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 PBS.org .
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.
Death Penalty Argumentative Essay; Topics, Arguments, Outline
Sat Sep 25 2021
Are you stranded about that assignment that requires you to write a death penalty argumentative essay? Don’t panic. This article is your ultimate guide. Read how to present your arguments while outlining your essay.
What Is Death Penalty?
Death penalty essays revolve around writing about murder executions. Although this topic's debate is controversial, its proponents argue that the death penalty offers retribution to the grieving family. They also contend that it costs less than life imprisonment. On the other hand, opponents to the death penalty argue that it gives the government the power to take out human life, which shouldn't be the case.
What Is A Pro Argument For Death Penalty?
A pro argument in a death penalty persuasive essay revolves around dissecting the pros of the punishment. For instance, perpetrators of heinous crimes are executed, and the US Supreme Court upholds the death penalty as a constitution. A statement of this nature is considered a pro argument when discussing death penalties in the US.
What Are Some Arguments For The Death Penalty?
When assigned death penalty argumentative essays, it is prudent to research extensively to identify the topic's schools of thought. Note that in an argumentative essay, you need to pick a side. Some of the arguments in a death penalty argumentative essay include:
1. Legality concerns. Although the US is among 55 countries nationwide to constitute the law, some countries still debate the legitimacy of the death penalty.
2. Life without parole. Opponents to the death penalty law argue that life imprisonment without parole is a more reasonable alternative to killing.
3. Pre-emption of criminal activities. Proponents argue that by killing offenders, people become afraid of crime due to the harsh penalty.
4. Retribution. Arguers of the death penalty law argue that victims' families feel that justice is avenged for their deceased by killing perpetrators.
5. Morality. The debate on ethics has been posed by both religious, secular and legal arms as to how moral the act of killing is when justifying punishment.
How To Write Death Penalty Should Be Abolished Essay
Students must understand that the context of this topic is opposition. Therefore your counterarguments should clearly define why you object to the death penalty law. To help you do so, you must read plenty of information sources to help you come up with the best points.
How To Write A Death Penalty Argumentative Essay Introduction
Catchy, concise and memorable. That’s the way to go when writing a death penalty introduction. The opening determines whether readers will continue reading the essay or not. Therefore, you ought to come with a great way to welcome them into reading the paper. For example:
To the law, Bashir was a criminal. But to his mother, a son, and his girlfriend expressed that he was the sweetest boyfriend she ever had. With him executed, his loved ones felt that the law purported to uphold policies couldn't protect its own. Traumatized and even victimized, how would this family ever get consoled?
By reading the above introduction, your audience feels the need to delve deeper into it. Therefore, the transition to your body should connect seamlessly while bringing out your most vital thoughts against the death penalty.
How To Write A Death Penalty Argumentative Essay Thesis
The thesis statement provides a detailed view of what an essay will be discussing. Therefore, your entire essay will be based on expounding on this argument. Since your essay is argumentative, your thesis proclamation should be argumentative too. It should let readers know the side of the argument your paper stands for. For example;
· Death penalty is a law against humanity.
· How do you dictate that someone deserves death?
· Is the death penalty retribution to victims' families?
How to Write a Death Penalty Argumentative Essay Body
The body of an essay should clearly outline your different arguments. Defined by paragraphs, always ensure to sub-divide your viewpoints in the following manner:
· 1 st paragraph- The most crucial reason for objecting death penalty
· 2 nd paragraph- Another vital argument against death penalty
· 3 rd paragraph- The point with the least impact
Although all points are strong, scholars advocate to align thoughts based on impact. This is because, it is easy to lose readers when your paper is poorly structured and formatted.
How To Write A Death Penalty Argumentative Essay Conclusion
The summary of your death penalty argumentative essay should recap your discussions and a stamp for your thesis statement. Ensure you emphasize it, attempting to make readers see your sense. Finally, as you bring the essay to a close, be sure to leave readers with a parting shot or food for thought statement.
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Argumentative essay on The death penalty
2016, Argumentative essay on The death penalty
charity mae dacut
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
" No crime goes unpunished " ; we are probably familiar with this quote where anyone who is guilty of any committed crime they should be prosecuted for it before the law and be held responsible for the actions that generated such crime. What people are also familiar with is the Universal Deceleration of Human Rights and the number of articles that it calls for, but distinctively the right to liberty, freedom and personal security. This right something that states and their sovereigns, at least most of them, aspire to accomplish in respect to their nationals' own security, well-being and livelihood; because after all what good is a state if it is not able to make its citizens enjoy the type of life that every human being is entitled on the expense of a certain political agenda from the state's part. In this sense, the state in such scenario will be the responsible party for not only distributing these rights but also following up with the citizens' utilization of these rights and making that each one does have the bare minimum of each right; meaning the entire right itself and not to settle with anything less. That said, what if the state in this case was the party that not only did it not allow the enjoyment of the before mentioned right; but also was the reason why that person is no longer alive? Capital punishment or the application of the different methods of death penalty are still part of many states' judiciary systems and are still until the present day categorically practiced based upon the crime committed by the defendant. No matter how heinous a crime maybe or the fact that numerous of these crimes claim other people's lives, but in the process what good and what type of benefit can we justify ourselves with when we are producing the same end result, that is death, through different procedures that fall under the label of " law application " ? Most importantly, how can we distinguish ourselves from these same criminals and why is acceptable to kill in the name of a perceived justice if such death penalty is agreed upon by a judiciary commission, than to reject
Joseph U C H E Anyebe
The issues as touching death penalty is as topical as they come. This Work seeks to address some of those issues and proffer solutions to some of those identified therein
Indian Journal of Legal Philosophy, ISSN:2347-4963,
Since the ancient ages ‘Death Penalty’ has been used as a means of deterring crime and eliminating criminals, but it has always been fraught with issues that have been hotly debated between its supporters and antagonists. In the contemporary era ‘Death Penalty’ faces severe challenges mainly regarding the shadow of arbitrariness looming over its applicability, its ability to be an effective deterrent and the serious issue of innocent people continuously in a danger of being sentenced to capital punishment under questionable circumstances which are still an integral part of this process. Moreover it also faces a continual threat of acting as a tool of retribution under pressure of public opinion and mass media. As such should death penalty be scrapped or should it be allowed to function as a necessary evil or an invisible scepter that keeps the perverse from doing heinous acts is an issue worth consideration.
IKHENOBA, MARCEL JOSEPH
Capital Punishment” or “Death Penalty” is the highest level of punishment awarded in any society or democracy to maintain law and order. But killing another human being in the name of justice is no better than murdering the person. We should focus on eliminating the crime, not the criminal. China is the only country in the world where the practice of the death penalty is still at its peak with over 1000 executions every year, this is accompanied by Saudi Arabia and North Korea getting commuted to life imprisonment and setting up labor camps. Further, United Nations said that killing another human being in the name of justice also kills the fact that we are human. However, we are no one to decide who gets to live and who gets to die. Therefore instead of hanging someone to death, we should adopt a different approach i.e. the reformative approach so that one could improve himself and can live peacefully thereafter. KEYWORDS: Death, penalty, extra-judicial, punishment, criminals, retrospective.
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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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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.
