Definition Essay: Defining The Death Penalty

1971 Words 8 Pages
Defining the Death Penalty Throughout history the laws and regulations surrounding the death penalty have fluctuated and changed, making the death penalty an unlikely punishment for severe crimes. In 1793, one of the first laws regarding the death penalty was passed, when murder was divided into first and second degrees (H. Bedeau, 2004), this only allowed the death penalty to be a plausible option for first degree or premeditated murder. However, today, this is no longer a “sufficient basis” for the death penalty. The perpetrator must also exhibit “aggravating circumstances” which are generally specified by the judge 's instructions to the jury (H. Bedeau, 2004). Supreme Court cases have also limited the death penalties reach. In 1976, Woodson …show more content…
In fact, “two out of three American Church leaders strongly oppose it as infringement on the dignity of life” (W. Clay, M. Burgess, 1990), based on the idea that the forgiveness and compassion taught in the New Testament should be stronger than a person’s want for revenge or vengeance. Many religious persons, specifically Christians believe that “only God has the power to take life” (W. Clay, M. Burgess, 1990). This idea is backed up by one of the 10 commandments which states “Thou shalt not kill” (Exod. 20: 1–17), making it clear in many followers minds that the death penalty is unacceptable under all circumstances. Additionally, many leaders both religious and political believe that that the death penalty causes unnecessary anguish for the criminal, his family and friends, as well as those who must perform or watch the execution (W. Clay, M. Burgess, …show more content…
Bedeau, 2004). For example, the south has carried out nation 's executions since 1976 (H. Bedeau, 2004), and certain states, and even cities have a higher percentage of requests for the death penalty than other places. This is specifically seen in cases when prosecutors are able to manipulate the court system in order to increase the chances of the death penalty being sentenced. For example, when two snipers from Washington DC had their trials moved to Virginia by the Attorney General since it was more likely to receive a death sentence in Virginia (H. Bedeau, 2004). This unfair manipulation of the system, can cause unfair rulings. Additionally, many people who receive the death sentence are poor or mentally ill, they are usually appointed lawyers by the court system. In some circumstances, these lawyers may lack the skills or motivation to avoid a death sentence, and therefore criminals with these lawyers often have a higher chance of receiving the death penalty. Another argument that arises in discussions of the death penalty is the unforgivable nature of it, and the possibility to convict and essentially murder an innocent person. In many cases the death penalty ruling is circumstantial and varies on a case to case basis, again due to the irreversible nature of the punishment after it has been executed. The

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