Capital Punishment: Is It Required

Looking out for the state of the public's satisfaction in the scheme of
capital sentencing does not constitute serving justice. Today's system of
capital punishment is fraught with inequalities and injustices. The commonly
offered arguments for the death penalty are filled with holes. "It was a
deterrent. It removed killers. It was the ultimate punishment. It is biblical.
It satisfied the public's need for retribution. It relieved the anguish of the
victim's family."(Grisham 120) Realistically, imposing the death penalty is
expensive and time consuming. Retroactively, it has yet to be proven as a
deterrent. Morally, it is a continuation of the cycle of violence and
"...degrades all who are involved in its enforcement, as well as its
victim."(Stewart 1) Capital Punishment has been part of the criminal justice
system since the earliest of times. The Babylonian Hammurabi Code(ca. 1700 B.C.)
decreed death for crimes as minor as the fraudulent sale of beer(Flanders 3).
Egyptians could be put to death for disclosing the location of sacred burial
sites(Flanders 3). However, in recent times opponents have shown the death
penalty to be racist, barbaric, and in violation with the United States
Constitution as "...cruel and unusual punishment." In this country, although
laws governing the application of the death penalty have undergone many changes
since biblical times, the punishment endures, and controversy has never been
Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital punishment is that of
deterrence. The prevailing thought is that imposition of the death penalty will
act to dissuade other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous studies
have been created attempting to prove this belief; however, "All the evidence
taken together makes it hard to be confident that capital punishment deters more
than long prison terms do."(Cavanagh 4) Going ever farther, Bryan Stevenson,
the executive director of the Montgomery based Equal Justice Initiative, has
stated that "people are increasingly realizing that the more we resort to
killing as a legitimate response to our frustration and anger with violence, the
more violent our society becomes.
"Revenge is an unworthy motive for our society to pursue."(Whittier 1)
In our society, there is a great expectation placed on the family of a victim
to pursue vengeance to the highest degree -- perhaps 1 the death penalty. Pat
Bane, executive director of the Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation
(MVFR), stated, "One parent told me that people made her feel like she was
betraying her son because she did not want to kill the person who murdered
him."(Frame 50) This creates a dilemma of morality. If anything, by forcing
families to seek the death penalty, their own consciences will be burdened by
the death of the killer. Furthermore, "Killing him will not bring back your
son[s]."(Grisham 402). At some point, man must stop the violence. Seeking
temporary gratification is not a logical basis for whether the death penalty
should be imposed. Granted, revenge is easily confused with retribution, and
most would agree that the punishment should fit the crime, but can society
really justify murdering someone else simply on the basis that they deserved it?
Government has the right and duty to protect the greater good against people who
jeopardize the welfare of society, but a killer can be sentenced to life without
chance of parole, and society will be just as safe as if he had been executed.

The key part of the death penalty is that it involves death -- something
which is rather permanent for humans, due to the concept of mortality. This
creates a major problem when "there continue to be many instances of innocent
people being sentenced to death."(Tabak 38) In the United States legal system,
there exist numerous ways in which justice might be poorly served for a
recipient of the death sentence. Foremost is in the handling of his own defense
counsel. In the event that a defendant is without counsel, a lawyer will be
provided. "Attorney's appointed to represent indigent capital defendants
frequently lack the qualities necessary to provide a competent defense and
sometimes have exhibited such poor character that they have subsequently been
disbarred."(Tabak 37). With payment caps or court determined sums of, for
example, $5 an hour, there is not much incentive for a lawyer to spend a great
deal of time representing a capital defendant. When you compare this to the
prosecution, "aided by the police, other law enforcement agencies, crime labs,
state mental hospitals, various other scientific resources, prosecutors
experienced in successfully handling capital cases, compulsory process, and
grand juries"(Tabak 37), the defense that the court appointed counsel can offer
is puny. If, in fact, a