death penalty policies are effective or not and whether there are any benefits to society from the lethal sentence. The authorities do not seem to find a consensus on this issue, but there is a prospect that this problem will be resolved in future works.

The first argument against the lethal sentence is a lack of deterrence among criminals. According to Amnesty International Australia (2019), there is no evidence that the prospect of death prevents potential perpetrators. Furthermore, some authorities state that the lethal sentence does not decline the number of crimes and is only used as an instrument of vengeance (Amnesty International, 1997). Another reason to cancel the death penalty is the unnecessary brutality of the process. Despite the introduction of less gruesome methods of killing, such as lethal injection, Deshwal (2017) claims that “sterilized and depersonalized methods of execution do not eliminate the brutality of the penalty” (para. 5). Finally, the majority of the population generally believes that lethal sentences are merely unethical and should be abolished (Jouet, 2020). Ultimately, most experts refer to the mentioned-above arguments to illustrate the obligation to cancel death penalties.

On the contrary, some authorities believe that the lethal sentence is necessary and is a useful tool to prevent potential crimes. The first argument supporting this perspective is retribution for the illegal activity. From the philosophical point of view, as mentioned by Immanuel Kant, the murderer should atone by giving up their own life (Flanders, 2013). Another reason for the lethal sentence is the probability that the perpetrator would kill again after prison. According to Radelet and Borg (2000), after the cancellation of most death penalties in America in 1972, about one percent of the criminals killed again. It might seem as an insignificant number, but ultimately the lethal sentence would have prevented it. As previously mentioned, the death penalty policy does not have evidence to deter people from criminal activity. However, public opinion frequently differs from the statistics gathered by experts. According to Seal (2017), throughout the twentieth-century people extensively considered that the death penalty is obligatory to prevent illegal activity. Therefore, some individuals would only feel safe and secure if the government practices the lethal sentence.

The attitude toward the death penalty varies depending on the regions of the world. In America, the lethal sentence for most crimes was canceled in 1972 by the Supreme Court (Nice, 1992). However, in multiple other countries, the death penalty policies still exist. For instance, while some regions ease restrictions and reduce the number of crimes that are punishable with the lethal sentence, China does the opposite (Lehmann, 2012). Up until the twenty-first century, the Chinese government has purposefully used the death penalty even for non-violent crimes, such as theft or bribes (Lehmann, 2012). Nevertheless, the overall number of countries that have abolished the lethal sentence is continually growing (Hood & Hoyle, 2009). Ultimately, the perspectives regarding the death penalty depend on the region, but more and more governments reject this type of punishment.

Summing up, the opinions about the death penalty vary vastly depending on the countries and the academic experts. Overall, this subject is extremely complicated since the effectiveness of death penalties in terms of criminal deterrence and prevention of potential crimes is almost impossible to prove, and, thus, various perspectives emerge. However, despite the complexity and sensitivity of the topic, most countries have discontinued this policy due to ethical and economical reasons.

Amnesty International. (1997). The death penalty: Criminality, justice and human rights . Refworld. Web.

Amnesty International Australia. (2019). Five reasons to abolish death penalty . Web.

Deshwal, S. (n.d.). Death penalty: Contemporary issues . Indian National Bar Association. Web.

Flanders, C. (2013). The case against the case against the death penalty. New Criminal Law Review: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 16 (4), 595-620.

Hood, R., & Hoyle, C. (2009). Abolishing the death penalty worldwide: The impact of a “new dynamic”. Crime and Justice, 38 (1), 1-63.

Jouet, M. (2020). Death penalty abolitionism from the enlightenment to modernity. American Journal of Comparative Law . Web.

Lehmann, E. (2012). The death penalty in a changing socialist state: Reflections on ‘modernity’ from the Mao Era to contemporary China. Honor Theses, 6 , 1-86.

Nice, C. D. (1992). The States and the death penalty. The Western Political Quarterly, 45 (4), 1037-1048.

Radelet, M. L., & Borg, M. J. (2000). The changing nature of death penalty debates. Annual Review of Sociology, 26 , 43-61.

Seal, L. (2017). Perceptions of safety, fear and social change in the public’s pro-death penalty discourse in mid twentieth-century Britain. Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, 21 (1), 1-24.

  • Race Matters, Cancel Culture, and “Boys Go to Jupiter”
  • Deterrence theory and scientific findings on the deterrence value of severe punishment
  • Argumentative Paper on the Pros of the Death Penalty
  • Justifications for Capital Punishment
  • The Significance of Capital Punishment in the UAE
  • “Dead Man Walking” by Sister Helen Prejean
  • The Legality and the Processes of the Death Penalty
  • Criminal Sentencing and the Eighth Amendment
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2022, July 12). Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against.

"Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." IvyPanda , 12 July 2022,

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against'. 12 July.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." July 12, 2022.

1. IvyPanda . "Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." July 12, 2022.


IvyPanda . "Death Penalty: Arguments For and Against." July 12, 2022.