Argumentative essay on death penalty
In 1994, Seth Penalver was sentenced to death for a brutal murder that involved three individuals. There was no actual physical evidence relating him to the crime. The only evidence they had was a video with poor quality in which the murderer’s face could not be seen as well. Penalver remained in custody until 2012, when he was finally acquitted of all charges. (Florida: Seth Penalver, acquitted in 2012) Death Penalty is a crime. The death penalty is unjustifiable, hypocritical and leads to false imprisonment that results in executions that are later discovered to be found.
Seth Penalver case is just among the countless cases that have been recorded by individuals who have been on the verge of death due to poor apprehension tactics in their case. Investigations that have been carried out in numerous states following the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 reveals that there are numerous people who were executed yet innocent. It is inevitable to state that the execution of any innocent individual is morally reprehensible. Despite the effort that has been put into guaranteeing proper investigation and conviction of individuals brought in front of a court, no case is fool proof (Ogletree 18). Thus, there might be the conviction of people into death row yet innocent. Based on this, it is recommendable that all individuals, if found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, are given a sentence of life without parole which is reasonably effective. The sentencing of death to some criminals might put them out of the misery they might have endured in prison.
The manipulation of the judicial system has been evident where in history it is recorded that factors such as race influenced the death sentence in certain states. This is evident in cases whereby if an African American murdered a white man, he or she was likely to be sentenced to death which is unlike if the situation was reversed. In states such as Oregon, there have been numerous accounts of biases whereby the blacks were victimized by being given the death sentence, which would not have been the case if a white man killed an African American. The death row system has also been a significant waste of the taxpayers money whereby in cases such as the 1995 Washington County murder cases an estimated $1.5 million shillings was spent yet only one of the three suspects was sentenced to death (Ellsworth and Samuel 28). An investigation conducted by the Oregon Department of Administrative Service has made statements that the abolishment of the death row system would save the federal government a substantial amount of resources that could be utilized in significant development projects.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that may be rendered against a suspect, it is important to note that this does not necessarily make them guilty. However, the lack of a proper defense, particularly among suspects who do not have the financial resources to hire a good lawyer, are likely to be found guilty and sentenced to death. An analysis of the numerous cases that the death penalty has been reversed there has been overwhelming evidence pointing out poor counsel. A study conducted by the Columbia University argues that an estimated 68% of appeals made by individuals sentenced to death have been reversed due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Based on this understanding, it would be inappropriate to continuously sentence people to death row as there are numerous factors that could contribute to misjudgment.
Despite the numerous arguments that have been presented in support of the abolishment of the death penalty, there continues to exist counter arguments who believe that the death penalty should be upheld. Among the substantial arguments that have been presented is that, the public execution of the said offenders serves a public reminder to criminals that crime is not rewarding. Speculations reveal that an evaluation of the rate of homicide in numerous states significantly dropped after the incorporation of the death sentence (Hood and Carolyn 7). The further argument presented in support of the death penalty states that the execution of a convicted felon guarantees that the killer will never be engaged in the act again. This argument has been supported by the fact that a significant number of people have been killed by convicted felons who managed to get parole or escaped from jail.
Irrespective of the varied arguments that have been presented in support of the death penalty, I believe that everyone has the capacity to change. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to sentence convicted felons to death without giving them an opportunity to express their remorse towards their actions. It is important that other means of dealing with criminals who are engaged in great crimes is developed because the death sentence has seemingly had no positive impact on lowering the crime rate.
- Ellsworth, Phoebe C., and Samuel R. Gross. “Hardening of the attitudes: Americans’ views on the death penalty.” Journal of Social Issues 50.2 (1994): 19-52.
- Hood, Roger, and Carolyn Hoyle. The death penalty: A worldwide perspective. OUP Oxford, 2015.
- Ogletree Jr, Charles J. “Black man’s burden: Race and the death penalty in America.” Or. L. Rev. 81 (2002): 15.
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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.
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Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty: an Argumentative Essay
Executing a criminal who has committed a heinous crime is a way for society to find closure and justice. Some argue that the death penalty is a necessary punishment for murderers, as it serves as a deterrent and ensures that the perpetrator will never have the opportunity to harm others again. On the other hand, there are those who believe that capital punishment is a form of revenge and goes against human rights. This essay will present arguments for and against the death penalty, offering insight into both perspectives.
On the other hand, critics of the death penalty argue that there is no credible statistical evidence to support the claim that it serves as a deterrent. They believe that executing criminals is not the right thing to do, as it goes against the fundamental human rights. By taking the life of a convicted murderer, society stoops to the same level as the criminal, seeking revenge rather than justice. Furthermore, opponents of capital punishment argue that innocent people have been wrongfully executed in the past, and there is always a risk of executing an innocent person in the future.
An example that articulates the criticism towards the death penalty is the case of Willie Fagan. Fagan, who was 17 years old at the time of the crime, was sentenced to death row for a murder he allegedly committed. After spending three years on death row, it was discovered that Fagan was innocent and had been wrongfully convicted. This case highlights the flaws in the system and the risk of executing innocent individuals.
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Pros and cons of the death penalty, pros of the death penalty.
- Deterrent: Supporters argue that the death penalty acts as a deterrent, preventing potential criminals from committing serious crimes like murder.
- Justice: Many people believe that executing someone who has taken the life of another is a just punishment and serves as a form of revenge for the victim and their family.
- Cost: Proponents cite the expenses involved in keeping criminals on death row, arguing that it is more cost-effective to carry out executions.
- Solid legal system: The death penalty requires multiple levels of review, ensuring that due process is followed and reducing the chances of an innocent person being wrongly convicted and executed.
- Reaffirming societal values: Some argue that the death penalty reinforces the idea that certain actions, like murder, are unacceptable in society.
- Custom and tradition: In some countries, the death penalty has been a long-standing practice deeply rooted in historical, cultural, and religious customs.
Cons of the Death Penalty
- Inhumane punishment: Opponents argue that the death penalty violates the right to life and is a cruel and inhumane punishment.
- Potential for error: The justice system is not infallible, and there is always a risk of convicting and executing innocent individuals.
- Moral and ethical concerns: Many people question the morality of taking a life as a form of punishment, believing it goes against the principles of human rights.
- Ineffective deterrence: Critics argue that there is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty actually deters crime more effectively than other forms of punishment.
- Racial and socioeconomic disparities: Studies have shown that there are notable racial and socioeconomic disparities in the application of the death penalty, raising concerns about unfairness and injustice.
- Loss of potential: By executing someone, society loses the opportunity for rehabilitation and potential contributions that the individual might have made if given the chance.
It is important to approach the topic of the death penalty with an open mind, weighing the arguments from both sides. The question of whether to maintain or abolish the death penalty is a complex and contentious one, with strong opinions on either side. Society must evaluate the evidence, analyze the data, and engage in thoughtful discussions to determine the most just and ethical way forward.
An Argumentative Essay on Capital Punishment
On the other hand, opponents of the death penalty highlight the fact that it is an irreversible form of punishment that can lead to the execution of innocent individuals. They argue that no justice system is perfect, and there have been cases where innocent people have been sentenced to death. A famous example is the case of Willie Francis, a 17-year-old African American who was wrongly executed in 1947. The argument is further supported by the expense and time-consuming nature of capital punishment cases. According to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center, the cost of the death penalty trials and appeals is significantly higher compared to cases without the death penalty involved, leading to the criticism that this expense could be better used to support other projects, such as education and crime prevention.
It is crucial to approach the death penalty debate with an open mind, considering all the different perspectives and potential consequences. Ultimately, the goal should be to find the most just and humane way to maintain social order and protect the rights of all individuals.
