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Morality: Capital Punishment

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Rebecca Lant

on 26 March 2014

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Transcript of Morality: Capital Punishment

So after hearing out each side? What do you think?
What is Capital Punishment?
It is the harshest form of punishment that the state can place on a criminal.

The harshest form of punishment we are talking about today is....
The Morality of...
Capital Punishment

The Death Penalty
The states that practice capital puimsmnet today are...
The states in
are those who
practice the death penalty, while those in
are those who
do not
Kentucky Louisiana
New Hampshire
North Carolina
Oregon Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota
But, to make this easier to see...
Zorea, Aharon W. "capital punishment, 1968–present." In Critchlow, Donald T., and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Contemporary United States, 1969 to the Present, Revised Edition (Volume X). New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHX047&SingleRecord=True (accessed March 23, 2014).
But the big question today is.....
Is it moral to practice Capital Punishment?
Watch this video to see the controversy
The Pros side
The Cons side
When life and death hangs in the balance, what does each side think?
Works Cited
What methods are used to preform capital punishment today?
Firing Squad
Gas Chamber
Lethal Injection
• By threatening criminals with death, the rate of crimes may decrease. Therefore, if we get rid of the death penalty, we are ultimately sacrificing the lives of innocent victims whose murders could have been prevented.

• British philosopher, John Locke, was among the first to encourage the idea of Rights Forfeiture. He argued that all human beings are born with rights to life, health, liberty, and property. All individuals hold those rights unless they violate others’ rights, in which case they forfeit all of their rights, including their right to life.

“The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense."
–Bruce Fein, JD
Why then, don't we just set a life sentence as the point of deterrence? The convict faces a lifetime of imprisonment and isolation from society before dying
Let's appeal for a moment to Immanuel Kant and his path of reasoning that we call the “Categorical Imperative”.

1. One who kills or rapes would not normally wish the same agency upon themselves.
2. No one would want murder universalized as moral law – it would lead to the complete breakdown of our race.
3. A murderer's victims are a means to an end, whether it be a message they are trying to send, or to fuel their own self-interest.
• Effectively preserves law and order
• Discourages crime; reduces crime rate
• Costs less than life imprisonment
• Ensures that people who have committed awful crimes are incapable of causing future crimes
• Gives closure to victim’s families

 Justice systems achieve their purposes in many ways-rehabilitation, retribution, and deterrence to name a few.

 Legal punishment exists as a consequence, a threat that hangs over the head of those who consider acting outside the boundaries it sets.

 Consequences punish first and foremost, but they are also meant to deter.

 Death is absolute – part of human nature. It's something that people fear and inherently want to avoid because of its inevitability and its finality.
 In an effective justice system, those who maim and take life run the risk of losing their own in the process. As a deterent, its the biggest threat we can pose.
 There's no denying that heinous acts like murder and rape can be and are committed with full premeditation by an individual.
 The public needs to have confidence in an effective criminal justice system – one where crime does not seem to outweigh punishment.
– in essence, the end result is the same. Well, a deciding factor could be the state of our prisons.

 The Justice System is constantly being revised and refined – more things are listed down as illegal as time goes on, meaning more people are being imprisoned for violating laws.
This leads to more prisoners being piled up on top of the preexisting ones.
 There are several things wrong with this:
 In no cases can one ever deem the death of an innocent morally sound.
 But the next thing we can lean on is the certainty of the systems that execute those who violate the laws of our social contract.

 Progression in the field of crime investigation and leaps towards the enhancement of DNA testing is continually reducing the risk of error – granting our system of law a greater degree of certainty in making sure innocents aren't wrongly killed while murderers go free.
 Of course, this system still isn't perfect, and no one should pretend that it is.
This also impacts prison officials, pressing them towards acting inappropriately in the face of an even more daunting number of prisoners.
Dense prison populations have been proven to be detrimental to the psycological state of convicts.

 Prisons become even more stressful when the environment is overcrowded and conditions are not as controlled.

