Posted: June 27th, 2015

Should the death penalty continue to be carried out in the United States?


The term “death penalty” is synonymously used with “capital punishment” to depict a judicial process that leads one accused person to be put to death as a form of punishment for an offence committed. This punishment if referred to as the death sentence and execution is the process of effecting the punishment. While there are several reasons advanced for the continued use of this form of punishment, several abolitionists have advanced a number of reasons why the same should not be used as a form of punishing law offenders. (Durant, Will and Ariel, 65)

Why the death penalty is practiced

Death penalty is imposed on offenders who are classified as having committed “capital offences” which include offences like murder, rape and defilement. The judicial process leading to one be found guilty and deserving to get such a punishment is tedious and often takes a long period of time. This is because the sate will want to be sure and at least convinced beyond doubt that it is meting that punishment in the correct circumstances. The evidence required in such matters is most often beyond any reasonable doubt. This is done notwithstanding the fact that death penalty is expressly prohibited under Article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which Charter has been adopted in a number of other treaties which have been in turn adopted by a number of other states even those outside the European Union. It is perceived that capital punishment is inadequate in achieving the objective that justifies why it is used.


  1. Deterrence

Deterrence is the major reason advanced by the pro-death sentence supporters. In the United States, the practice has been witnessed and is a cause for heated debates as to the legality or morality of using death penalty as a punishment to offenders. The United States Supreme Court on some occasions has upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty. The critics of this punishment argue that it is an unusual, cruel and degrading treatment and that it is applied in a racially discriminative manner besides lacking the deterrent effect. Those who support this practice argue that it can prevent others from committing similar offences if they know that they risk their lives by committing them and actually witness others found guilty lose their lives. . (Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill, 1)

Recent trends have shown that the deterrence and retribution effect expected to be achieved by use of the death penalty in the United States has deteriorated greatly. This is because there has been no justification for this cruel and uncivilized punishment. Though research has been done on the effectiveness of this penalty, the same is not clear on whether death penalty reduces homicide rates in the United States. The death penalty has been viewed as an expensive process, time involving and unevenly applied. Some studies have also shown that the process of determining who is liable to be sentenced to death is too long and arbitrarily applied. It is therefore evident that the prevention hoped to be achieved by using this form of punishment is not realized which renders this practice irrelevant.

  1. Morality

Several arguments have been advanced to the effect that there is no moral significance or justification that can be attached to the claim that the death penalty has any deterrent effect. But from a moral perspective, killing is wrong any way including capital punishment. It is argued that society would be ethically reduced to being murderers if it accepts imposition of the death penalty to wrong doers regardless of the magnitude of the offence. Bryan Stevenson, 21 asserts that it is not even important to consider if those convicted of capital offences should be put to death but rather, if the state deserves to put to death those it has imprisoned. To this he says it would be immoral if the state did so since the use of this punishment is prone to discriminatory application. He further argues that it should be rejected on moral grounds so as to avoid unfair administration of punishment. Thus, the applicability of the death penalty is challenged from a moral perspective.

The morality of putting to death a convict can be easily questioned like in a case where the evidence leading to the conviction is blurred. Bryan Stevenson, 1038 asserts that on a moral ground the death penalty is not right since even those deciding whether one deserves to be put to death will not get it right all the time. This will lead to putting to death innocent persons or, meting an extremely excessfully punishment on some convicts. Factors like inadequate legal representation, prosecutorial misconduct, racial prejudice and misinterpretation of mitigating factors may lead to wrongful convictions hence, wrongful execution of punishments like the death penalty in this case.


  1. Cost

The administering of the death penalty comes with huge expenses as compared with even life imprisonment without parole. In the United States, the Constitution puts several judicial procedural requirements that are more often complex for capital offences which do attract this penalty. This is aimed at safeguarding the risk of executing people who did not deserve to be executed for accused offences. Even this though does not completely do away with such fears of committing mistakes that cannot be reversed. Worse still is the fact that such monies expended on effecting the death sentence is earned from taxpayers who are already burdened. (Sacramento, 1)

Sacramento 1, in his study found out that in the state of California alone, taxpayers pay as high as $90, 000 on each death row prisoner per year as opposed to on those in regular confinement. Such costs arise from the expensive legal representation and enhanced security of the capital offenders. It thus makes it unnecessary and arbitrary to administer death penalty.


The death penalty as a form of punishment of law offenders has over time attracted different reactions from those who oppose it and those that support it. Those who support it argue that it has a deterrent effect that ensures the offence is not committed again while those who oppose it term it immoral and comes with unnecessary huge costs implications. It is termed an unusual punishment which denies one of his or her civil liberties. There is also the fear that its application can be biased on racial grounds and is prone to human mistakes that can lead to putting to death undeserving convicts.


Bryan Stevenson, Is the death penalty immoral? (2004). Retrieved from

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01) Official Journal of the European Communities

Durant, Will and Ariel, The Story of Civilization, Volume IX: The Age of Voltaire New York, 1965, page 72,

Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill.(1981-2005), The lawful infliction of death as a punishment; the death penalty. Retrieved from

New York Times Jan. 2, 2013.”America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty” Retrieved from

Rick Perry, (2011). Morality and the Death Penalty, Retrieved from

Sacramento Bee. (1988).The High Cost of the Death Penalty, Retrieved from





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