The Social Science of the Death Penalty: Before, during, and after Trial

  • First Online: 24 November 2020

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death penalty research paper introduction

  • Matthew P. West 5 &
  • Monica K. Miller 6  

Part of the book series: Advances in Psychology and Law ((APL,volume 5))

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The death penalty is a controversial topic that has attracted attention broadly, from diverse groups including lawmakers, religious leaders, and the general public. Social scientists have also been intrigued by the phenomenon and have studied many aspects related to the penalty. Several of these bodies of research are the focus of this chapter. First, the chapter begins with a discussion of the social science-based explanations for the changes in practice and sentiment that the death penalty has experienced. Over time, the death penalty has become less frequently used, and by fewer and fewer jurisdictions. While many people object to the penalty, others defend its use. Scholars have explained these trends. Second, social science has suggested a number of human tendencies that are adaptive in general life, but inadvertently affect sentiment toward criminals and the death penalty. For instance, people have stereotypes, heuristics, and attributions that facilitate quick decision-making, but could also lead to biased decisions. Third, social scientists have studied the trial itself. The very process of selecting a jury can affect the trial outcome, as can jurors’ consideration of both legal and extralegal factors. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney can also affect the trial outcome in many ways. Fourth, the chapter discusses the roles and research related to offenders’ experiences on death row. Psychologists assess offenders’ competency to be executed, study their well-being, and provide them with mental health services. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the possible future of death penalty law and accompanying research.

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West, M.P., Miller, M.K. (2020). The Social Science of the Death Penalty: Before, during, and after Trial. In: Miller, M.K., Bornstein, B.H. (eds) Advances in Psychology and Law. Advances in Psychology and Law, vol 5. Springer, Cham.

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Deterrence and the Death Penalty (2012)

Chapter: 1 introduction.


I n 1976 the Supreme Court decision Gregg v. Georgia (428 U.S. 153) ended the 4-year moratorium on executions that had resulted from its 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia (408 U.S. 238) . In Furman the Court had ruled that the death penalty, as then administered in the United States, constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Then, in Gregg , it had ruled that the death penalty is not, in all circumstances, cruel and unusual punishment, thereby opening the way for states to revise their capital punishment statutes to conform to the requirements of Gregg .

In the immediate aftermath of Gregg, a National Research Council report reviewed the evidence relating to the deterrent effect of the death penalty that had been published through the mid-1970s. That review was highly critical of the available research, concluding (1978, p. 9):

The flaws in the earlier analyses finding no effect and the sensitivity of the more recent analysis to minor variations in model specification and the serious temporal instability of the results lead the panel to conclude that available studies provide no useful evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment.


During the 35 years since Gregg , and particularly in the past decade, many studies have renewed the attempt to estimate the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates. Most researchers have used post- Gregg data from the United States to examine the statistical association between

homicide rates and the legal status or the actual implementation of the death penalty.

The studies have reached widely varying, even contradictory, conclusions, and commentary on the findings has sometimes been acrimonious. Some researchers have concluded that deterrent effects are large and robust across datasets and model specifications. For example, Dezhbakhsh, Rubin, and Shepherd (2003, p. 344) concluded that:

Our results suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect; each execution results, on average, in eighteen fewer murders with a margin of error of plus or minus ten. Tests show that results are not driven by tougher sentencing laws and are robust to many alternative specifications.

Similarly, Mocan and Gittings (2003, p. 453) stated the following:

The results show that each additional execution decreases homicides by about five, and each additional commutation increases homicides by the same amount, while an additional removal from death row generates one additional murder.

In 2004 testimony before Congress, Shepherd (2004, p. 1) summarized this line of evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment as follows:

Recent research on the relationship between capital punishment and crime has created a strong consensus among economists that capital punishment deters crime.

However, the claims that the evidence shows a substantial deterrent effect have been vigorously challenged. Kovandzic, Vieraitis, and Boots (2009, p. 803) concluded that:

Employing well-known econometric procedures for panel data analysis, our results provide no empirical support for the argument that the existence or application of the death penalty deters prospective offenders from committing homicide … policymakers should refrain from justifying its use by claiming that it is a deterrent to homicide and should consider less costly, more effective ways of addressing crime.