Round Separator

Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty

Click the buttons below to view arguments and testimony on each topic.

The death penalty deters future murders.

Society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawful action. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty. If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life.

For years, criminologists analyzed murder rates to see if they fluctuated with the likelihood of convicted murderers being executed, but the results were inconclusive. Then in 1973 Isaac Ehrlich employed a new kind of analysis which produced results showing that for every inmate who was executed, 7 lives were spared because others were deterred from committing murder. Similar results have been produced by disciples of Ehrlich in follow-up studies.

Moreover, even if some studies regarding deterrence are inconclusive, that is only because the death penalty is rarely used and takes years before an execution is actually carried out. Punishments which are swift and sure are the best deterrent. The fact that some states or countries which do not use the death penalty have lower murder rates than jurisdictions which do is not evidence of the failure of deterrence. States with high murder rates would have even higher rates if they did not use the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag, a Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University who has studied the question of deterrence closely, wrote: “Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive, and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks.”

Finally, the death penalty certainly “deters” the murderer who is executed. Strictly speaking, this is a form of incapacitation, similar to the way a robber put in prison is prevented from robbing on the streets. Vicious murderers must be killed to prevent them from murdering again, either in prison, or in society if they should get out. Both as a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation, the death penalty helps to prevent future crime.

Those who believe that deterrence justifies the execution of certain offenders bear the burden of proving that the death penalty is a deterrent. The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. The Ehrlich studies have been widely discredited. In fact, some criminologists, such as William Bowers of Northeastern University, maintain that the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Even most supporters of the death penalty now place little or no weight on deterrence as a serious justification for its continued use.

States in the United States that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates than states that do. The same is true when the U.S. is compared to countries similar to it. The U.S., with the death penalty, has a higher murder rate than the countries of Europe or Canada, which do not use the death penalty.

The death penalty is not a deterrent because most people who commit murders either do not expect to be caught or do not carefully weigh the differences between a possible execution and life in prison before they act. Frequently, murders are committed in moments of passion or anger, or by criminals who are substance abusers and acted impulsively. As someone who presided over many of Texas’s executions, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox has remarked, “It is my own experience that those executed in Texas were not deterred by the existence of the death penalty law. I think in most cases you’ll find that the murder was committed under severe drug and alcohol abuse.”

There is no conclusive proof that the death penalty acts as a better deterrent than the threat of life imprisonment. A 2012 report released by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies and based on a review of more than three decades of research, concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. A survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies found that 84% of these experts rejected the notion that research had demonstrated any deterrent effect from the death penalty .

Once in prison, those serving life sentences often settle into a routine and are less of a threat to commit violence than other prisoners. Moreover, most states now have a sentence of life without parole. Prisoners who are given this sentence will never be released. Thus, the safety of society can be assured without using the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy, Fordham University. Excerpts from ” The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense,” (Harvard Law Review Association, 1986)

“Execution of those who have committed heinous murders may deter only one murder per year. If it does, it seems quite warranted. It is also the only fitting retribution for murder I can think of.”

“Most abolitionists acknowledge that they would continue to favor abolition even if the death penalty were shown to deter more murders than alternatives could deter. Abolitionists appear to value the life of a convicted murderer or, at least, his non-execution, more highly than they value the lives of the innocent victims who might be spared by deterring prospective murderers.

Deterrence is not altogether decisive for me either. I would favor retention of the death penalty as retribution even if it were shown that the threat of execution could not deter prospective murderers not already deterred by the threat of imprisonment. Still, I believe the death penalty, because of its finality, is more feared than imprisonment, and deters some prospective murderers not deterred by the thought of imprisonment. Sparing the lives of even a few prospective victims by deterring their murderers is more important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers because of the possibility, or even the probability, that executing them would not deter others. Whereas the life of the victims who might be saved are valuable, that of the murderer has only negative value, because of his crime. Surely the criminal law is meant to protect the lives of potential victims in preference to those of actual murderers.”

“We threaten punishments in order to deter crime. We impose them not only to make the threats credible but also as retribution (justice) for the crimes that were not deterred. Threats and punishments are necessary to deter and deterrence is a sufficient practical justification for them. Retribution is an independent moral justification. Although penalties can be unwise, repulsive, or inappropriate, and those punished can be pitiable, in a sense the infliction of legal punishment on a guilty person cannot be unjust. By committing the crime, the criminal volunteered to assume the risk of receiving a legal punishment that he could have avoided by not committing the crime. The punishment he suffers is the punishment he voluntarily risked suffering and, therefore, it is no more unjust to him than any other event for which one knowingly volunteers to assume the risk. Thus, the death penalty cannot be unjust to the guilty criminal.”

Full text can be found at .

Hugo Adam Bedau (deceased) Austin Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University Excerpts from “The Case Against The Death Penalty” (Copyright 1997, American Civil Liberties Union)

“Persons who commit murder and other crimes of personal violence either may or may not premeditate their crimes.