The Controversial Debate Surrounding the Death Penalty
Advocates of the death penalty argue that it serves as a deterrent and prevents potential criminals from committing heinous crimes. They believe that executing criminals serves as a form of revenge for the victims and their families who have suffered at the hands of these individuals. They argue that it is just and fair to ensure that those who have taken innocent lives lose their own as punishment for their actions. Supporters of the death penalty cite examples of serial killers and other violent criminals who have been executed, suggesting that justice has been served.
On the other hand, opponents of capital punishment argue that it goes against the fundamental human rights and promotes a culture of violence. They state that the death penalty is an irreversible punishment, and there have been cases where innocent people have been wrongly sentenced to death. The work of researchers like Frank R. Baumgartner and colleagues at the University of North Carolina and Austin Sarat at Amherst College has shed light on the flaws and injustices in America’s capital punishment system. The case of Willie Thompson in Texas, for example, articulates the criticism of the death penalty and highlights the problems in the execution process.
It is important to consider the data and arguments presented by both sides when forming an opinion on the death penalty. While some argue that it provides closure and justice for society, others believe that it is a form of state-sanctioned murder. The current trend seems to be shifting towards a more nuanced view, with some countries and states abolishing or putting a moratorium on executions.
The debate surrounding the death penalty is a complex and multifaceted one, and the arguments on both sides can be compelling. It is crucial to take into account the potential for human error, the cost of executions, and the impact on society when discussing the effectiveness and morality of capital punishment. The execution of someone’s life is not something that can be taken lightly, and the decision to carry out the death penalty should be well-informed and based on credible evidence and solid reasoning.
Arguments in Favor of the Death Penalty
In a speech given at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, Kristen M. Thompson stated, “An analysis of historical and current data shows that executions have indeed been a deterrent for some like-minded individuals.” This supports the argument that the death penalty is necessary to maintain order and safety in society.
Furthermore, opponents of the death penalty cite closure as a reason to support capital punishment. When a victim’s family sees justice being served, they may find solace and closure in knowing that the murderer has been held accountable for their actions. The death penalty provides a sense of closure and finality that other forms of punishment may not be able to achieve.
Moreover, the argument of injustice has been addressed by supporters of the death penalty. They believe that in most cases, the system works and innocent people are not wrongly executed. According to a project carried out by ProPublica, the rate of innocent people being executed is very low, at around 0.27%. This data shows that the justice system is effective in identifying the guilty and protecting the innocent.
In addition, the death penalty is seen as a way to ensure that the most heinous criminals receive the appropriate punishment for their crimes. Some individuals commit acts of such brutality and inhumanity that they deserve the ultimate penalty. For example, murderers who have killed multiple innocent people or those who have committed crimes against humanity cannot be allowed to live in society.
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Arguments Against the Death Penalty
One of the main arguments against the death penalty is the statistical evidence that suggests it does not act as an effective deterrent against crime. Many opponents of capital punishment argue that there is no credible evidence to support the claim that executions reduce the number of murders. In fact, some studies have shown that states without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those that do. This raises the question of whether the death penalty serves as a meaningful deterrent to potential criminals.
Another argument against the death penalty is the cost and expenses associated with carrying out executions. Opponents argue that it is more expensive to execute a criminal than to keep them incarcerated for life. The lengthy appeal process, specialized legal representation, and other related expenses can be significant burdens on the court system and taxpayers.
The Inhumane Nature of the Death Penalty
The risk of wrongful executions.
A significant concern raised by opponents of the death penalty is the potential for executing innocent individuals. The criminal justice system is not infallible and has seen numerous cases of wrongful convictions. The possibility of someone being sentenced to death and ultimately killed for a crime they did not commit is a grave injustice. As Willie Thompson, a former death row inmate in Ohio, stated, “When you are executing someone for a crime that they didn’t do, you are doing the same thing that they did – taking an innocent life out.”
Moreover, the need for justice should not be equated with the desire for revenge. Supporters of the death penalty often argue that it provides closure to the families of murder victims. However, revenge should not be the primary goal of the justice system. Rather, it should aim to rehabilitate, protect society, and seek alternatives to violence and death as punishments for the most heinous crimes.
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“There Is No Such Thing As Closure on Death Row”
Innocent or guilty, death row inmates are still human beings. They have families, emotions, and rights. Therefore, the act of executing someone should not be taken lightly. The current system has seen cases of innocent individuals being wrongly sentenced to death. This raises a serious question about the reliability and accuracy of the justice system. For example, Willie Darden, a man executed in Florida in 1988, was later found to be innocent based on new evidence.
The opinion of even the most like-minded individuals can differ when it comes to the death penalty. Even the superintendent of Colorado’s only maximum-security prison, who has witnessed multiple executions, opposes the death penalty. In a speech given at a university, he stated, “We know that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t deter crime. In fact, it perpetuates the cycle of violence.” This insight, coming from someone directly involved in the execution process, provides a unique analysis of the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
Furthermore, the statistical evidence does not support the argument that the death penalty is a deterrent. Numerous studies have shown no significant difference in murder rates between states that have the death penalty and those that do not. In fact, the states with the highest murder rates often have the death penalty in place. This raises the question of whether executions have any real impact on reducing violent crimes.
Moreover, the practices and methods used in carrying out executions have raised concerns about the infringement of human rights. The use of lethal injection, for example, has faced numerous controversies due to the potential for a painful and slow death. This goes against the principle of ensuring a humane punishment.
What is the death penalty?
The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a legal process where a person is punished by execution for committing a serious crime.
What are the arguments for the death penalty?
Proponents of the death penalty argue that it serves as a deterrent to crime, provides closure to the victims’ families, and ensures justice for heinous crimes.
What are the arguments against the death penalty?
Opponents of the death penalty argue that it violates the right to life, is irreversible and can lead to the execution of innocent individuals, and that it is disproportionately applied to minorities and those with limited financial resources.
Is the death penalty effective as a deterrent?
The effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent is a matter of debate. Some studies suggest a correlation between the use of capital punishment and lower crime rates, while others argue that other factors contribute more significantly to crime prevention.
Is the death penalty morally justified?
The moral justification of the death penalty is a highly subjective and contentious issue. Supporters argue that it is justified in cases of heinous crimes, while opponents believe that it violates the inherent value of human life and that rehabilitation and restorative justice should be prioritized.
The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is a government-sanctioned practice where a person found guilty of a serious crime is sentenced to death.
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Argumentative Essay on Death Penalty
Social Issues , Law, Crime & Punishment
Human Rights , Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice , Judiciary
Death Penalty , Punishment , Types of Human Rights
- Words: 1992 (4 pages)
Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Table of Contents
Introduction, historical background of death penalty, the death penalty today, arguments for the death penalty, death penalty as a deterrence, arguments against the death penalty, the need to abolish the capital penalty.