Others do not go so far as to claim that there is no deterrent effect, but instead argue that the findings supporting a deterrent effect are fragile, not robust. Donohue and Wolfers (2005, p. 794) reanalyzed several of the data sets used by the authors who claimed to have found robust deterrent effects and concluded that:

We find that the existing evidence for deterrence is surprisingly fragile, and even small changes in specifications yield dramatically different re-

sults. Our key insight is that the death penalty—at least as it has been implemented in the United States since Gregg ended the moratorium on executions—is applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot be reliably disentangled from the large year-to year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors.

Berk (2005, p. 328) reached a similar conclusion:

… the results raise serious questions about whether anything useful about the deterrent value of the death penalty can ever be learned from an observational study with the data that are likely to be available.

Not surprisingly, the criticisms of the research claiming to have found deterrent effects have generated defenses of the research findings and the methodologies used, as well as counterclaims about the deficiencies in the methods used by the critics. For instance, in response to the Kovandzic, Vieraitis, and Boots (2009) claim of no deterrent effect, Rubin (2009, p. 858) argued that:

the weight of the evidence as well as the theoretical predictions both argue for deterrence, and econometrically flawed studies such as this article are insufficient to overthrow this presumption.

In response to Donohue and Wolfers (2005, 2009), Zimmerman (2009, p. 396) argued that:

This paper shows that many of D&W’s [Donohue and Wolfers] criticisms of Zimmerman’s original work do not hold up under scrutiny, and other authors have also rebutted D&W’s criticisms of their research.

Beyond disagreement about whether the research evidence shows a deterrent effect of capital punishment, some researchers claim to have found a brutalization effect from state-sanctioned executions such that capital punishment actually increases homicide rates (see, e.g., Cochran and Chamlin, 2000; Thomson, 1999). Evidence in support of a brutalization effect is mostly the work of sociologists, but it is notable that in her latter work Shepherd also concluded that brutalization effects may be present (Shepherd, 2005).


The Committee on Deterrence and the Death Penalty was organized against this backdrop of conflicting claims about the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates, with the following charge:

This study will assess the evidence on the deterrent effect of the death penalty—whether the threat of execution prevents homicides. The focus will be on studies completed since an earlier National Research Council assessment (National Research Council, 1978). A major objective of this study is to evaluate underlying reasons for the differing conclusions in more recent empirical studies about the effects of the legal status and actual practice of the death penalty on criminal homicide rates. The committee will develop a report about what can be concluded from these studies and also draw conclusions about the potential for future work to improve upon the quality of existing evidence.

Issues and questions to be examined include the following:

1.   Does the available evidence provide a reasonable basis for drawing conclusions about the magnitude of capital punishment’s effect on homicide rates?

2.   Are there differences among the extant analyses that provide a basis for resolving the differences in findings? Are the differences in findings due to inherent limitations in the data? Are there existing statistical methods and/or theoretical perspectives that have yet to be applied that can better address the deterrence question? Are the limitations of existing evidence reflective of a lack of information about the social, economic, and political underpinnings of homicide rates and/or the administration of capital punishment that first must be resolved before the deterrent effect of capital punishment can be determined?

3.   Do potential remedies to shortcomings in the evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment have broader applicability for research on the deterrent effect of noncapital sanctions?

In addressing those questions, we focused on the studies that have been undertaken since the earlier assessment (National Research Council, 1978). That assessment has stood largely unchallenged: none of the recent work, whatever its conclusion regarding deterrence, relies on the earlier studies criticized in that report or attempts to rehabilitate the value of those studies.

It is important to make clear what is not in the committee’s charge. Deterrence is but one of many considerations relevant to deciding whether the death penalty is good public policy. Not all supporters of capital punishment base their argument on deterrent effects, and not all opponents would be affected by persuasive evidence of such effects. The case for capital punishment is sometimes based on normative retributive arguments that the death penalty is the only appropriate and proportional response to especially heinous crimes; the case against it is sometimes based on

similarly normative claims that the sanctity of human life precludes state-sanctioned killings, regardless of any possible social benefits of capital punishment. Separate from normative considerations, deterrence is not the only empirical issue relevant to the debate over capital punishment. Other considerations include whether capital punishment can be administered in a nondiscriminatory and consistent fashion, whether the risk of a mistaken execution of an innocent person is acceptably small, and the cost of administering the death penalty in comparison with other sanction alternatives.