When crime is planned, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not discourage those who expect to escape detection and arrest. It is impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could prevent a crime that is not premeditated….

Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. In such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others….

If, however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any rational person from committing a violent crime.

The vast preponderance of the evidence shows that the death penalty is no more effective than imprisonment in deterring murder and that it may even be an incitement to criminal violence. Death-penalty states as a group do not have lower rates of criminal homicide than non-death-penalty states….

On-duty police officers do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide in abolitionist states than they do in death-penalty states. Between l973 and l984, for example, lethal assaults against police were not significantly more, or less, frequent in abolitionist states than in death-penalty states. There is ‘no support for the view that the death penalty provides a more effective deterrent to police homicides than alternative sanctions. Not for a single year was evidence found that police are safer in jurisdictions that provide for capital punishment.’ (Bailey and Peterson, Criminology (1987))

Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states. Between 1992 and 1995, 176 inmates were murdered by other prisoners; the vast majority (84%) were killed in death penalty jurisdictions. During the same period about 2% of all assaults on prison staff were committed by inmates in abolition jurisdictions. Evidently, the threat of the death penalty ‘does not even exert an incremental deterrent effect over the threat of a lesser punishment in the abolitionist states.’ (Wolfson, in Bedau, ed., The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed. (1982))

Actual experience thus establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the death penalty does not deter murder. No comparable body of evidence contradicts that conclusion.”

Click here for the full text from the ACLU website.


A just society requires the taking of a life for a life.

When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime which will be punished in kind.

Retribution has its basis in religious values, which have historically maintained that it is proper to take an “eye for an eye” and a life for a life.

Although the victim and the victim’s family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the murder, at least an execution brings closure to the murderer’s crime (and closure to the ordeal for the victim’s family) and ensures that the murderer will create no more victims.

For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment under our system of law, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives.

Robert Macy, District Attorney of Oklahoma City, described his concept of the need for retribution in one case: “In 1991, a young mother was rendered helpless and made to watch as her baby was executed. The mother was then mutilated and killed. The killer should not lie in some prison with three meals a day, clean sheets, cable TV, family visits and endless appeals. For justice to prevail, some killers just need to die.”

Retribution is another word for revenge. Although our first instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standards of a mature society demand a more measured response.

The emotional impulse for revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment, with all its accompanying problems and risks. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life, even the life of a murderer. Encouraging our basest motives of revenge, which ends in another killing, extends the chain of violence. Allowing executions sanctions killing as a form of ‘pay-back.’

Many victims’ families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of their loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain. For example, Bud Welch’s daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Although his first reaction was to wish that those who committed this terrible crime be killed, he ultimately realized that such killing “is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie…. Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it has no place in our justice system.”

The notion of an eye for an eye, or a life for a life, is a simplistic one which our society has never endorsed. We do not allow torturing the torturer, or raping the rapist. Taking the life of a murderer is a similarly disproportionate punishment, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. executes only a small percentage of those convicted of murder, and these defendants are typically not the worst offenders but merely the ones with the fewest resources to defend themselves.

Louis P. Pojman Author and Professor of Philosophy, U.S. Military Academy. Excerpt from “The Death Penalty: For and Against,” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998)

“[Opponents of the capital punishment often put forth the following argument:] Perhaps the murderer deserves to die, but what authority does the state have to execute him or her? Both the Old and New Testament says, “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Prov. 25:21 and Romans 12:19). You need special authority to justify taking the life of a human being.

The objector fails to note that the New Testament passage continues with a support of the right of the state to execute criminals in the name of God: “Let every person be subjected to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…. If you do wrong, be afraid, for [the authority] does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13: 1-4). So, according to the Bible, the authority to punish, which presumably includes the death penalty, comes from God.

But we need not appeal to a religious justification for capital punishment. We can site the state’s role in dispensing justice. Just as the state has the authority (and duty) to act justly in allocating scarce resources, in meeting minimal needs of its (deserving) citizens, in defending its citizens from violence and crime, and in not waging unjust wars; so too does it have the authority, flowing from its mission to promote justice and the good of its people, to punish the criminal. If the criminal, as one who has forfeited a right to life, deserves to be executed, especially if it will likely deter would-be murderers, the state has a duty to execute those convicted of first-degree murder.”

National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Excerpts from “To End the Death Penalty: A Report of the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation” (December, 1999)

“Some would argue that the death penalty is needed as a means of retributive justice, to balance out the crime with the punishment. This reflects a natural concern of society, and especially of victims and their families. Yet we believe that we are called to seek a higher road even while punishing the guilty, for example through long and in some cases life-long incarceration, so that the healing of all can ultimately take place.

Some would argue that the death penalty will teach society at large the seriousness of crime. Yet we say that teaching people to respond to violence with violence will, again, only breed more violence.