- Death Penalty Curriculum “A just society requires the death penalty for the taking of a life: Agree”, Michigan State University http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/node/10
- Death Penalty Information Center, “Discussion of Recent Deterrence Studies”, Berkeley Electronic Press http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/discussion-recent-deterrence-studies
- Death Penalty Information Center, “Discussion of Recent Deterrence Studies”, Ohio State Journal http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/discussion-recent-deterrence-studies
- George E. Pataki, “Death penalty is a deterrent”, USA Today http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/Articles/Pataki.htm
- Unknown Author, “RALPH BAZE AND THOMAS C. BOWLING, Petitionersv. JOHN D. REES, COMMISSIONER, KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL”. United States Supreme Court. 2008, 1
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Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Death Penalty — Against the Death Penalty: A Persuasive Argument for Abolition
Against The Death Penalty: a Persuasive Argument for Abolition
- Categories: Capital Punishment Death Penalty
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Published: Mar 18, 2021
Words: 919 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read
- Dieter, R. C. (2010). The death penalty in decline: From error to arbitrariness. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99(3), 1005-1032.
- National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. (n.d.). Innocence and the death penalty. Retrieved from https://www.ncadp.org/pages/innocence
- National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. (n.d.). Costs of the death penalty. Retrieved from https://www.ncadp.org/pages/costs
- Baumgartner, F. R., De Boef, S., & Boydstun, A. E. (2008). The decline of the death penalty and the discovery of innocence. Cambridge University Press.
- Bedau, H. A., & Cassell, P. G. (Eds.). (2004). Debating the death penalty: Should America have capital punishment? Oxford University Press.
- Schabas, W. A. (2013). The abolition of the death penalty in international law. Cambridge University Press.
- Benjet, C., González-Rodríguez, R., Orellana, Y., Borges, G., & Medina-Mora, M. E. (2007). Descriptive epidemiology of homicide in Mexico: 1990-1999. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 85(5), 364-371.
- Bright, S. H. (2009). Counsel for the poor: The death penalty not for the worst crime but for the worst lawyer. Yale Law Journal, 103(8), 1835-1882.
- Shepherd, J. M. (2017). Serial killers: Evolution, antisocial personality disorder and psychological interventions. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 28(6), 723-740.
- Poveda, T. (2014). The death penalty in Latin America: A comparative analysis of the struggle for abolition in Mexico and Colombia. Journal of Latin American Studies, 46(4), 755-781.
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Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty Essay
The use of death penalty or capital punishment is one of the most controversial issues in Social Science studies. Scholars in social sciences are divided on whether or not the use of death penalty as a mean of punishing offenders is justifiable. One group of the scholars contend that death penalty is the most effective form of punishment for the criminals who have committed heinous crimes like murder and robbery with violence (Macdonald, 88). The other group of scholars, on the other hand, argue that death penalty is not an effective method of punishing the offenders and that the punishment does not lead to the intended objectives. A review of these arguments in favour of and against death penalty shows that death penalty is, indeed, an efficacious mean of punishing criminals guilty of serious and heinous crimes. This paper, therefore, evaluates the debates in favour of and against capital punishment and presents a coherent and logical debate in favour of death punishment. In the presentation of the arguments in favour of death penalty, Stephen Toulmin’s model of argumentation is applied (Stephen Toulmin, online). The application of the Toulmin’s model of argumentation helps in presenting the arguments in a coherent and logical manner.
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There are three main arguments in support of death penalty as an effective mean of punishing the offenders who are guilty of crimes of high magnitude. The first argument is based on the claim that death penalty deters crime. Death penalty as a deterrent mean to further commission of crime is one of the main reasons why death penalty is practiced in many jurisdictions. As a mean of punishing the criminals for their offences, death penalty deters further commission of crime in two ways.
In the first way, by killing the offenders of crimes of high magnitude, for instance a murderer, the murderer will have no further opportunity to commit the crime again (Maulsby, 28). This in effect means that the crimes of murder will drastically reduce in that particular area. Although there are some studies that tend to refute this fact, there are, however numerous studies that corroborate this fact. For instance in the study by Erhlich, carried out in USA in an attempt to find out whether, really, capital punishments lead to reduction in crime rate, it was found that, there is, indeed, a strong correlation between death penalty and the rate of crimes, especially crimes of high magnitude like murder ( Arguments for and against Death Penalty, online). The study showed a significant reduction in crime, in places where death penalty is practiced as compared to other places where different means of punishing such criminals is practiced. But, apart from the studies that tend to support the view that death penalty can lead to reduction in crime, it is also, a matter of common sense that, when the people who are committing crimes are abolished or killed, then the rate of crimes will significantly reduce because they will not have another opportunity to commit the crimes.
The second reason why death penalty leads to reduction in crime is due to the fact that by killing the offenders of serious crimes, other people with the intent to kill will be afraid of doing so for fear of the consequences that would befall them(Goel, 2008). People, naturally, fear severe punishments, especially death, and so, when the law prescribes death penalty for serious crimes, then many people, utterly out of fear for the death, will refrain from committing such crimes. Although there are some studies contradicting this fact, arguing that death penalty does not deter criminals from committing crimes( Arguments for and Against Death Penalty, online) there are contrary studies supporting the view that death penalty instils fear among the criminals and, therefore, prevents them from committing crimes. But it is a fact that some people commit crimes due to psychological problems and for these kinds of people, death penalty cannot prevent them from committing crimes because, they commit crimes out of uncontrollable strong psychological impulse. But it is not true that all people who commit crimes do so out of psychological disorder. This therefore shows that use of death penalty as a mean of punishing the criminals can lead to reduction of crimes.
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The third reason why death penalty can act as a deterrent, is due to the fact by killing criminals, you break the chain of crimes. It is a fact that some criminals have organised themselves into an elaborate network and that operates from a central command point. These groups of organised criminals also do recruitments for new members. In order to effectively dismantle such criminal organisations, it is necessary to eliminate, through killing, the think tanks and the commanders of such criminal gangs. By dismantling such organised criminals, through killing, you will have broken the chain of crimes and by that; the killing of the criminals will have deterred more crimes from being committed.
Apart from deterrence, the second ground on which death penalty can be justified is on the retribution ground. The proponents of this position hold that criminals deserve to be punished because they deserve punishment. By committing crimes, retribution theory of justice holds, the criminals are inviting upon themselves punishment that is proportionate to the crime that they commit (Bowers, 4). Punishing the criminals therefore on this ground is justifiable since it is giving the offenders their just and fair deserts. On this ground, therefore, death penalty is a just and fair to the criminals who have committed serious crimes like murder or robbery with violence. There are two reasons to support this position.
First, when criminals commit felony (Serious crimes like murder), they do so freely without compulsion from anybody, otherwise the criminals wouldn’t be held culpable for their actions. This means that the person is free either to commit the offence or not to commit it. Secondly, for the criminal to be regarded as responsible for their actions, the criminal must be mentally sound, they shouldn’t be insane. This means that the criminal knew very well of the consequences of their actions, including the consequence of them being punished for their crimes. But the punishments that they should be subjected to should be proportionate to the magnitude of the crimes that they commit, the higher the crime in magnitude the higher the punishment.
The above facts mean that by choosing to commit crime, the criminals have freely, without compulsion and with full knowledge of the consequences, chosen to commit crime, and therefore this means that they have freely chosen to be punished for their crimes. And with death penalty being the most severe form of punishment that one can be subjected to, the offenders who commit serious crimes that threaten or take away the lives of other people should be killed. For example, a serial murderer should be killed because by killing other people deliberately, they should also be killed because by killing other people, they are wishing, as it were, to be also killed. This is the only punishment that befits this kind of crimes. While some people would argue that life imprisonment without any possibility of parole is the harshest type of punishment compared with death penalty, death penalty is the punishment that is proportionate to the punishment of taking away another person’s life. Also, death punishment is the most feared form of punishment and this shows that it is, indeed, the most severe and the most effective form of punishment for the offenders of serious crimes.
