In recent years, the movement against capital punishment has been more intense than usual. While their optimism on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike it down for good was growing, there came Trump’s tweet “SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY” about one criminal suspect entering the moot court. However, support for capital punishment has been trending downward in 2018 at about 55 percent, and it is the lowest it can get in four decades. The issue on capital punishment continues to be a game of tug-of-war played by society and the government. What really is capital punishment?
Capital punishment roots from the Latin word meaning “for the head”. Perhaps you have heard of death penalty. These two terms have been used interchangeably to mean the execution of a criminal offender upon being sentenced to death and convicted in court. Though, imposition of court penalty does not always lead to execution, and can result to life imprisonment. Crimes that are punishable by death penalty are called capital crimes, such as murder, terrorism, treason, espionage, offenses against the State, piracy, drug trafficking, among others. To date, 56 countries retain capital punishment, 106 have completely abolished it for all crimes, eight have abolished it for ordinary crimes, and 28 are abolitionist in practice. Capital punishment has long sparked considerable debate. The following general factors make up the contemporary arguments for it.
Supporters of death penalty stand on the reason that an individual taking the life of another, have forfeited their own right to life and merit execution. They view the death penalty as the best retribution for the moral indignation of the victim’s relatives and of all law-abiding citizens. Oppositions on the death penalty, however, stand on the notion that, execution only legitimizes the behavior that the law seeks to repress. Death penalty is counterproductive with the moral message that it conveys. They argue that death penalty is inhuman and degrading, especially in the conduct of lesser crimes, since it is disproportionate to the harm done. According to a survey by the US top academic criminological societies, 88% of these experts reject the notion that executions lower homicide rates.
Those for capital punishment believe that it has a potent deterrent effect on violent offenders, especially to those whom the threat of imprisonment is insufficient. But, those against it point to research that the death penalty is not a more effective deterrent that the alternative sanctions of lifetime imprisonment. A 2011 poll by Lake Research Partners found that 61%– a clear majority—of voters would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder.
People who are for death penalty believe that it is possible to fashion laws and procedures that ensure that only those who are really deserving of death are executed. While the opposing side would argue that poor and ethnic minorities often do not have access to good legal assistance. They also point out prejudices based on race, as white juries in capital cases predominantly convict black and nonwhite defendant. Since errors are inevitable in a justice system, some people will be executed for crimes they did not even commit. Also, a 2009 poll by DPIC police chiefs considered death penalty the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money.
Despite the movement toward abolition of capital punishment, many countries have retained it and have even extended its scope. More than 30 countries have made some lesser cases into capital offenses, thus placing more offenders on the death row. The war on its abolition is still an ongoing one, making a unified global decision harder to achieve.