The strongest argument of all [in favor of the death penalty] is the deep pain and grief of the families of victims, and their quite natural desire to see punishment meted out to those who have plunged them into such agony. Yet it is the clear teaching of our traditions that this pain and suffering cannot be healed simply through the retribution of capital punishment or by vengeance. It is a difficult and long process of healing which comes about through personal growth and God’s grace. We agree that much more must be done by the religious community and by society at large to solace and care for the grieving families of the victims of violent crime.

Recent statements of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism, and of the U.S. Catholic Conference sum up well the increasingly strong convictions shared by Jews and Catholics…:

‘Respect for all human life and opposition to the violence in our society are at the root of our long-standing opposition (as bishops) to the death penalty. We see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. As we said in Confronting the Culture of Violence: ‘We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.’ We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.’1

We affirm that we came to these conclusions because of our shared understanding of the sanctity of human life. We have committed ourselves to work together, and each within our own communities, toward ending the death penalty.” Endnote 1. Statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Catholic Conference, March 24, 1999.

The risk of executing the innocent precludes the use of the death penalty.

The death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death. Since 1973, over 180 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged. During the same period of time, over 1,500 people have been executed. Thus, for every 8.3 people executed, we have found one person on death row who never should have been convicted. These statistics represent an intolerable risk of executing the innocent. If an automobile manufacturer operated with similar failure rates, it would be run out of business.

Our capital punishment system is unreliable. A study by Columbia University Law School found that two thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors. When the cases were retried, over 80% of the defendants were not sentenced to death and 7% were completely acquitted.

Many of the releases of innocent defendants from death row came about as a result of factors outside of the justice system. Recently, journalism students in Illinois were assigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system of appeals had rejected his legal claims. The students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were able to find another man, who confessed to the crime on videotape and was later convicted of the murder. The innocent man who was released was very fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.

In other cases, DNA testing has exonerated death row inmates. Here, too, the justice system had concluded that these defendants were guilty and deserving of the death penalty. DNA testing became available only in the early 1990s, due to advancements in science. If this testing had not been discovered until ten years later, many of these inmates would have been executed. And if DNA testing had been applied to earlier cases where inmates were executed in the 1970s and 80s, the odds are high that it would have proven that some of them were innocent as well.

Society takes many risks in which innocent lives can be lost. We build bridges, knowing that statistically some workers will be killed during construction; we take great precautions to reduce the number of unintended fatalities. But wrongful executions are a preventable risk. By substituting a sentence of life without parole, we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an erroneous and irrevocable punishment.

There is no proof that any innocent person has actually been executed since increased safeguards and appeals were added to our death penalty system in the 1970s. Even if such executions have occurred, they are very rare. Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty.

Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent.

If it can be shown that someone is innocent, surely a governor would grant clemency and spare the person. Hypothetical claims of innocence are usually just delaying tactics to put off the execution as long as possible. Given our thorough system of appeals through numerous state and federal courts, the execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible. Even the theoretical execution of an innocent person can be justified because the death penalty saves lives by deterring other killings.

Gerald Kogan, Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Excerpts from a speech given in Orlando, Florida, October 23, 1999 “[T]here is no question in my mind, and I can tell you this having seen the dynamics of our criminal justice system over the many years that I have been associated with it, [as] prosecutor, defense attorney, trial judge and Supreme Court Justice, that convinces me that we certainly have, in the past, executed those people who either didn’t fit the criteria for execution in the State of Florida or who, in fact, were, factually, not guilty of the crime for which they have been executed.

“And you can make these statements when you understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system, when you understand how the State makes deals with more culpable defendants in a capital case, offers them light sentences in exchange for their testimony against another participant or, in some cases, in fact, gives them immunity from prosecution so that they can secure their testimony; the use of jailhouse confessions, like people who say, ‘I was in the cell with so-and-so and they confessed to me,’ or using those particular confessions, the validity of which there has been great doubt. And yet, you see the uneven application of the death penalty where, in many instances, those that are the most culpable escape death and those that are the least culpable are victims of the death penalty. These things begin to weigh very heavily upon you. And under our system, this is the system we have. And that is, we are human beings administering an imperfect system.”

“And how about those people who are still sitting on death row today, who may be factually innocent but cannot prove their particular case very simply because there is no DNA evidence in their case that can be used to exonerate them? Of course, in most cases, you’re not going to have that kind of DNA evidence, so there is no way and there is no hope for them to be saved from what may be one of the biggest mistakes that our society can make.”

The entire speech by Justice Kogan is available here.

Paul G. Cassell Associate Professor of Law, University of Utah, College of Law, and former law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Statement before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Concerning Claims of Innocence in Capital Cases (July 23, 1993)

“Given the fallibility of human judgments, the possibility exists that the use of capital punishment may result in the execution of an innocent person. The Senate Judiciary Committee has previously found this risk to be ‘minimal,’ a view shared by numerous scholars. As Justice Powell has noted commenting on the numerous state capital cases that have come before the Supreme Court, the ‘unprecedented safeguards’ already inherent in capital sentencing statutes ‘ensure a degree of care in the imposition of the sentence of death that can only be described as unique.’”