This position that criminals commit crime deliberately and with full knowledge of the consequences for their crimes is severely criticized by the people who oppose death penalty as a form of punishment for the offenders guilty of serious crimes. In their arguments, they contend that it is not true that people who commit crimes do so willingly, and by so doing, they wish upon themselves the bad consequences of their actions (crimes) to befall them. This group or scholars, who mainly understand crime as having originated from the society, or as being some form of psychological disorder, argue that criminals do not cause crime willingly and intentionally. And for this reason, they contend that the primary reason for punishing criminals should be to reform them but not to punish them for the sake of their actions. This group of scholars, therefore, are greatly opposed to the use of death penalty as a form of punishment for the criminals who commit crimes of highest magnitude.
But a critical look at this position that criminals should not be punished because of their crimes shows that the position is wrong and misleading. The only group of people who can be claimed to commit crimes unintentionally and without knowledge of the consequences for their actions are the mentally incapacitated criminals. But in all the jurisdictions of the world, this concern has been taken care of by the principle of mens rea (The Intention to commit a wrongful act, online). But for the mentally sound criminals, who commit crime without any form of compulsion, they should account for their crimes and they should be punished for the crimes. This will help in making people responsible and will rid the society of the criminals.
The second reason to support death penalty on retribution ground is that death penalty restores the moral balance that has been disturbed by the felonious crimes (Burleigh, chapter 1). All crimes bring about a certain moral imbalance, and this therefore calls for a restoration of the disturbed moral balance. This can be achieved through appropriate punishment that is proportionate to the crime committed. And for this reason, some severe crimes like murder, which is actually the severest form of crime, requires the most severe form of punishment. And since death penalty is the most dreaded form of punishment, death penalty is the most severe form of punishment. Death penalty, therefore, is an effective form of punishment for the serious crimes. Unless this form of punishment is administered for the serious crimes that threaten other human beings life, the moral imbalance that is brought about by crimes of this sort will remain uncorrected. For instance, when a terrorist kills innocent people for religious or any other reason, moral balance is affected by the injustice that the terrorist has done to the innocent people. To counter or to assuage this injustice, the terrorist also must be killed. And by the killing of the terrorist, moral balance that had been offset by the terrorist’s offences will be restored. Death penalty, therefore, is a necessary and just form of punishment.
The main criticism that is directed against this position is that death penalty does not serve any good purpose, since it does neither lead to the reform of the criminal nor does it give back /pay back to the offended what the offender had deprived of them ( Bedau, online). For this reason, the anti-death penalty proponents contend that death penalty is an ineffective form of punishment, and that it does not lead to the restoration of the moral balance that had been offset by the criminal acts. There are scholars who contend that death penalty, actually, leads to increase in crime in the society (Ross, 626). The view that death penalty brings about restoration of the moral balance is also criticised on the ground that, it is very difficult to determine exactly the kind of punishment that would be proportionate to the crime committed. Owing to this fact, the anti-death penalty proponents argue that death penalty doesn’t in any way bring about restoration of justice. It is also claimed that due to human errors and inability to do thorough investigations and to know exactly whether a person is guilty for an offence of high magnitude or not, some innocent people have been executed and for this reason, death penalty in such a case doesn’t bring about any restoration of justice. Hence, it is argued that death penalty should be abolished.
But, although, as a matter of fact it is quite difficult to determine precisely the exact amount of punishment that would match the crime committed and thus restore the moral balance that has been offset by the crime, we can, however, approximate the amount of punishment that would be proportionate to the crime committed. And in some instances like in the case of murder, it is possible to determine the exact amount of punishment that would be proportionate to the crime committed. In the case of murder, the murderer is also executed just as they murdered other people. And this, of course, will bring about the restoration of justice. And on the claim that death penalty is a useless form of punishment because it doesn’t bring about reformation of the criminal or restoration of justice, I would respond that the purpose of punishment is not merely to bring about reformation of the criminal. While indeed the restoration of the offender is one of the main objectives of punishing criminals, it is, however, not the only aim of punishing the offenders. And for this reason, death penalty shouldn’t be discarded only because it does not bring about reformation of the offender. Death penalty, therefore, should be practiced for it brings about restoration of justice, although, sometimes it is hard to determine with exactness the correct form or amount of punishment that would be proportionate to the crime committed. On human error and execution of innocent people, thorough investigations should be done, and there should be enough evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, before holding a person culpable of a crime deserving death penalty as its punishment.
The third reason why death penalty should be practiced is that it brings about closure and vindication for the offender’s family. Once a member of a family commits a crime, all the other members of the family feel psychologically disturbed by the misconduct of one of their member, this psychological torture continues till when the whole issue is brought to a closure. But some form of punishments takes a very long time before the issue is brought to a closure. For instance in life imprisonment, the offender is imprisoned for life, and the offender undergoes sufferings throughout their lives. This kind of punishment haunts the members of the offender family till when the offender dies. But with death penalty, the whole matter is brought to closer when the offender is executed. The family, although, will be greatly affected psychologically by the execution of one of their member, the psychological torture, however, will last for a short time as compared to the lifelong torture that they would have to undergo in case of life imprisonment. This therefore shows that in terms of saving the other members of the family from the embarrassment and the psychological torture that goes with one of their member being prosecuted and punished for their wrong doing, death penalty is far better than life imprisonment for in death penalty the whole matter is brought to closure within a very short time.
One of the obvious criticism that would be levelled against this point is that death penalty brings about far more psychological torture and shame to the members of the executed person’s family, as compared to the life imprisonment. Critics would contend that execution of an offender brings about a permanent shame and psychological torture to the members of the offender’s family, as compared to life imprisonment of one of their family member.
A critical look at these two opposing positions shows that in terms of bringing vindication and closer of the whole matter to the family members of the offender, death penalty is far better as compared to life imprisonment. While it is true that death penalty will lead to an awful psychological torture to the family members of the offender, the executed criminal, the psychological torture will, nonetheless, not be life long as the critics of death penalty would argue, but it will wane away after some time. But in case of life imprisonment, the shame and the psychological torture for a having one member of a family in prison throughout their lives, will be a lifelong experience. This is because the memory and the futile hope that somehow one day in future their imprisoned family member will be set free, keeps torturing them throughout their lives. And for this reason, death penalty should be practiced for it brings abound vindication and closer of the matter to the members of the offender’s family.
In conclusion, we can say that, despite the fact that death penalty has a number of short comings, its advantages, however, far outweighs its disadvantages. Death penalty helps to maintain law and order in the society by serving as a lesson and instilling fear upon the potential criminals. Death penalty also restores the moral balance that has been offset by the commission of crime. Lastly, death penalty brings about closure and vindication to the family members of the offender. And in the light of these far reaching advantages, death penalty should be practiced as an effective mean of punishing the offenders who are guilty of serious crimes.
Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty.Web. http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/arguments/arguments.PDF Bedau, H. The Case Against Death Penalty. Web.
Bowers, D.C. Life Imprisonment versus Death Penalty. USA: Nashville: Allied Printing Trading Council, 1913. Web. Google Books.
Burleigh, C.C. Thoughts on Capital Punishment.USA: Philadelphia, 1945. Web. Google books.
Goel, V. ‘’Capital Punishment: A human Right Case Study and Jurisprudence’’. International NGO journal vol.3 (9), pp. 152-161, September 2008.
