Against Capital Punishment

Against Capital Punishment At 8:00 p.m. it was nearing the end of John Evans last day on death row. He had spent most of the day with his minister and family, praying and talking of what was to come. At 8:20 he was walked from his cell down to the long hall to the execution room and strapped in the electric chair. At 8:30 p.m.

the first jolt of 1900 volts passed through Mr. Evans body. It lasted 30 seconds. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode tied to Mr. Evans leg. His body slammed against the straps holding him in the chair and his fist clenched permanently.

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The electrode then burst from the strap holding it in place. A large puff of gray smoke and sparks pored out from under the hood that covered his face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing began pervading the witness room. Two doctors then examined Mr. Evans and declared that he was not dead.

The electrode was then refastened and Mr. Evans was given another 30-second jolt. The stench was nauseating. Again the doctors examined him and found his heart still beating. At this time the prison commissioner, who was talking on the line with Governor George Wallace of Alabama, was asked to cancel the execution on the grounds that Mr. Evans was being subject to cruel and unusual punishment. The request was denied.

At 8:40 p.m. the third charge of electricity was passed through Mr. Evans body. At 8:44 p.m. he was pronounced dead. The execution took 14 minutes.

Afterward officials were embarrassed by what one observer called the barbaric ritual. The electric chair is supposed to be a very humane way of administering death, if there is one (Zimring, & Hawkins, 1986, p.1). Every Western Industrial nation has stopped executing criminals, except the United States. Most Western nations have executed criminals in this century, and many were executed after World War II. Then executions suddenly decreased (Clay, 1990, p.9). This is partly because the people in many European countries might have been tired of killing from the war.

In most cases the countries and states that stopped capital punishment followed with its formal abolition shortly after (Clay, 1990, p.10). One reason that the United States did not end capital punishment at this time is partly due to the fact that the war was never fought on our soil and US citizens had not all lived through the death and destruction of WWII personally. Some think that the United States should have followed Europes lead and abolished capital punishment; some think it never should. The truth of the matter is, the United States should cease the use of capital punishment in both federal and state prisons. Capital punishment is immoral and unethical; it degrades society, and lowers the value of a human life. It does not deter murder, it is not economically efficient, and its effects are irreversible.

There is not one good reason to keep executing wrongdoers in the United States or anywhere else. Capital punishment goes against the morals and standards that our country is based upon. A punishment that inflicts harm on a person can hardly be good or moral if it is purposeless. A punishment may be given to a wrongdoer for one or a combination of the following reasons: (1) to protect the community from the criminal returning to previous activity, (2) to rehabilitate the offender; and (3) to restore the moral order breached by the violation. Capital punishment is not required to accomplish any of these purposes. Other alternatives work better or at least as well (Robinson, 1999, October 7).

Killing is not the answer (Bender& Leone, 1987 p. 63). Recently some states have been implementing life without parole as an alternative to death. This has proven just a successful as the death penalty for punishment. It prevents criminals from returning to society, and is less expensive than capital punishment (Vila & Morris, 1997, p.255).

Another study shows that over 80% of those serving life sentences will never commit another crime, and well over 80% will never again commit a capital offense (Bedau, 1999, November 10). These statistics clearly show that other forms of punishment are successful in the deterrence of crime and capital punishment is not needed. Some justify capital punishment with anger over wrongdoing. This human anger is often the cause of murder itself. If anger were not carried out into actions, there would be no need for punishment in the first place.

Criminals shouldnt be the objects of anger; they should be objects of pity. Society must look to its compassionate side in order to function properly. It does not have to right to value one life more than another no matter how badly an individual has hurt another. Being angry with an offender just makes a situation worse (Honeyman & Ogloff, 1999, September 29). Perhaps the reason that the death penalty is still used is the fact that society wants retribution from offenders. Many times retribution is desired so strongly that society is willing to close its eyes to all the moral violations that take place when retribution is received.

When the death penalty is carried out, a reckless attitude toward human life is expressed. Common sense does demand retribution for crime, but justice doesnt demand killing those whom are already imprisoned (Death Penalty, 1987, p. 63). Perhaps Andrei Sakhorov had the right view of capital punishment from a moral standpoint when he said: I regard the death penalty as a savage and immoral institutionA state, in the person of its functionariesthat takes upon itself the right to the most terrible and irreversible actthe deprivation of life, such a state cannot expect an improvement in the moral atmosphere of its country.(Clay, 1990, p.9.) What he is saying in this quote is that a state cannot better society when it is taking part in such a savage and irreversible act as capital punishment. The death penalty becomes a degrading act when used. State sanctioned executions expose more of the violence and injustice that are in everyone. It is dehumanizing and brings more injury to society than to the victim (Bender& Leone, 1986, p.

74). These true accounts tell how capital punishment degrades all of society. On May 25, 1979 several hundred people stood in front of the Starke penitentiary in Florida. With them was a coffin perched atop a Winnebago. The people around it chanting Go Sparky go! Some were wearing T-shirts with the saying, 1down 131 to go. This shows the violence and dehumanizing actions that are brought out of society with the use of capital punishment (Bedau, 1999, November 10).

In addition, on October 12, 1984, across the street from the Virginia prison in Richmond, a rowdy crowd gathered to cheer on the execution of Lindwood Briley. They held signs that portrayed lynch mob mentality. One read, Fry, nigger, fry, and another read Burn Briley Burn (Bedau, 1999, November 10). When the final word came from within the prison the mob set off firecrackers and cheered. If capital punishment were abolished these, degrading acts would never have happened or happen again (Bedau, 1999, November 10). One argument the supporters of the death penalty use is that it is a good deterrent of murder.

In fact in a USA today poll, 68% of respondents agreed that the death penalty deters crime (Honeyman & Ogloff, 1999, September 29). However, current research s …