Capital punishment can be defined as the deliberate and premeditated termination of human life as a punishment for the victim who is convicted under the provisions of the law. In the United States, capital punishment remains a highly debated and controversial topic as substantial portions of the U.S. population are proponents or opponents of executions.
This has been, partly, contributed by the different legislations that different countries hold concerning executions. For instance, a good number of Latin American democracies and other democratic countries in Europe have gotten rid off of executions although a number of Asian democracies, the United States and totalitarian countries still carry out executions (Cassel 1).
Death penalty in the U.S
Although the death penalty is, arguably, most debated in the United States, it has not always been there. The greatest number of executions in the United States was carried out during the Depression era that took place during the first half of the twentieth century. This was, however, followed by a significant decline in the number of executions in the fifties and the sixties.
The United States subsequently saw no executions during the period from 1967 to 1976. In the year 1972, the death penalty was nullified by the Supreme Court and death row inmates were consequently given life imprisonment. However, in the year 1976, another Supreme Court determined that the death penalty was constitutional and thus it was reinstated. Since then, and up to 3rd June, 2009, a total of 1167 people have faced the death penalty (Robinson 1).
Most death penalties in the United States have been given due to convictions for murder. In addition to this, other serious crimes have also attracted the death penalty. Some of these crimes include rape, robbery with violence/ armed violence, treason, kidnapping and the like.
Thus after the aforementioned 1972 Supreme Court decision, executions were limited to crimes that were a threat to human life and appropriate legislations were passed to regulate the imposition of the death penalty. In addition to the state laws discussed in this paragraph, the executions can also be carried out by the federal government and the military using the laws of these bodies (Robinson 1).
The pros of death penalty
The faction supporting the death penalty has substantial membership and thus there is need to evaluate their reasons for supporting the death penalty. Some of the reasons they cite for supporting the death penalty are the fact that the death penalty makes criminals restrain from committing murder and other serious crimes like terrorist acts.
Second is the argument that the death penalty is the most suitable punishments for certain crimes like murder. The proponents of the death penalty also argue that executions serve a very important role in making people obtain payback in place of the victims. It is estimated that almost a third of the countries in the world are legally proponents of the death penalty (Lowe 121).
The cons of death penalty
Substantial opposition to the death penalty has, over time, developed even in countries that have retained the death penalty. The main reasons that opponents of the death penalty give for their position are, the fact that the death penalty is inhumane and cruel. The same is also forbidden by the 8th amendment that was made to the constitution of the United States.
It is also true that the methods that are used to carry out executions are inhumane and cruel and thus the legal structure and the actual pragmatic procedures employed during the exercise of executions are inappropriate and seriously unusual (Lowe 122).
Death penalty has been given disproportionately to the impoverished that are unable to finance legal counsel. It has also been used against ethnic, religious and ethnic minorities. This sometimes leads to unfair executions carried out when the substance of the law is followed to the latter.
Apart from the unfair executions that have been imposed on the poor, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, it is true that the death penalty has been inconsistently applied. This has left loopholes for manipulation of the legislations that govern imposing of the death penalty leading to innocent executions (White 1).
Among the most important reasons for annulling the death penalty is the fact that a worrying number of wrongly convicted people have been killed by the state due to the existence of the law accepting executions. Of more concern is the fact that people who are rightfully executed can be punished otherwise as the state waits for information that could prove their innocence.
The only difference between executing a murderer and jailing him/her for life is that the state punishes him/her inhumanely in the former. Furthermore, if jailed for life, the murderer may die in prison as a reformed person (Cassell 1).
From the discussion above, it is clear that the death penalty should be annulled. The government should come up with effective legislation giving effective and humane alternatives for punishing capital offenses. This way, a score of innocent lives will be saved and criminals will be given a chance to die as reformed people.
Cassell, P. Debating the death penalty: should America have capital punishment. New York. Bell & Bain, 2005. Print.
Lowe, Wesley. “Pro Death Penalty”. 2010- October 20, 2010,
Robinson, Bruce. “Capital punishment: All viewpoints on the death penalty”. 2010- October 20, 2010,
White, Deborah. “Pros & Cons of Death Penalty”. 2010- October 20, 2010,