Macdonald, A. ‘’Death Penalty and Homicide’’, July 1, 1910. Vol.16. USA: The American Journal of Sociology.
Maulsby, D. ‘’ The Death Penalty’’ February 1, 1893. Vol. 55. USA: American Advocates of Peace. Web. Google Books. Mens rea. Web. https://www.usadojo.com/articles/kapap/mens-rea.htm
Ross, W. ‘’The Death Penalty: Reasons For its abolition’’, Dec.1, 1905.Vol. 11. USA: The V Virginia Law Registrar. Stephen Toulmin. Web. http://www.stephentoulmin.com/
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The pros and cons of the death penalty
Despite global progress towards abolition, public opinion remains divided as executions increase
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Pro: public support
Con: wrongful execution risk, pro: could reduce crime, con: not a deterrent, pro: sense of retribution, con: extremely expensive.
The number of executions is rising around the world, even as many countries move towards abolishing or limiting the use of capital punishment.
According to the latest figures from Amnesty International – compiled from official statistics, media reports and information passed on from individuals sentenced to death – there were 883 executions worldwide in 2022. This total excludes China, which does not release details of those killed by the state but is believed to execute thousands of people a year. The global figure is up 53% from 2021 and is the highest number since 2017.
Amnesty said that at the end of 2022 there were more than 28,000 people under sentence of death in 52 countries.
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In the past half century capital punishment has increasingly been viewed as a human-rights issue. More than 120 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, according to The Death Penalty Project . Now, executions are most commonly carried out in China, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (although there is little reliable data for countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea and Syria).
Although use of the death penalty is gradually declining in the US, a 2021 survey by Gallup found a majority of Americans (54%) said they were "in favour of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder".
In France, which abolished death by guillotine only in 1981, presidential frontrunner Marine Le Pen has vowed to hold a referendum on restoring capital punishment, which is backed by a huge majority of her supporters .
A YouGov poll in 2022 found 40% of Britons were still in favour of the death penalty, with Conservative voters far more likely to support it (58%), and those aged over 65 more than twice as likely as those aged 18-24.
One of the most "compelling forces" driving worldwide opinions against the death penalty has been "the increasing recognition of the potential for error in its use", wrote criminology professor Carolyn Hoyle and Saul Lehrfreund, co-director of the London-based NGO The Death Penalty Project, in a blog for the University of Oxford’s Death Penalty Research Unit . With justice systems prone to error, bias and coercion, wrongful executions are, in fact, "inevitable".
Since 1993, Washington-based non-profit organisation The Death Penalty Information Center has been tracking wrongful executions in the US, going back to the Supreme Court ruling in 1972. In a 2021 report, "The Innocence Epidemic", it concluded that at least 185 people had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death since 1972. Nearly 70% of those cases involved "official misconduct by police, prosecutors or other government officials" – more so in cases involving a defendant of colour.
"The death penalty has always been, and continues to be, disproportionately wielded against black people and other people of colour," explained the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers , regarding the US. As of 2019, "black and Hispanic people represent 31% of the US population, but 53% of death-row inmates".
The "commonest justification" for the death penalty is that it functions as a "unique deterrent" for others, wrote Lehrfreund.
"Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed," Lee Anderson, the former Tory party deputy chairman, told The Spectator last year, backing calls to bring back the death penalty in Britain. A subsequent poll by Omnisis found 43% of British respondents agreed capital punishment would be an effective deterrent.
"When the UK first suspended the death penalty in 1965, many hoped that removing violence from the top end of justice would trickle down through society, making us more civilised," wrote Tim Stanley in The Telegraph . "Instead, crime went up, and today, as predators exploit our liberality, a state without the death penalty resembles a lion tamer without a whip."
The death penalty has "no deterrent effect", said the American Civil Liberties Union . "Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research."
Most murders are committed either in the heat of passion, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or because of mental illness. The few murderers who plan their crimes "intend and expect to avoid punishment altogether by not getting caught".
The Death Penalty Project concluded after a review of multiple studies that capital punishment "does not deter murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat or application of life imprisonment". In 2021, the Human Rights Council cited studies which showed that some member states that had abolished the death penalty saw their murder rates stay the same, or even decline.
Of the "four major justifications for punishment" – deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation and retribution – it is the last of these that has "often been scorned by academics and judges", said Robert Blecker, a professor emeritus at New York Law School, in The New York Times . But "ultimately, it provides capital punishment with its only truly moral foundation".
Supporters often point to religious justification based on the Bible, citing "an eye for an eye". But retribution is "not simply revenge", said Blecker. "Revenge may be limitless and misdirected at the undeserving, as with collective punishment. Retribution, on the other hand, can help restore a moral balance. It demands that punishment must be limited and proportional."
Many supporters of the death penalty argue that it is more cost-effective than feeding and housing an inmate for the whole of a life-without-parole sentence . But in countries with arduous appeals processes and strong human-rights organisations, the death penalty is – counterintuitively – far more expensive than imprisonment for life.
More than a dozen US states found in 2007 that death penalty cases were up to 10 times more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases. That year, New Jersey became the first state to ban executions for reasons of "time and money", said NBC News .
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Harriet Marsden is a writer for The Week, mostly covering UK and global news and politics. Before joining the site, she was a freelance journalist for seven years, specialising in social affairs, gender equality and culture. She worked for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, and regularly contributed articles to The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, Tortoise Media and Metro, as well as appearing on BBC Radio London, Times Radio and “Woman’s Hour”. She has a master’s in international journalism from City University, London, and was awarded the "journalist-at-large" fellowship by the Local Trust charity in 2021.
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Published on: Jan 27, 2023
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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?
Youâre in luck â weâve 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 youâre 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.
Writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty doesnât have to be overwhelming. With these examples and tips, you can be sure to write an essay that will impress your teacher.
Whether itâs 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!
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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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Essay: Arguments against the Death Penalty
- Essay: Arguments against the Death…
The idea of putting another human to death is hard to completely fathom. The physical mechanics involved in the act of execution are easy to grasp, but the emotions involved in carrying out a death sentence on another person, regardless of how much they deserve it, is beyond my own understanding. However, this act is sometimes necessary and it is our responsibility as a society to see that it is done. Opponents of capital punishment have basically four arguments.
The first is that there is a possibility of error. However, the chance that there might be an error is separate from the issue of whether the death penalty can be justified or not. If an error does occur, and an innocent person is executed, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty.
Furthermore, most activities in our world, in which humans are involved, possess a possibility of injury or death. Construction, sports, driving, and air travel all offer the possibility of accidental death even though the highest levels of precautions are taken.
These activities continue to take place and continue to occasionally take human lives, because we have all decided, as a society, that the advantages outweigh the unintended loss. We have also decided that the advantages of having dangerous murderers removed from our society outweigh the losses of the offender.
The second argument against capital punishment is that it is unfair in its administration. Statistics show that the poor and minorities are more likely to receive the death penalty. Once again, this is a separate issue.
It can’t be disputed sadly, the rich are more likely to get off with a lesser sentence, and this bias is wrong. However, this is yet another problem with our current court system. The racial and economic bias is not a valid argument against the death penalty. It is an argument against the courts and their unfair system of sentencing.