Although there is empirical evidence on the issues of discrimination, mistakes, and cost, the charge to the committee does not include these questions. Nor have we been charged with rendering an overall judgment on whether capital punishment is good public policy. We have been tasked only with assessing the scientific quality of the post- Gregg evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment and making recommendations for improving the scientific quality and policy relevance of future research.

In including recommendations for future research, the study’s statement of task recognized that potential remedies to shortcomings in the evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment on homicide might also be used in the study of the crime prevention effects of noncapital sanctions. Thus, this report also offers recommendations for improving the scientific quality and policy relevance of that research.

The post- Gregg studies can be divided into two types on the basis of the type of data analyzed. Panel data studies analyze sets of states or counties measured over time, usually from about 1970 to 2000. These studies relate homicide rates over time and the jurisdictions covered to the legal status of capital punishment or the frequency of executions or both. Time-series studies generally cover only a single geographic unit, which may be as large as a nation or as small as a city. These studies usually examine whether there are short-term changes in homicide rates in that geographic unit in the aftermath of an execution. We review and critique these two types of studies separately because their design and statistical methods are quite different.

Assessing the deterrent effect of the death penalty is much more than a question of interest to social science research. It is a matter of importance to U.S. society at large, and we expect that a potentially broad audience will want to understand how the committee reached its conclusions. Yet the research that the committee has had to appraise is a body of formal empirical work that makes use of highly technical concepts and techniques. The committee has been mindful of the importance of reaching as broad an audience as possible while meeting the fundamental requirement that the report be scientifically grounded. With this in mind, Chapters 1 , 2 , and 3 (as well as the summary) have been written for a broad, largely policy audience, largely avoiding technical language. In contrast, Chapters 4 and

5 include some exposition and analyses that are aimed for the researchers in the field.

Chapter 2 summarizes homicide rates and the legal status and practice of execution in the United States from 1950 to the present. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the possible mechanisms by which the legal status and practice of execution might affect homicide rates and also provides a nontechnical primer on some of the key challenges to making valid inferences about the deterrent effect of the death penalty. Chapters 4 and 5 review and assess the panel and time-series studies, respectively. Chapter 6 elaborates on the theoretical and statistical challenges to drawing valid conclusions about the deterrent effect of the death penalty, and presents our conclusions and recommendations for future research.

Berk, R. (2005). New claims about executions and general deterrence: Déjà vu all over again? Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 2 (2), 303-330.

Cochran, J.K., and Chamlin, M.B. (2000). Deterrence and brutalization: The dual effects of executions. Justice Quarterly, 17 (4), 685-706.

Dezhbakhsh, H., Rubin, P.H., and Shepherd, J.M. (2003). Does capital punishment have a deterrent effect? New evidence from postmoratorium panel data. American Law and Economics Review, 5 (2), 344-376.

Donohue, J.J., and Wolfers, J. (2005). Uses and abuses of empirical evidence in the death penalty debate. Stanford Law Review, 58 (3), 791-845.

Donohue, J.J., and Wolfers, J. (2009). Estimating the impact of the death penalty on murder. American Law and Economics Review, 11 (2), 249-309.

Kovandzic, T.V., Vieraitis, L.M., and Boots, D.P. (2009). Does the death penalty save lives? Criminology & Public Policy, 8 (4), 803-843.

Mocan, H.N., and Gittings, R.K. (2003). Getting off death row: Commuted sentences and the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Journal of Law & Economics, 46 (2), 453-478.

National Research Council. (1978). Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimating the Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates . Panel on Research on Deterrent and Incapacitative Effects, A. Blumstein, J. Cohen, and D. Nagin (Eds.). Committee on Research on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. Assembly of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Rubin, P.H. (2009). Don’t scrap the death penalty. Criminology & Public Policy, 8 (4), 853-859.

Shepherd, J.M. (2004). Testimony on Crime and Deterrence: Hearing on H.R. 2934, the Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act of 2003 . Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, House Judiciary Committee. Available: [January 2012].

Shepherd, J.M. (2005). Deterrence versus brutalization: Capital punishment’s differing impacts among states. Michigan Law Review, 104 (2), 203-255.

Thomson, E. (1999). Effects of an execution on homicides in California. Homicide Studies, 3 (2), 129-150.

Zimmerman, P.R. (2009). Statistical variability and the deterrent effect of the death penalty. American Law and Economics Review, 11 (2), 370-398.

