Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is the legal infliction the death penalty. It is obviously
the most severe form of criminal punishment. (Bedau1) Capital punishment is a
controversial way of dealing with violent criminals. The main alternative to
the death penalty is life in prison. Capital punishment has been around for
thousands of years as a means of eradicating criminals. A giant debate started
between supporters and opposers of execution, over the morality and
effectiveness of the death penalty. The supporters claim that if you take a
life you should pay with your life or "an eye for an eye". Opposers of the
death penalty bring up the chance of sentencing the innocent and how the death
penalty is inhumane. The purpose of this paper is to examine the process of
capital punishment and the moral viewpoints on the death penalty.

The first evidence of capital punishment is from Hammurabi's code, a book of
Babylonian law, from 1700BC. (http://www.schoolsucks) The Bible mentions that
execution should be used for many crimes. (Bedau1) One example of the death
penalty in the bible is "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to
death." (Exodus 21:12). The bible also suggests stoning a woman if she
unmarried sex and had "wrought folly on Israel by playing the harlot in her
father's house" (Deuteronomy 22:21) England recognized seven major crimes that
called for execution by the end of the 15th century. These crimes were: murder,
theft (by deceitfully taking someone goods), burglary, rape, and arson. As
time went by more and more crimes were believed to deserve the death penalty and
by 1800 more than 200 crimes were recognized as punishable by death. (Bedau2)

It was not long before capital punishment met opposition. The Quakers made
first movement against execution. They supported life imprisonment as a more
humane justice. Cesare Beccaria wrote On Crimes and Punishment, a book
criticizing torture and the death penalty, in 1764. Cesare drove many other
philosophers, like Voltaire and Jerry Bentham, to question the validity of using
capital punishment. (Bedau2)

Contrary to what some may believe the process of sentencing a defendant is a
very arduous and time-taking ordeal. After he has been arrested as the suspect
of a crime the defendant will either tried in a state or federal court system.
The lowest court that a litigant can be sent to is the Court of General
jurisdiction (state level) or the US District Courts (federal level). Any time
in the trial the defense may choose to appeal. Even if a suspect is sentenced
to a crime the case may be appealed for a variety of reasons. The defendant's
lawyer could claim that the defendant's rights were violated when he was
arrested, that the defendant received an unfair trial, or new evidence that
could prove the defendant's innocence has surfaced. (Guernsey,16) Next the
appeal is taken to the Intermediate Appellate Courts (state) or the US Courts of
Appeals (federal) who will decide if the trial court has erred in some way. If
the appeal is granted In the state court system the appellate will be sent to
the State Supreme Court, or in the federal system, to the supreme. From the
State Supreme Court the case may be appealed again to the Supreme Court. Once
the case has reached the supreme court the verdict is final. (Guernsey,15) This
monotonous appealing process is the reason for the excess of inmates on death
row today. An inmate can spend 6-10 years on death row during the appellate
process. (Guernsey, 20) In fact only about one in 1900 prisoners (.053%) on
death row have served the death penalty. (http://www.hotsites) "Alabama,
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas have carried out about three-quarters of
all executions since 1976." (Guernsey,22)

There has been a controversy over the death penalty ever since the Quakers
fought for reform in the 1700's. (Bedau1) This conflict has two sides: those in
favor of capital punishment, and those who view life without parole (LWOP) as a
more humane alternative.

Supporters of the death penalty rationalize executing because if a man takes a
life he should pay for it with his own or "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth." They also use verses from the Bible like, "Whosoever sheds a man's
blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6), and Exodus 21:12 to show
that Christianity supports it. They claim that executions deter other criminals
from killing in fear of being executed. However, this could never been proven
since it would be very difficult to link a drop in murders to