The third argument is actually a rebuttal to a claim made by some supporters of the death penalty. The claim is that the threat of capital punishment reduces violent crimes. Opponents of the death penalty do not agree and have a valid argument when they say, “The claims that capital punishment reduces violent crime is inconclusive and certainly not proven.”
The fourth argument is that the length of stay on death row, with its endless appeals, delays, technicalities, and retrials, keep a person waiting for death for years on end. It is both cruel and costly. This is the least credible argument against capital punishment. The main cause of such inefficiencies is the appeals process, which allows capital cases to bounce back and forth between state and federal courts for years on end.
If supporting a death row inmate for the rest their life costs less than putting them to death, and ending their financial burden on society, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty. As for the additional argument, that making a prisoner wait for years to be executed is cruel, then would not waiting for death in prison for the rest of your life be just as cruel, as in the case of life imprisonment without parole.
Many Americans will tell you why they are in favor of the death penalty. It is what they deserve. It prevents them from ever murdering again. It removes the burden from taxpayers. We all live in a society with the same basic rights and guarantees. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with equal opportunities.
This is the basis of our society. It is the foundation on which everything else is built upon. When someone willfully and flagrantly attacks this foundation by murdering another, robbing them of all they are, and all they will ever be, then that person can no longer be a part of this society. The only method that completely separates cold blooded murderers from our society is the death penalty.
As the 20th century comes to a close, it is evident that our justice system is in need of reform. This reform will shape the future of our country, and we cannot jump to quick solutions such as the elimination of the death penalty. As of now, the majority of American supports the death penalty as an effective solution of punishment.
“An eye for an eye,” is what some Americans would say concerning the death penalty. Supporters of the death penalty ask the question, “Why should I, an honest hardworking taxpayer, have to pay to support a murderer for the rest of their natural life? Why not execute them and save society the cost of their keep?” Many Americans believe that the death penalty is wrong. However, it seems obvious to some Americans that the death penalty is a just and proper way to handle convicted murderers.
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Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2023 | Creative Commons 4.0
The title is Arguments against the Death Penalty yet the author spent the whole time counterclaiming any arguments brought up rather than explaining the logistics behind the arguments. No side was taken in this essay however the title clearly states that the essay should be on arguments against.
Who is the Author?
I agree with y’all the death penalty is wrong because why make them die really quick when you can make them suffer for what they did?
I disagree entirely
I agree with you!
Are you Gonna pay for them to be alive then? We are wasting money that could be spent helping the homeless or retired vetrans.
more money is spent on actually executing prisoners ? so how that makes any sense i dont know?
Whatever henious crime one does,we are not uncivilised and barbaric to take the lives of others.If we ought to give them death sentence as punishment,then what distinguishes us from the criminals?Also I don’t think that giving death sentence would deter the other criminals from doing the same and reduce the number of crimes.If insecurity is the major issue behind demanding capital punishment,then the best solution is framing the punishment in such a way that the culprit would never be a threat to the society,not hanging to death.
what distinguishes us from murderers is that we ONLY kill when necessary, if for example there was a serial killer arrested a death penalty is necessary because 1. if said killer ever breaks out they could kill many more people, and 2. the government is already pouring enough money into the prisons right now. more people means more money needed. money that could go to our military or police.
now there is also (as said above) problems with the current situation in the courts, a rich man will get a great lawyer while a poor man gets the best they can afford, though the reasoning behind the long wait I do understand, it is to reduce the likelihood of an innocent man or woman from being put to death.
by the way we don’t hang people anymore we give them painless deaths
also, in response to your idea of a different punishment to stop a criminal from committing crime again do YOU have any ideas because if you do I please post them. I AM willing to have a actual debate if you are willing to calmly do so.
It’s been proven that it costs more to put a prisoner to death by death penalty than letting them sit in jail for the rest of their life. The death penalty is funded by the taxes we pay to the government. As a taxpayer, i don’t want to spend extra money that i make to put a murdered etc. to death when they could sit in jail for the rest of their life and this is just as much punishment for them. They have time to think about their actions and hopefully get their mind right, get some help, and get right with God or whatever faith they believe in if they do. Some cases may be acceptable for the death penalty, but it should be the absolute worse ones, or if the prisoner breaks out as stated before.
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The Death Penalty Essay
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Death Penalty should be Legalized Argumentative Essay
- Author Kimberly Ball
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What is death penalty exactly and why are people so passionate about deciding whether it is acceptable or not? Death penalty is a sentence or punishment of death by execution for those, who commit really serious crimes, for example murder, genocide, destruction of aircraft or other feats resulting in death. These crimes can be unforgivable for many of us. That is why a lot of people believe that death penalty should be legalized everywhere in the world, not just certain parts of it.
Death penalty has been an uncomfortable but important issue for thousands of years. People, who support the idea of it, usually start with the basic fact, that not so long ago, capital punishment was accepted all over the United States. Supporters may also say that the very small chance of executing the wrong person is balanced by the benefits of the other cases, where it leads to real justice. Besides, exactly for this reason they use this punishment rarely, it can be substituted by a sentence of life in prison.
Another aspect is the list of major crimes. When a serial killer is arrested, there is a number of retributions which can be used against him/her. Of course, everybody agrees that they need to get punishment, but the form of it can cause huge contention between people. The first thought is that we need to put them behind bars, and then decide about what will come next. A primary concern is not to let the criminal kill again. They already have a sufficient amount of blood on their hands. Sometimes the best solution occurs to be the worst of all, capital punishment. We also often hear the sentence “Do not judge each other.” However, that is impossible. Just think about the first impressions when we look at a person, or the task of the courts all around the world. Besides, serial killers will probably kill again, that is clear for most of us, because they have done such things not just once.
If you have killed someone, you should be killed too. This is the most black and white statement I have ever heard. Although there is some truth to be found here. Of course, there are not just two paths to choose from. There is always a third option; we just need to find it. Not to mention, that we are not allowed to play God, that is true. Hence we should not judge each other narrowly, without knowing the events and the whole story from all of the possible viewpoints. That is why criminals have a defence lawyer. Moreover, the whole court and the judge are also there to get to know the background as well, not just making a decision without enough evidence.
If people murder someone, they give up on their human rights. In my opinion, this sentence can be the basic point of a debate. Especially, because it is hard to refute it, when one thing is clear for everybody. If someone commits a murder, a rape, hijacking a plane, or other major offences, crimes, he or she cannot refer to the human rights, because this is exactly the thing what was despised by them.
Death penalty is an ultimate warning for criminals. They can see what the consequences of their actions could be. Unfortunately, according to the N. C. Department of Justice (North Carolina), death penalty does not influence murderers to think twice before killing, on the contrary. That is why we need to restrict and stop them even though it means that they are condemned to death.
Death penalty is a moral punishment in the eyes of some of us. The Honourable Antonin Scalia Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States said the following: “My vote, when joined with four others, is, in most cases, the last step that permits an execution to proceed. I could not take part in that process if I believe what was being done to be immoral” (Death Penalty Information Center). According to his words and way of thinking, death penalty can be acceptable and moral, if it is accomplished in a human way, without causing pain.
Of course, there are people, who are against it. A few of them even want to abolish death penalty. They say that there is always a chance that someone who is going to be killed is innocent. They also say that people were born with human rights, with the right to life. In addition, executions are not moral, not painless and smooth processes. Furthermore, it can be easily substituted with life imprisonment.
