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Dead Man Walking

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Dead Man Walking

Since the execution of James Kendall in 1608, capital punishment “has been an accepted form of justice” in what is now the United States (Smith). Capital punishment can be defined as “the penalty of death for the commission of a crime” (Dictionary.com). I have opinions on many subjects, whether or not you agree is your prerogative. Living in America, a free country, gives me the right to persuade you to see things my way. In the great debate of capital punishment I would like to witness the death penalty remain legal, increasingly enforced and possibly made more harsh for the individuals committing the crime involved.

In colonial America, both violent and non-violent crimes could merit the death penalty. Murder was not the only crime punishable by death. Criminals responsible for committing any crime against God would be executed. While our society does not execute individuals supposedly practicing witchcraft or committing other sins, there is still a need for capital punishment. Not only should the death penalty be condoned, but improved upon to give criminals punishments comparable to the brutal crimes responsible for their prosecution. The methods of executing criminals have evolved greatly since colonial times. Electrocution, gas, and lethal injection - they are all methods of execution used today by the American government to punish murderers (General Statistics). Thirty-eight out of our fifty states and Washington D.C. have the death penalty as a method of punishment. The subject of capital punishment has been under debate for a long time; many pro-capital punishment supporters believe it is a fair way to punish murderers; however others call it immoral and unethical. I believe that it should be used as a punishment by our government.

Over 60% of the American public believes in using the death penalty (General Statistics). That is almost a two-to-one ratio. Also, since it is legal in thirty-eight states and even our nation's capital, that is a large number that thinks we should keep it.

Supporters of capital punishment tend to turn to biblical evidence in order to defend their viewpoint. Kerby Anderson, president of Probe Ministries, explains, “Throughout the Old Testament we find many cases in which God commands the use of capital punishment. We see this first with the acts of God Himself. God was involved, either directly or indirectly, in taking of life as a punishment for the nation of Israel or for those who threatened or harmed Israel” (Anderson). According to Genesis 9:6, capital punishment is based upon the sanctity of life. It says, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Ryrie).

Anti-capital punishment groups bring into the spotlight the effectiveness of capital punishment to deter violent crime by proving that crime rates are not affected by the execution of violent criminals. However, without a steady increase or decrease in crime it would be impossible to be sure how effective the death penalty is. The poet Hyman Barshay writes, “The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea. We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way. We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down” (Anderson). Without hard evidence that capital punishment is ineffective, our society should continue to use it as a deterrent to violent crime.

As with most of life’s trials and tribulations, consistency plays a key role. Dr. Isaac Ehrlich at the University of Chicago has conducted research showing “…that if the death penalty is used in a consistent way, it may deter as many as eight murders for every execution carried out” (Anderson). It must also be realized that capital punishment is not the ultimate answer in preventing violent crime. Criminals with mental illnesses or members of organized crime will undoubtedly still commit crimes due to mental health and the fact that crime does, in a sense, pay (Hugo Bedau & Paul Cassell). Only through consistent enforcement of the death penalty will we be able to see changes in our increasing crime rates.

Another major argument presented against capital punishment is the prejudice tendencies of execution. According to the Moratorium Campaign posts, “…over eighty-two percent of those on death row were convicted of killing a white person” (General Statistics), though people of color make up almost fifty percent of all homicide victims in the United States (Harrell). Also, “…in addition forty-three percent of those on death row are black” (General Statistics), although less than thirteen percent of the United States population is black (Census.gov).

The District Attorney of Oklahoma City, Robert Macy, described his concept of the need for the death penalty in one case, "In 1991, a young mother was rendered helpless and

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