“Our present system of capital punishment limits the ultimate penalty to certain specifically-defined crimes and even then, permit the penalty of death only when the jury finds that the aggravating circumstances in the case outweigh all mitigating circumstances. The system further provides judicial review of capital cases. Finally, before capital sentences are carried out, the governor or other executive official will review the sentence to insure that it is a just one, a determination that undoubtedly considers the evidence of the condemned defendant’s guilt. Once all of those decisionmakers have agreed that a death sentence is appropriate, innocent lives would be lost from failure to impose the sentence.”

“Capital sentences, when carried out, save innocent lives by permanently incapacitating murderers. Some persons who commit capital homicide will slay other innocent persons if given the opportunity to do so. The death penalty is the most effective means of preventing such killers from repeating their crimes. The next most serious penalty, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, prevents murderers from committing some crimes but does not prevent them from murdering in prison.”

“The mistaken release of guilty murderers should be of far greater concern than the speculative and heretofore nonexistent risk of the mistaken execution of an innocent person.”

Full text can be found here.

Arbitrariness & Discrimination

The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.

In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim.

Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence.

With respect to race, studies have repeatedly shown that a death sentence is far more likely where a white person is murdered than where a Black person is murdered. The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable than Black lives. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 296 Black defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 31 white defendants have been executed for the murder of a Black victim. Such racial disparities have existed over the history of the death penalty and appear to be largely intractable.

It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Prosecutors have enormous discretion about when to seek the death penalty and when to settle for a plea bargain. Often those who can only afford a minimal defense are selected for the death penalty. Until race and other arbitrary factors, like economics and geography, can be eliminated as a determinant of who lives and who dies, the death penalty must not be used.

Discretion has always been an essential part of our system of justice. No one expects the prosecutor to pursue every possible offense or punishment, nor do we expect the same sentence to be imposed just because two crimes appear similar. Each crime is unique, both because the circumstances of each victim are different and because each defendant is different. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a mandatory death penalty which applied to everyone convicted of first degree murder would be unconstitutional. Hence, we must give prosecutors and juries some discretion.

In fact, more white people are executed in this country than black people. And even if blacks are disproportionately represented on death row, proportionately blacks commit more murders than whites. Moreover, the Supreme Court has rejected the use of statistical studies which claim racial bias as the sole reason for overturning a death sentence.

Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system.

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. President and Chief Executive Officer, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Inc. Excerpt from “Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice & the Death Penalty,” (Marlowe & Company, 1996)

“Who receives the death penalty has less to do with the violence of the crime than with the color of the criminal’s skin, or more often, the color of the victim’s skin. Murder — always tragic — seems to be a more heinous and despicable crime in some states than in others. Women who kill and who are killed are judged by different standards than are men who are murderers and victims.

The death penalty is essentially an arbitrary punishment. There are no objective rules or guidelines for when a prosecutor should seek the death penalty, when a jury should recommend it, and when a judge should give it. This lack of objective, measurable standards ensures that the application of the death penalty will be discriminatory against racial, gender, and ethnic groups.

The majority of Americans who support the death penalty believe, or wish to believe, that legitimate factors such as the violence and cruelty with which the crime was committed, a defendant’s culpability or history of violence, and the number of victims involved determine who is sentenced to life in prison and who receives the ultimate punishment. The numbers, however, tell a different story. They confirm the terrible truth that bias and discrimination warp our nation’s judicial system at the very time it matters most — in matters of life and death. The factors that determine who will live and who will die — race, sex, and geography — are the very same ones that blind justice was meant to ignore. This prejudicial distribution should be a moral outrage to every American.”

Justice Lewis Powell United States Supreme Court Justice excerpts from McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987) (footnotes and citations omitted)

(Mr. McCleskey, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978 for killing a white police officer while robbing a store. Mr. McCleskey appealed his conviction and death sentence, claiming racial discrimination in the application of Georgia’s death penalty. He presented statistical analysis showing a pattern of sentencing disparities based primarily on the race of the victim. The analysis indicated that black defendants who killed white victims had the greatest likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Powell held that statistical studies on race by themselves were an insufficient basis for overturning the death penalty.)