Many studies during the past few decades have sought to determine whether the death penalty has any deterrent effect on homicide rates. Researchers have reached widely varying, even contradictory, conclusions. Some studies have concluded that the threat of capital punishment deters murders, saving large numbers of lives; other studies have concluded that executions actually increase homicides; still others, that executions have no effect on murder rates. Commentary among researchers, advocates, and policymakers on the scientific validity of the findings has sometimes been acrimonious.

Against this backdrop, the National Research Council report Deterrence and the Death Penalty assesses whether the available evidence provides a scientific basis for answering questions of if and how the death penalty affects homicide rates. This new report from the Committee on Law and Justice concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide rates is not useful in determining whether the death penalty increases, decreases, or has no effect on these rates. The key question is whether capital punishment is less or more effective as a deterrent than alternative punishments, such as a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Yet none of the research that has been done accounted for the possible effect of noncapital punishments on homicide rates. The report recommends new avenues of research that may provide broader insight into any deterrent effects from both capital and noncapital punishments.


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The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective (4th edn)

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This chapter presents the book's sources of information, its plan, and the approach taken towards capital punishment. This book began as a report to the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control in 1988. The chapter argues that it is necessary to approach the question of capital punishment from both normative and utilitarian points of view, and always in relation to how it is applied in practice. In essence, therefore, the case for retaining the death penalty — and thus resisting the movement to make its abolition an international norm — cannot rest solely on moral, cultural, or religious arguments. It would also have to be shown that it is useful and that it can be applied fairly, without mistakes, and without any degree of arbitrariness or cruelty unacceptable to contemporary social and legal values.

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death penalty research paper introduction

The Alliance for Citizen Engagement


Individuals convicted of the death penalty are found guilty of capital crimes, most notably, murder, espionage, and treason. In the 1600s, the American colonies used the death penalty as a punishment for most serious crimes. By the 1800s, many began to oppose the death penalty because they felt that it was inhumane and unconstitutional. The 1972 U.S. Supreme Court Case Furman v. Georgia deemed the death penalty unconstitutional in it’s current state, and found that the legal process needed to be revised. This resulted in the emergence of the bifurcation procedure. The bifurcation procedure involves two trials. 

  • The guilt phase : A jury decides an individual’s guilt or innocence.
  • The penalty phase : Following the guilt phase, the jury receives additional information in the form of aggravating and mitigating circumstances that are meant to aid in deciding if the individual is deserving of death. Aggravating circumstances are situations or factors that increase the individual’s deservingness of death while mitigating circumstances are situations that decrease the individual’s deservingness of death.

The death penalty is considered a state issue. 27 states use the death penalty and 23 states do not. The U.S. government has imposed moratorium in three death penalty states. This means that the individuals can still be sentenced to death but primarily only in the case of severe crimes, like murder.

Alliance for Citizen Engagement

Source: ABC News

In 2020, 18 countries implemented the death penalty, but most executions were concentrated in a few countries , namely China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Egypt made up about 88% of executions . 

Arguments for the Death Penalty  

  • Deterrence : Death is notably the harshest punishment practiced by the criminal justice system.  It is seen as a general deterrence because it prevents individuals from committing capital crimes. Ernest van den Haag, a professor at Jurisprudence at Fordham University, studied the topic of deterrence in terms of the death penalty and believes that since death is the most feared event for most people, it must have some effect in deterring crime. Furthermore, the death penalty specfically deters any future crime because it takes away the criminal’s ability to commit crimes after they are dead.
  • Retribution : Those who support the death penalty from a retributionist perspective do so because they find that it serves the purpose of justice. If the death penalty did not exist as a punishment to those who commit capital offenses, they believe society would succumb to crime and violence. This perspective also supports Hammurabi’s code, or “an eye for an eye,” meaning that a crime will be equally matched with a punishment in which the criminal suffers the same pain as the victim. If an individual commits murder, he or she shall be put to death as punishment.