 Prisoners are required to have a certain amount of space
allowed for them – otherwise, the imprisonment can fall under the category of cruel and unusual punishment.
Well, what about when we factor in the possibility of innocent people being wrongly executed?
They choose to violate the social contract that we function under as a society and waive its protections in doing so.
Supports the belief that punishment should suit the crime. (8th Amendment – In regards to “Cruel and Unusual punishment”)
The categorical imperative is concerned with consequences much like the arguments about capital punishment are concerned with the same.
 The Categorical Imperative insists three main points...
1. Act in accordance with a principle that you would wish to give as well as receive.
2. That you would wish universalized as moral law.
3. That treats people as ends in and of themselves, and not just the means to them.

Things in accordance with these three points are deemed moral according to Kant. It's essentially an expanded explanation of what we call the golden rule.

People that could potentially be subject to the death penalty violate all three of these points.
Therefore, its clear that under this line of reasoning, murderers and rapists act immorally.
Is capital punishment, then, punishing immoral behavior with more immoral behavior?
1. – we exist in a civil society and abide by its laws. We want an effective system of law, and we want to enjoy the benefits of its protections. So we should allow it to give judgment where it's due. Limiting its ability to do so limits that.

2. Capital Punishment as of today definitely has cases where it's more applicable than others. But what really seems more definite ?

– the idea that even the most despicable criminals should be allowed their lives behind the secure walls of a prison regardless of how severe their crimes are, or that Capital Punishment should universally be at least considered as an option for those that have stepped far enough outside the boundaries of social society?
3. Murderers and rapists are not punished to achieve a purpose, they are punished because they disobeyed the law.
Anything else including retribution and closure for the victims family is the byproduct of an end.
So to sum it all up...
We support the death penalty for these reasons:
So to sum it all up...
We do not support the death penalty for these reasons:
• it’s applied unjustly  largely based on skin color and ability to afford attorney
between 1930 and 1996, over half (53%) of the 4220 prisoners executed were black
“black offenders who kill white victims are at greater risk of a death sentence than others, primarily because they are substantially more likely to be charged by the state’s attorney with a capital offense.” (study by governor and University of Maryland)

"the average odds of receiving a death sentence among all indicted cases were 4.3 times higher in cases with white victims." (David C. Baldus et al., Equal Justice and the Death Penalty 1990)
1990, US Government Accountability Office issued a report acknowledging the face that race had a large impact on the imposition of the death penalty on criminals
ranked lowest for ways to reduce crime innocent people are often sentenced to death
over 140 people have been released fro death row for innocence since 1973 supreme court history
• as of August 2012, 3200 men and women have been sentenced to death, and 1300 men, women, and children have been killed from capital punishment

• denies due process of law  often arbitrary and always irreversible, deprives ability to change sentence at implementation of a new law

• murder represents a lack of respect for life  “Because life is precious and death irrevocable, murder is abhorrent, and a policy of state-authorized killings is immoral”
many murder victims families don’t believe the death penalty is a just way to avenge the death of their loved ones
• of all homicide-convicted criminals, only 3% are actually sentenced to death
• between ’01 and ’09, percentage dropped even further
• most crimes aren’t even premeditated – meaning those criminals aren’t thinking of the consequences when/before they perform them
• between l990 and l994, the homicide rates in Wisconsin and Iowa (non-death-penalty states) were half the rates of their neighbor, Illinois – which restored the death penalty in l973
 Between 2000-2010, the murder rate in states with capital punishment was 25-46% higher than states without the death penalty
• Basis of the penalty is vengeance, “eye for an eye,” where would it end?  encourages barbarianism, no reason to believe it would protect us

• Defendant is convicted with evidence “beyond reasonable doubt,” meaning that no one can truly be convicted with absolute certainty  many on death row have been proven innocent
• Very logical, pertinent alternative to death penalty – life sentence in jail without parole  more effective deterrent than death
• Cuomo had rejected the death penalty and refused a prisoner to be moved to Oklahoma to be killed, instead he stayed behind bars. Eventually the next governor came in and instituted the death penalty and sent the prisoner to be killed in Oklahoma