“[T]he claim that [t]his sentence rests on the irrelevant factor of race easily could be extended to apply to claims based on unexplained discrepancies that correlate to membership in other minority groups, and even to gender. Similarly, since [this] claim relates to the race of his victim, other claims could apply with equally logical force to statistical disparities that correlate with the race or sex of other actors in the criminal justice system, such as defense attorneys or judges. Also, there is no logical reason that such a claim need be limited to racial or sexual bias. If arbitrary and capricious punishment is the touchstone under the Eighth Amendment, such a claim could — at least in theory — be based upon any arbitrary variable, such as the defendant’s facial characteristics, or the physical attractiveness of the defendant or the victim, that some statistical study indicates may be influential in jury decision making. As these examples illustrate, there is no limiting principle to the type of challenge brought by McCleskey. The Constitution does not require that a State eliminate any demonstrable disparity that correlates with a potentially irrelevant factor in order to operate a criminal justice system that includes capital punishment. As we have stated specifically in the context of capital punishment, the Constitution does not ‘plac[e] totally unrealistic conditions on its use.’ (Gregg v. Georgia)”

The entire decision can be found here.

140 Death Penalty Research Questions & Title Ideas

Are you looking for the best death penalty research title? StudyCorgi has got you covered! On this page, you’ll find plenty of death penalty titles and research questions about capital punishment. Feel free to use them for your debate, argumentative paper, and other writing assignments.

📌 Death Penalty Subtopics

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If you’re wondering what to include in your research questions about death penalty, here are some subtopics you can consider.

