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Death Penalty: Why Is It Wrong? Speech Example

Pages: 1

Words: 711

Speech

Abstract

The application of the death penalty remains one of the most explosive and debated issues in American history. Fought for and against in both federal and national courts, the issue has generated untold volumes relating statistical data to support either side. Rather than approach the rightness or wrongness of the death penalty, it is first necessary to establish if it has had any impact as a punitive measure within society. Those opposed to it or in support of it must concede that this is the foremost consideration of any law which seeks to reduce violent crime, as the death penalty is intended to do.

Death Penalty: Why is It Wrong?

Perspective and Overview

In a world wherein various nations are repealing or enacting their own statutes regarding the death penalty, the trend in modern times has been to abolish it from the books. Today, approximately sixty-eight countries enforce it and the majority of state-mandated executions are performed in China, Iran, Saudi-Arabia and the United States.

The tradition of the death penalty in America is old, with the first recorded instance of it dating to 1608. Constitutional amendments do not necessarily endorse it, yet the language is such as to leave legislators a great deal of discretion. More to the point, it is prohibited nowhere in our constitution. “The 5th  amendment says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Thus….a person can be deprived of life, liberty or property with due process of law” (Hermann, 2008, 4). This tacit permission, in place since the 1789 introduction of the Bill of Rights, is largely responsible for the death penalty’s standing as the longest-running and most impactful controversy our nation has ever faced.

The nature of the death penalty has stirred strong feelings since its inception. As it is regarded as the most severe form of punishment that may be legally imposed, and as it intrinsically requires the taking of a human life, both oppositional and supportive sides draw evidence and/or validation from religious creeds. Members of every faith in existence quickly turn to their creed’s doctrines as absolute refutation or approval of it. Given the passionate opinions of all factions concerned, it is doubtful that any real resolution to the question of the death penalty’s ‘rightness’ in this sense can ever be achieved.

Evidence of Success?

There are no real distinctions between opponents or supporters of the death penalty in terms of background, education, or even, in many cases, religion. Ironically, both sides also employ statistics when it comes to what is deemed the crux of the issue: whether or not the penalty works in lessening crime. This is possible because, as any statistical analyst will assert, such numbers can be used to back up completely contrasting theories.

In favor of those opposed to the death penalty is the finality of the punishment; it allows for no second-guessing, and this argument gains strength from documented wrongful imprisonments. “Between 1987 and 1999 sixty-one condemned inmates were released from prison because they were found to be innocent” (Banner, 2002, 303). Those in support of the death penalty then focus on how relatively insignificant this number is, in light of the many thousands of convicted murderers still permitted to live. Other arguments turn more pragmatically to cost and upkeep for the condemned man permitted to serve a life sentence. This in turn fuels the protestors’ stance on how such a consideration may not apply in determining a course of justice.

There is no shortage of debated points in the death penalty issue, as there are no real evidences of its success as a deterrent, or failure as an antiquated resorting to vengeance. Yet the fact remains that there is not one ‘why’ in the question of the death penalty’s being wrong or right. There are two. The second is the greater war over the moral and ethical rationales behind it. The first is any society’s obligation to demonstrate that it serves a practical purpose in the safeguarding of its citizens and is therefore conscionable justice. Only when that question is properly answered can the second be addressed.

References

Banner, S. The Death Penalty: An American History (2002). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hermann, J. The History of the Death Penalty in the United States (2008). Norderstedt, Germany: GRIN Verlag.

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