Argumentative Writing on Capital Punishment
Altan Haan

June 8, 2014

Capital Punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to
death by the state as a punishment for a crime.[1] This dictionary de nition is only the
literal meaning. We need to look at the ethical and moral sides of this `legal process’ in
order to truely understand its implications.

Humans have a need for vengeance | for doing to one what one did to another. This pri-
mal desire has been explored many times in many di erent pieces of literature throughout
history. However, I think we all know that vengeance never truly satis es us. It’s like
buying something you really wanted; you never really feel as contented as you thought
you would. As a civilized world, we should be capable of moving on from executing oth-
ers. It is morally wrong and ironic; we send those who kill to jail, and yet still we kill?
Many people supported the death penalty after its introduction. This was because of one
major reason: the death penalty was supposed to stop people from commiting crimes.
It sounds quite logical; if you execute the person who commited a heinous crime, it
should preclude repeat o enses. However, studies have shown that \the death penalty
does not add any signi cant deterrent e ect above that of long-term imprisonment.”[2] These emerging studies may be related to the decrease in usage of the death penalty.
In the U.S. alone, 1277 people have been executed since 1973. Although this number
seems insigni cant compared to the population of the U.S., it is still a number. There
has been, however, a signi cant change in the usage of capital punishments. 18 states
have abolished capital punishment completely, 388 sentences have been commuted since
1973, and there have only been 80 people sentenced to death in 2011 as opposed to the
315 sentences in 1994 and 1996.[3] These statistics are real, they show us how we are
becoming more civilized.

One argument supporters for capital punishment often use is this: what if you were in the
shoes of the victims family member? What would you want done to the muderer? This
is interesting because it changes the way we view the death penalty. In a sense we would
be ridding the world of a threat, but in another sense we would become killers ourselves.
Instead, why not make them work for a better cause? Jobs that no one would want to do,
sorting through garbage for example. Technically we would be giving them something
worse than death yet still bene cial to society. If people who are currently serving the
death sentence were put to work, imagine what we could accomplish! Instead we spend
millions of dollars for each case just to watch the grueling and inhumane death of another.
That brings us to the next gruesome topic | botched executions. Botched executions are
executions that do not go according to plan, usually ending in the painful death of the
sentenced. You probably have heard of this in the news recently and people are pretty
upset about it. This is good, because even though we are still executing criminals at least
we want them to die painlessly. One example of a botched execution, without going into
too much graphic detail, would be the Jesse Joseph Tafero case. During his execution,
six-inch flames erupted from his head and three jolts of power were required to stop his
breathing.”[4] Let me remind you that this is only one example.

We should also consider the perspective of the perpetrator. Why did they commit the
crime? Was it for the greater good? Was it out of anger or frustration? Do they deeply
regret what they have done? If we silence them permanently how will we ever know?

They will not be able to reflect upon their mistakes, or teach others not to do what they
did. The worse thing that could happen is that the person convicted is actually innocent.
Imagine what the consequences of that would be. On the other hand, the muderer may
actually have been a psychopath or something of the like. In this case death would be an
`easy’ way out.

In the end death is irreversible. It is a property of being human, of being alive. Every person has the right to live life to the fullest. Whether that means being con fined to a prison cell forever or being outside in the world helping others, is up to that person to decide. There will always be an alternative to the death sentence; nothing gives us the right to end someone else’s life.


[1] Capital Punishment. (2014, December 5). Wikipedia. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from
Criminology, 99, 489-504. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from
[3] Snell, T. (2013, July 16). Capital Punishment, 2011 – Statistical Tables. Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS). Retrieved May 14, 2014 from
[4] Radelet, M. (2014, May 2). Some Examples of Post-Furman Botched Executions.
DPIC. Retrieved May 15, 2014, from