  • Is the Death Penalty Effective?
  • Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?
  • The Death Penalty: Arguments in Favor
  • Forensic Psychologist’s Role in Death Penalty Trial
  • Death by Fire: The Death Penalty in Texas
  • Death Penalty Abolishment: Arguments For and Against
  • Justification of the Death Penalty
  • Death Penalty: The Utilitarianism Ethical Theory
  • Death Penalty in Case of Mental Illnesses
  • Death Penalty: Contradictions
  • The Advantages of the Death Penalty This paper claims that the death penalty justified from an ethic since it reduces the number of criminals, satisfy the victims, and the state will not suffer financial losses.
  • Criminal Justice in Texas: Todd Willingham and Death Penalty The case of Cameron Todd Willingham was a controversial criminal justice case handled in Texas. The man was charged with the murder of his three young children by arson.
  • Death Penalty: Practice and Ethics of the Use This paper discusses capital punishment as a legal measure, the history of the death penalty, and the appropriateness and relevance of this punishment.
  • Death Penalty: Legal and Moral Issues Discussion of the legal and moral issues that literally are of life and death importance and is a major barometer when measuring a society’s collective conscience.
  • Death Penalty Validity as a Form of Punishment The paper assesses the validity of the death penalty as a form of punishment for controlling the increasing crime rates and tries to provide a solution or an option that can eliminate an extreme step.
  • Death Penalty and Utilitarian Ethics This paper will analyze the ethical grounds of utilizing the death penalty for recidivist violent criminals based on Bentham’s utilitarianism.
  • Juvenile Justice and the Death Penalty When discussing the death penalty, especially for juvenile perpetrators, three concepts are critical: justice, deterrence, and possibility of error.
  • Death Penalty and “Eye for an Eye” System The argument that the death penalty fits the narrative of the “eye for an eye” idea is valid. However, the state has the right to take away someone’s rights.
  • Arguments Against Death Penalty Death penalties are nothing more than relics of the past. They were never enough to stop or even curb crime in any given country at any given period.
  • The Death Penalty: James Holmes’ Case The death penalty does not violate the Sixth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It does shape certain procedural aspects.
  • Aspects of Death Penalty Acceptance The death penalty is a form of punishment that should be used to justify criminals when they commit severe crimes concerning other people.
  • Court Cases That Impacted to Death Penalty Daryl Atkins, who has an IQ of 59, was found guilty of murdering an Air Force enlisted man inside a convenience shop and was sentenced to death for his crime.
  • Against the Death Penalty in the US The article presents arguments against the death penalty in the United States, focusing on its ineffectiveness as a deterrent, high costs, and racial and subjective biases.
  • Death Penalty Position in Society Death penalty is the most severe punishment a government may sentence a person to for breaking the law, for example, by committing murder.
  • System of the Death Penalty in the United States Mitigation is a valuable and efficient tool for choosing an appropriate punishment during the juridical process and might be highly relevant for other social work practices.
  • The Case Roper v. Simmons: Concept of National Consensus About Juvenile Death Penalty The aim of this work is to investigate the case of the national consensus concerning the issue of the juvenile death penalty on the example of the case Roper v. Simmons.
  • Death Penalty: To Be or Not To Be? This essay is aimed at discussing the ongoing death penalty debate with reference to Adam Liptak’s and Stephen Breyer’s arguments.
  • The Death Penalty in the United States The article “The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of the Death Penalty in the United States” examines the past, present, and possible future of capital punishment in the United States.
  • Death Penalty Should Be Abolished in the United States The death penalty hinders the United States’ progress and should be criminalized to avoid more harm than good in the government’s efforts to realize the American dream.
  • Racial Disparities in Death Penalty Sentencing The assessment of the racial disparities problem and its correlations with the principles of death penalty sentencing is of high importance from a legal and social perspective.
  • Legislative Issues in Texas: The Death Penalty This article discusses the problem of imperfect trials in Texas, which allows a person to be mistakenly executed.
  • Judicial Error and the Death Penalty This research paper provides a critical analysis of the feasibility of stopping the death penalty in the United States through the lens of the innocence of victims.
  • Zimbabwe and Zambia Death Penalty Comparison The post compares capital punishment in Zimbabwe and Zambia, last death sentence dates, and methods of execution.
  • Death Penalty Debates in the United States: Inhumane Practice The process of the death penalty is highly flawed, and there are numerous ethical and practical challenges that suggest that capital punishment should be abolished.
  • Death Penalty and Other Issues That Surround It In the United States, capital punishment has been used for a long period of time and it is still practiced today. This paper will seek to analyze death penalty and related issues.
  • The Death Penalty in the USA The death penalty in the USA exists in some states, and it must be to discipline people and to threaten them from murders and other great crimes.
  • Should Death Penalty Be Abolished in the US? This essay examines whether the death penalty is an effective deterrent, and should it be abolished in the US.
  • Key Points for Abolishing the Death Penalty in the USA This briefing paper is presented to American people so that all doubts and plans of retaining the death penalty despite all the Supreme Court rulings and the bad effects of it shall henceforth be erased from our minds.
  • Death Penalty as a Cruel Murder While many arguments have been put forward for and against it, there is no doubt that the Death Penalty is nothing but a cruel murder perpetrated by the State.
  • Death Penalty Abolition: Why It Is Needed? The death penalty should be done away with and instead replaced by a more humane form of punishing criminals irrespective of the intensity of the offense.
  • Participation in Government: The Death Penalty The death penalty is also referred to as capital punishment and is commonly reserved for capital offenses. The term capital has its origins in the Latin word capita.
  • The Death Penalty and Its Basic Reasons The death penalty also known as capital punishment is the execution of a person by the state as punishment for a crime.
  • Should the United States Abolish the Death Penalty? Being the agent responsible for the administration of the death penalty, the state is the chief proponent of the same as a form of punishment.
  • Death Penalty from a Prison Officer’s Perspective The death penalty can be considered as an ancient form of punishment in relation to the type of crime that had been committed.
  • Death Penalty and Its Theoretical Justification The activity of the justice system equally depends on the fairness of the justification and the validity of the punishment.
  • “What Will Doom the Death Penalty” by Daniel LaChance This reading essay summarizes, explains, and evaluates the main points of the reading: “What Will Doom the Death Penalty: Capital Punishment, Another Failed Government Program?” by Daniel LaChance.
  • Death Penalty from Religious and Historical Standpoints The paper evaluates the benefits and analyzes the death penalty from a modern, religious, and historical perspective.