Arguments Against the Death Penalty

  • Rebuttal to retribution : The legal system cannot rely on emotional impulses for solving problems because it is not a sufficient justification, especially for such a serious form of punishment. The criminal justice system should be held to higher standards that reflect a prioritization of life. Reducing the reasoning of taking an individual’s life to an emotional aspect is dehumanizing and it acts as a reflection of the entire justice system, and not just a focus on capital crimes punishment. 
  • Innocence and wrongful convictions : There is strong evidence that proves some individuals have been wrongfully executed. According to the Execution Database , 185 people have been absolved from guilt and released from prison. Although some of the absolutions may have resulted from judicial and investigative errors, this number demonstrates the possibilty for error within the death penalty procedures.
  • Arbitrariness and Discrimination : Defendants of disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to receive the death penalty than other groups. Black individuals convicted of a capital crime are 4.3 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white people. Since 1976, 158 black individuals have been executed by the death penalty for the murder of a white victim while 11 white people were executed for the murder of a black victim. The death penalty does not execute the worst offenders, rather it executes those who have the poorest defense. Those who do not have the resources to afford a lawyer are assigned a public defense lawyer, who is usually juggling multiple cases and unable to strongly focus on a single case.  
  • Arbitrariness and Discrimination : Defendants of disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to receive the death penalty than other groups. Black individuals convicted of a capital crime are 4.3 times more likely to receive the death penalty than white people. Since 1976, 158 black individuals have been executed by the death penalty for the murder of a white victim while 11 white people were executed for the murder of a black victim. The death penalty does not execute tthe worst offenders, rather it executes those who have the poorest defense. Those who do not have the resources to afford a lawyer are assigned a public defense lawyer, who is usually juggling multiple cases and unable to strongly focus on a single one single case. 

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Round Separator

Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty

Click the buttons below to view arguments and testimony on each topic.

The death penalty deters future murders.

Society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawful action. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty. If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life.

For years, criminologists analyzed murder rates to see if they fluctuated with the likelihood of convicted murderers being executed, but the results were inconclusive. Then in 1973 Isaac Ehrlich employed a new kind of analysis which produced results showing that for every inmate who was executed, 7 lives were spared because others were deterred from committing murder. Similar results have been produced by disciples of Ehrlich in follow-up studies.

Moreover, even if some studies regarding deterrence are inconclusive, that is only because the death penalty is rarely used and takes years before an execution is actually carried out. Punishments which are swift and sure are the best deterrent. The fact that some states or countries which do not use the death penalty have lower murder rates than jurisdictions which do is not evidence of the failure of deterrence. States with high murder rates would have even higher rates if they did not use the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag, a Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University who has studied the question of deterrence closely, wrote: “Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive, and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks.”

Finally, the death penalty certainly “deters” the murderer who is executed. Strictly speaking, this is a form of incapacitation, similar to the way a robber put in prison is prevented from robbing on the streets. Vicious murderers must be killed to prevent them from murdering again, either in prison, or in society if they should get out. Both as a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation, the death penalty helps to prevent future crime.

Those who believe that deterrence justifies the execution of certain offenders bear the burden of proving that the death penalty is a deterrent. The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. The Ehrlich studies have been widely discredited. In fact, some criminologists, such as William Bowers of Northeastern University, maintain that the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Even most supporters of the death penalty now place little or no weight on deterrence as a serious justification for its continued use.

States in the United States that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates than states that do. The same is true when the U.S. is compared to countries similar to it. The U.S., with the death penalty, has a higher murder rate than the countries of Europe or Canada, which do not use the death penalty.

The death penalty is not a deterrent because most people who commit murders either do not expect to be caught or do not carefully weigh the differences between a possible execution and life in prison before they act. Frequently, murders are committed in moments of passion or anger, or by criminals who are substance abusers and acted impulsively. As someone who presided over many of Texas’s executions, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox has remarked, “It is my own experience that those executed in Texas were not deterred by the existence of the death penalty law. I think in most cases you’ll find that the murder was committed under severe drug and alcohol abuse.”

There is no conclusive proof that the death penalty acts as a better deterrent than the threat of life imprisonment. A 2012 report released by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies and based on a review of more than three decades of research, concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. A survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies found that 84% of these experts rejected the notion that research had demonstrated any deterrent effect from the death penalty .

Once in prison, those serving life sentences often settle into a routine and are less of a threat to commit violence than other prisoners. Moreover, most states now have a sentence of life without parole. Prisoners who are given this sentence will never be released. Thus, the safety of society can be assured without using the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy, Fordham University. Excerpts from ” The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense,” (Harvard Law Review Association, 1986)

“Execution of those who have committed heinous murders may deter only one murder per year. If it does, it seems quite warranted. It is also the only fitting retribution for murder I can think of.”