To contradict these statements, we have to clarify the difference between life sentence and death penalty, which is only a hairbreadth. The foulest and worst crimes are punished with death penalty. All the others with something else. I can accept this, even if I always assume the good in connection with people and believe in changing. Nevertheless, there is a point, a limit, from where, there is no coming back. That is why more and more people start to believe in this form of sentence.
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37 Important Quotes About the Death Penalty
Posted: February 18, 2024 | Last updated: February 19, 2024
The death penalty has long been a controversial and divisive issue, with passionate advocates on both sides of the debate. While proponents argue that capital punishment is a necessary tool for deterring violent crime and ensuring justice for victims, opponents argue that the practice is fundamentally flawed and violates the human right to life.
Throughout history, numerous individuals have spoken out against the death penalty, citing a range of ethical, moral, and practical reasons for their opposition. In this article, we'll be taking a look at some powerful quotes from individuals who are against the death penalty - including activists, abolitionists, political leaders, and the families of victims.
Whether you are already opposed to capital punishment or are simply looking to learn more about the issue, these quotes are sure to give you food for thought.
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By the way, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our mission to fill the world with more positivity!
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Alabama Says Embryos in a Lab Are Children. What Are the Implications?
A ruling by the state’s Supreme Court could change common practices at fertility clinics in the state and possibly nationwide.
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By Jan Hoffman
The Alabama Supreme Court has opened a new front in the legal debate over when human life begins. Embryos created and stored in a medical facility must be considered children under the state’s law governing harmful death, the court ruled.
Friday’s ruling was cheered by anti-abortion activists nationwide, who have long argued that life begins at conception. They were thrilled that, for the first time, a court included conception outside the uterus in that definition. But the strongest and most immediate effect of the decision will be on fertility patients trying to get pregnant, not women seeking to end their pregnancies.
The Alabama ruling invites states to enact strict new regulations over the fertility industry that could sharply limit the number of embryos created during a cycle of medical treatment and affect the future of millions of stored frozen embryos. A concurring opinion even offered road maps for such statutes. That could have a chilling effect on a person seeking to have children through in vitro fertilization, whether single or part of a same-sex or heterosexual couple.
What did the ruling say?
The ruling is actually somewhat narrow. It applies to three couples who had sued the Center for Reproductive Medicine, a fertility clinic in Mobile, for inadvertently destroying their embryos. The plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to punitive damages under Alabama’s 1872 Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Two lower state courts disagreed, saying the embryos were neither people nor children. The State Supreme Court reversed those rulings, saying that the embryos fell squarely under Alabama’s definition of minors and that the negligence lawsuits could proceed. The case will now go back to the State District Court for further litigation.
What did the ruling not say?
The decision is silent on the fate of other frozen embryos in Alabama because that issue was not before the court. The ruling is only about the terms under which plaintiffs may bring a negligence case against a fertility clinic for embryo destruction. However, it could eventually have major consequences for Alabama patients and providers.
On Wednesday, the I.V.F. clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced it was pausing fertility treatments to explore the implications of the court’s ruling on its patients and providers. One fear is that the clinic, doctors and even patients may face daunting new liability issues surrounding the handling of embryos.
What will it mean for fertility patients and clinics?
“The honest answer is that we don’t know for sure,” said Dr. Paula Amato, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine , an organization that lobbies on behalf of fertility experts and patients. “But the ruling is very concerning.”
Freezing embryos is a widespread practice. During a standard cycle of in vitro fertilization, a woman takes hormones to maximize her production of eggs. A doctor then retrieves as many eggs as possible and injects them with sperm in the clinic’s lab, with the goal of creating viable embryos for implantation.
That process will often result in numerous embryos. Because of dangers associated with multiple births from I.V.F., protocols now urge doctors to implant only one embryo at a time. But success with implantation is hardly guaranteed, and so typically doctors freeze remaining embryos for subsequent attempts.
But if laws prevent providers in Alabama from freezing embryos, patients may face the medically challenging and financially draining prospect of many more cycles, Dr. Amato said. Success rates would most likely plummet. “It will disproportionately affect lower income people, people of color and people in L.G.B.T. communities,” she said.
Overall, according to federal data, infertility affects 9 percent of men and 11 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States.
The ruling may therefore restrict the ways that reproductive medicine is practiced in Alabama. “The ruling potentially criminalizes or sets a high civil penalty for standard procedures that we do every day,” Dr. Amato said.
Did the Alabama court suggest protocols for frozen embryos?
No. The court was clear that it could not regulate fertility clinics and the practice of reproductive medicine. But in a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Tom Parker strongly urged the Alabama legislature to examine the matter. He said that other countries, including Italy, New Zealand and Australia, limited the number of embryos that could be created as well as implanted, and suggested that states look to them for regulatory templates.
Is this case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court?
Not imminently, legal experts predicted. The clinic would have to appeal the decision, a move that could be risky, said Katherine L. Kraschel, an expert on reproductive law at Northeastern University School of Law. In light of the United States Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs ruling that overturned the national right to abortion, she said, the clinic’s chances at even getting to the door of the Supreme Court would be slender, “because the case hinges on a State Supreme Court’s interpretation of its own state statute.”
Lawyers for the clinic did not return requests for comment.
Also, the case is far from finished in Alabama. The State Supreme Court directed the parties to return to the district court to litigate the case in light of the new ruling, including the suggestion that other legal avenues be explored. One issue it identified was whether a clinic’s standard contract with fertility patients, which typically allows providers to donate or destroy embryos at some future point, could limit the clinic’s liability in this case.
Does all this have any effect on abortion?
In recent years, anti-abortion groups have been pressing for fetuses to be granted “personhood” status, which would entitle them to legal protections. In extending that umbrella to cover embryos in a lab , the Alabama Supreme Court employed reasoning that runs through the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 abortion ruling: that fetuses deserve a court’s shield under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
“The Supreme Court is making this bid to think about the fetus as a vulnerable, unprotected minority that courts are obliged to step in and protect, whether that is through upholding anti-abortion restrictions or moving forward toward accepting and recognizing the fetus as a person,” said Melissa Murray, an expert on reproductive law at the New York University School of Law.
Americans United for Life, the country’s oldest anti-abortion organization, was particularly encouraged by Alabama’s embrace of that theme.
“The Alabama Supreme Court held that the text of the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act is clear and applies to all pre-born children, including the plaintiffs’ embryonic pre-born children. In doing so, the Court correctly acknowledged the legal status of embryos as human persons,” Danielle Pimentel, the policy counsel for the organization, said in a statement. “This decision is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that all pre-born children are equally protected under the law.”
Dr. Amato said she found it ironic that anti-abortion groups were supporting rulings that could severely limit I.V.F.
“I.V.F. is about family building,” she said. “It should be viewed by red states as a pro-life activity.”
Jan Hoffman writes about behavioral health and health law. Her wide-ranging subjects include opioids, tribes, reproductive rights, adolescent mental health and vaccine hesitancy. More about Jan Hoffman
What to Know About I.V.F.
In vitro fertilization can be daunting, but preparation and learning about the side effects can make it a lot easier. Our guide can help .
There are still large gaps in our knowledge about how I.V.F. procedures affect women years later. Here’s why .
Many insurance companies don’t cover I.V.F. treatments. But there are ways to ease the financial burden .
For L.G.B.T.Q. couples, the path to parenthood can be long . One writer shared her absurd but ultimately successful experience using I.V.F. to become pregnant.
Have you gone through an I.V.F. treatment? Tell us about your experience .