  • What Will Doom the Death Penalty? The increasing levels of crime in the United States encouraged more people to embrace the idea of capital punishment. This discussion gives a detailed analysis of this article.
  • Death Penalty Trends in American Justice System This paper discusses the death penalty abolition in Illinois, Innocence Project, sentencing of the mentally retarded individuals, and the case of Stanley Williams.
  • Death Penalty and Its Issues Serious criminals have usually imposed a death sentence. This type of punishment continues to exist, even nowadays. However, it seems completely irrelevant in a humanistic society.
  • Violation of the Human Right to Life: Death Penalty The problem of the death penalty cannot be separated from the general concept of human rights as it violates the paramount right of a human to life.
  • Roots of Public Support for the Death Penalty In his article, Daniel LaChance analyzes the phenomenon of the death penalty in America and the social attitude towards it. LaChance expresses a negative attitude.
  • Death Penalty as Unjustified Measure Nowadays The person living in the 21st century should believe that the death penalty simply increases violence and grief and does not help the victim’s close ones recover from their pain.
  • Death Penalty: History and Rationale After WWII, the death penalty was limited through the creation of the international Human Rights Doctrines. The procedure of death punishment became more humane.
  • The Death Penalty and Mentally Retarded Capital Offenders The present paper attempts to discuss causes of wrongful conviction of capital offenders and the psychological assessment criteria that could be used by forensic psychologists.
  • Position on the Death Penalty Capital punishment remains a contested issue in many societies across the globe. Many countries have abolished this form of punishment. Such countries believe that the malpractice is unethical.
  • Is Death Penalty Adequate? The death penalty is inadequate, as it leads to the punishment of not guilty people, feeling of insecurity, high volume of stress, cruelty of the execution process.
  • Whether Death Penalty Can Be Applied Fairly? This paper seeks to establish that corporal punishment is not the best way to correct wrongdoers. It shows how death penalty is applicable and effective.
  • The Debate Over Whether the Death Penalty Is Just or Unjust
  • Death Penalty and Its Deterrent Effect of Murder Rates in Society
  • The Death Penalty and Its Effects on America
  • Potential Savings From Abolition of the Death Penalty in North Carolina
  • Pros and Cons Side of the International and Domestic Legislation on the Death Penalty
  • Ethical Issues either for or Against the Death Penalty
  • The Pros and Cons of Life Imprisonment and the Death Penalty
  • Religious and Morality Issues of Death Penalty
  • The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Death Penalty in the United States
  • The Death Penalty and Its Effect on the Social Position of the Criminal
  • Marxist Ideology and the Death Penalty
  • The Relationship Between Race & the Use of the Death Penalty
  • Thailand Should Kept Death Penalty for Certain Crime
  • How Can Death Penalty Prevent Repeat Offenders?
  • The Death Penalty and New Studies of Disparate Racial Impact
  • Death Row and Death Penalty in the United States
  • The Death Penalty Preserves Human Dignity
  • Death Penalty Support and Argument Rebuttal
  • The Death Penalty and Mental Illness
  • Should the Death Penalty Be Reinstated in the UK?
  • The Death Penalty Should Be Removed to Avoid Wrongly Punishing the Innocent
  • Life Sentence Without Parole – Better Than Death Penalty
  • Does the Death Penalty Breach Human Rights?
  • What Crimes Carried the Death Penalty?
  • Does Jodi Arias Deserve the Death Penalty?
  • Why Is the Death Penalty Good?
  • Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime?
  • Why We Should Ban the Death Penalty?
  • How Might the Death Penalty Prevent Crime?
  • Why the Death Penalty Should Be Abolished?
  • How Objective and Justifiable Are Our Reasons for Enforcing the Death Penalty?
  • Is the Death Penalty Ethical?
  • What Are Three Arguments for the Death Penalty?
  • What Is a Pro Argument for Death Penalty?
  • Should the Death Death Penalty Be Legal?
  • What Are the Pros and Cons of the  Death Penalty?
  • Should the Death Penalty Apply to Juvenile Criminals?
  • What Is the Strongest Argument in Favor of the Death Penalty?
  • Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished Across the Nations?
  • Why Is the Death Penalty Good for Society?
  • What Effects Does the Death Penalty Cause to Society?
  • What Role Does Race Play in the Death Penalty?
  • Who Is Most Affected by the Death Penalty?
  • Why Does the United States Government Need the Death Penalty?
  • Who Has Power Over the Death Penalty?
  • Why Some People Think That the Death Penalty Is Unfair and Unacceptable?
  • Why Did the Death Penalty Become a Thing?
  • Who Was the First Person to Get the Death Penalty?
  • Why the Death Penalty Is Appropriate for Cases Where Defendants Have Mental Retardation?
  • When Did Death Penalty End?
  • When Was the Death Penalty Most Popular?
  • How does the use of the death penalty vary in different countries?
  • What factors affect public support for capital punishment?
  • How does the death penalty affect crime rates?
  • How does capital punishment affect marginalized communities?
  • What racial and gender disparities exist in death sentencing?
  • How does international law address the death penalty?
  • What is the role of mental disability in death penalty cases?
  • What are the financial costs of maintaining capital punishment?
  • How does the media portrayal of the death penalty affect public attitudes?
  • Are there more effective alternatives to the death penalty?
  • The emotional toll of the death penalty on families.
  • The human rights aspect of capital punishment.
  • Views on capital punishment expressed in art.
  • How can we make the criminal justice system more compassionate?
  • Factors affecting the death penalty verdicts.
  • The psychological impact of capital punishment on offenders and executioners.
  • Religious perspectives on the death penalty.
  • The cultural significance of historical executions.
  • Personal stories of inmates sentenced to death.
  • Does the death penalty perpetuate violence?
  • The consequences of wrongful convictions in capital punishment.
  • The death penalty vs. life imprisonment.
  • Capital punishment and the possibility of redemption.
  • Media’s influence on policies related to capital punishment.
  • Is it ethical to execute juvenile offenders?
  • The significance of DNA evidence in death penalty cases.
  • The role of vengeance in capital punishment.
  • Controversies surrounding lethal injections.
  • The issue of human dignity in capital punishment.
  • Federal vs. state jurisdictions concerning the death penalty.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 16). 140 Death Penalty Research Questions & Title Ideas.

"140 Death Penalty Research Questions & Title Ideas." StudyCorgi , 16 Jan. 2022,

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StudyCorgi . "140 Death Penalty Research Questions & Title Ideas." January 16, 2022.

StudyCorgi . 2022. "140 Death Penalty Research Questions & Title Ideas." January 16, 2022.

These essay examples and topics on Death Penalty were carefully selected by the StudyCorgi editorial team. They meet our highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, and fact accuracy. Please ensure you properly reference the materials if you’re using them to write your assignment.

This essay topic collection was updated on January 5, 2024 .

Home / Essay Samples / Social Issues / Death Penalty / The Death Penalty Debate: An Argumentative Analysis

The Death Penalty Debate: An Argumentative Analysis

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  • Topic: Death Penalty , Ethical Dilemma , Moral

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