“Most abolitionists acknowledge that they would continue to favor abolition even if the death penalty were shown to deter more murders than alternatives could deter. Abolitionists appear to value the life of a convicted murderer or, at least, his non-execution, more highly than they value the lives of the innocent victims who might be spared by deterring prospective murderers.

Deterrence is not altogether decisive for me either. I would favor retention of the death penalty as retribution even if it were shown that the threat of execution could not deter prospective murderers not already deterred by the threat of imprisonment. Still, I believe the death penalty, because of its finality, is more feared than imprisonment, and deters some prospective murderers not deterred by the thought of imprisonment. Sparing the lives of even a few prospective victims by deterring their murderers is more important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers because of the possibility, or even the probability, that executing them would not deter others. Whereas the life of the victims who might be saved are valuable, that of the murderer has only negative value, because of his crime. Surely the criminal law is meant to protect the lives of potential victims in preference to those of actual murderers.”

“We threaten punishments in order to deter crime. We impose them not only to make the threats credible but also as retribution (justice) for the crimes that were not deterred. Threats and punishments are necessary to deter and deterrence is a sufficient practical justification for them. Retribution is an independent moral justification. Although penalties can be unwise, repulsive, or inappropriate, and those punished can be pitiable, in a sense the infliction of legal punishment on a guilty person cannot be unjust. By committing the crime, the criminal volunteered to assume the risk of receiving a legal punishment that he could have avoided by not committing the crime. The punishment he suffers is the punishment he voluntarily risked suffering and, therefore, it is no more unjust to him than any other event for which one knowingly volunteers to assume the risk. Thus, the death penalty cannot be unjust to the guilty criminal.”

Full text can be found at .

Hugo Adam Bedau (deceased) Austin Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University Excerpts from “The Case Against The Death Penalty” (Copyright 1997, American Civil Liberties Union)

“Persons who commit murder and other crimes of personal violence either may or may not premeditate their crimes.

When crime is planned, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not discourage those who expect to escape detection and arrest. It is impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could prevent a crime that is not premeditated….

Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. In such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others….

If, however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any rational person from committing a violent crime.

The vast preponderance of the evidence shows that the death penalty is no more effective than imprisonment in deterring murder and that it may even be an incitement to criminal violence. Death-penalty states as a group do not have lower rates of criminal homicide than non-death-penalty states….

On-duty police officers do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide in abolitionist states than they do in death-penalty states. Between l973 and l984, for example, lethal assaults against police were not significantly more, or less, frequent in abolitionist states than in death-penalty states. There is ‘no support for the view that the death penalty provides a more effective deterrent to police homicides than alternative sanctions. Not for a single year was evidence found that police are safer in jurisdictions that provide for capital punishment.’ (Bailey and Peterson, Criminology (1987))

Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states. Between 1992 and 1995, 176 inmates were murdered by other prisoners; the vast majority (84%) were killed in death penalty jurisdictions. During the same period about 2% of all assaults on prison staff were committed by inmates in abolition jurisdictions. Evidently, the threat of the death penalty ‘does not even exert an incremental deterrent effect over the threat of a lesser punishment in the abolitionist states.’ (Wolfson, in Bedau, ed., The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed. (1982))

Actual experience thus establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the death penalty does not deter murder. No comparable body of evidence contradicts that conclusion.”

Click here for the full text from the ACLU website.


A just society requires the taking of a life for a life.

When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime which will be punished in kind.

Retribution has its basis in religious values, which have historically maintained that it is proper to take an “eye for an eye” and a life for a life.

Although the victim and the victim’s family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the murder, at least an execution brings closure to the murderer’s crime (and closure to the ordeal for the victim’s family) and ensures that the murderer will create no more victims.

For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment under our system of law, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives.

Robert Macy, District Attorney of Oklahoma City, described his concept of the need for retribution in one case: “In 1991, a young mother was rendered helpless and made to watch as her baby was executed. The mother was then mutilated and killed. The killer should not lie in some prison with three meals a day, clean sheets, cable TV, family visits and endless appeals. For justice to prevail, some killers just need to die.”

Retribution is another word for revenge. Although our first instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standards of a mature society demand a more measured response.