– the prisoner stated “Tell Governor Cuomo that I would rather be executed than serve life behind bars.”
• Value of human life/right to live  even the worst murders should not be deprived of the value of life
• Execution of the innocent (in USA)
Because of mistakes/flaws in the justice system, some innocent will be sentenced to death
1993, supreme court refused to hold explicitly the even if there was significant evidence of innocence the execution wouldn’t be unconstitutional
• retribution is wrong  rapists aren’t punished by sexual assault and people convicted of assault aren’t beaten up
it’s insanely expensive  cost of convicting/executing Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bombing) was over $13 million
NY spent about $170 million over 9 years and had no executions
NJ spent $253 million over a 25-year period and also had no executions
“If . . . he has committed a murder, he must die. In this case, there is no substitute that will satisfy the requirements of legal justice. There is no sameness of kind between death and remaining alive even under the most miserable conditions, and consequently there is no equality between the crime and the retribution unless the criminal is judicially condemned and put to death.”
-Immanuel Kant
Is it moral to use Capital Punishment?
First, lets ask ourselves this...
Is it constitutionally correct to kill a person for a crime?
Does this break our 8th amendment right as citizens?
• Let’s first define the 8th amendment. It states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
• Okay, so far with the excessive bail or fines, nothing is broken, but what about that cruel and unusual punishment part?
• Let’s delve into this further. What does the 8th amendment mean by cruel and unusual punishment?
• Well defined it means, “punishment to include torture, barbarous punishments, degrading punishments not known to the common law, and punishments so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the general moral sense”
• For my case, no I do not believe it is constitutionally correct to kill a person for their crime, no matter the severity of the crime.
• I consider the death sentence to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment to impose on a person. We live in a modern world and I find the something such as the death penalty to be an archaic and “barbarous” punishment.
• Over the years, yes, the level of cruelty in an execution has been diminished so much as to be in the form of a deadly shot, but the fact remains that a person must die.

As our modern day interpretation of “cruel” changes, so must our methods of punishment.
Is there any retribution in the death penalty to the families who have suffered the loss?
• Many families believe that more killing will not help ease the pain of their loss and can actually cause more harm to them.
Some may argue that putting the killer to death will help the victims gain retribution, but not exactly.
With trials lasting anywhere from a few years to decades, this does not seem to be the way to help families heal.
• If life without parole was used instead, the process would be much quicker, the criminal would be punished and the families would not have to relive the pain.
• If we were to give criminals life without parole instead, the money saved could go to violence prevention programs and help the families with victim services.
Many organizations actually oppose the death penalty due to traumatizing process.
Does the death penalty deter crime?
• Crime continues to thrive in places that use the death penalty, whereas states that do not use the death penalty have a lower percentage.
• The death penalty does not do an adequate job of preventing murders.
From this chart, it is clear to see how states that use capital punishment have as much as a 46% difference than states that do not enforce it.
What about mistakes in sentencing?
For me, No it is not moral to use capital punishment!
Killing those who kill is not the answer to stopping crime.

States that do not use the death penalty show to have a lower rate of murders.
There is always the chance that a person wrongly convicted of a crime could be put on death row
If a person is killed for something they did not do, what then?
It is mistakes like these that are irrevocable and can cause suffering to someone who does not deserve it.
He was wrongly accused of a crime and put on death row in 1985
Although the true perpetrator of the crime confessed right after his sentence, Cruz still had to sit on death row for 10 years before he was released in 1995.
If states did not use capital punishment, mistakes like these could have been reassessed and prevented.
Claude Jones
He was executed on Texas in 2000.
DNA test today show that the hair from the scene is not his, although the prosecution implied it was.
The hair was the only physical evidence that tied Jones to the crime, but since the hair was not his an innocent man was killed
If he instead got life in prison, Jones’ innocence could have been proven and his life saved.
Rolando Cruz
Is it cost effective to use Capital Punishment
No, it is not cost effective. In fact it costs Nj over $11 million per year on death row cases.
Racial Bias
Vaule of Human Life
Waste of Money
Failure to deter from crime
Encourages Barbarianism
• Societies have a moral obligation to protect the safety of its citizens. People who threaten this safety are to be punished in a way that permanently stops them from ever threatening the lives of others again.
• Through common sense, people are able to understand that by committing a serious crime, they could face execution, which ultimately leads to fewer individuals whom are willing to partake in such crimes.
• Justice is a matter of ensuring that all individuals are treated equally. By forcing death on those who force death upon others, the death penalty ensures justice for all.
Rights Forfeiture

• If an individual commits a serious crime, society is justified in stripping them of their liberty rights by placing them in prison where they no longer have the freedom of movement or expression, or by sentencing them to death.
These people completlytake the sanctity of human life nd throw it to the wind, and we respond by hading out something as paltry as a life sentence.
Full transcript