The emotional impulse for revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment, with all its accompanying problems and risks. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life, even the life of a murderer. Encouraging our basest motives of revenge, which ends in another killing, extends the chain of violence. Allowing executions sanctions killing as a form of ‘pay-back.’

Many victims’ families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of their loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain. For example, Bud Welch’s daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Although his first reaction was to wish that those who committed this terrible crime be killed, he ultimately realized that such killing “is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie…. Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it has no place in our justice system.”

The notion of an eye for an eye, or a life for a life, is a simplistic one which our society has never endorsed. We do not allow torturing the torturer, or raping the rapist. Taking the life of a murderer is a similarly disproportionate punishment, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. executes only a small percentage of those convicted of murder, and these defendants are typically not the worst offenders but merely the ones with the fewest resources to defend themselves.

Louis P. Pojman Author and Professor of Philosophy, U.S. Military Academy. Excerpt from “The Death Penalty: For and Against,” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998)

“[Opponents of the capital punishment often put forth the following argument:] Perhaps the murderer deserves to die, but what authority does the state have to execute him or her? Both the Old and New Testament says, “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Prov. 25:21 and Romans 12:19). You need special authority to justify taking the life of a human being.

The objector fails to note that the New Testament passage continues with a support of the right of the state to execute criminals in the name of God: “Let every person be subjected to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…. If you do wrong, be afraid, for [the authority] does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13: 1-4). So, according to the Bible, the authority to punish, which presumably includes the death penalty, comes from God.

But we need not appeal to a religious justification for capital punishment. We can site the state’s role in dispensing justice. Just as the state has the authority (and duty) to act justly in allocating scarce resources, in meeting minimal needs of its (deserving) citizens, in defending its citizens from violence and crime, and in not waging unjust wars; so too does it have the authority, flowing from its mission to promote justice and the good of its people, to punish the criminal. If the criminal, as one who has forfeited a right to life, deserves to be executed, especially if it will likely deter would-be murderers, the state has a duty to execute those convicted of first-degree murder.”

National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Excerpts from “To End the Death Penalty: A Report of the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation” (December, 1999)

“Some would argue that the death penalty is needed as a means of retributive justice, to balance out the crime with the punishment. This reflects a natural concern of society, and especially of victims and their families. Yet we believe that we are called to seek a higher road even while punishing the guilty, for example through long and in some cases life-long incarceration, so that the healing of all can ultimately take place.

Some would argue that the death penalty will teach society at large the seriousness of crime. Yet we say that teaching people to respond to violence with violence will, again, only breed more violence.

The strongest argument of all [in favor of the death penalty] is the deep pain and grief of the families of victims, and their quite natural desire to see punishment meted out to those who have plunged them into such agony. Yet it is the clear teaching of our traditions that this pain and suffering cannot be healed simply through the retribution of capital punishment or by vengeance. It is a difficult and long process of healing which comes about through personal growth and God’s grace. We agree that much more must be done by the religious community and by society at large to solace and care for the grieving families of the victims of violent crime.

Recent statements of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism, and of the U.S. Catholic Conference sum up well the increasingly strong convictions shared by Jews and Catholics…:

‘Respect for all human life and opposition to the violence in our society are at the root of our long-standing opposition (as bishops) to the death penalty. We see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. As we said in Confronting the Culture of Violence: ‘We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.’ We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.’1

We affirm that we came to these conclusions because of our shared understanding of the sanctity of human life. We have committed ourselves to work together, and each within our own communities, toward ending the death penalty.” Endnote 1. Statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Catholic Conference, March 24, 1999.

The risk of executing the innocent precludes the use of the death penalty.

The death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death. Since 1973, over 180 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged. During the same period of time, over 1,500 people have been executed. Thus, for every 8.3 people executed, we have found one person on death row who never should have been convicted. These statistics represent an intolerable risk of executing the innocent. If an automobile manufacturer operated with similar failure rates, it would be run out of business.

Our capital punishment system is unreliable. A study by Columbia University Law School found that two thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors. When the cases were retried, over 80% of the defendants were not sentenced to death and 7% were completely acquitted.

Many of the releases of innocent defendants from death row came about as a result of factors outside of the justice system. Recently, journalism students in Illinois were assigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system of appeals had rejected his legal claims. The students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were able to find another man, who confessed to the crime on videotape and was later convicted of the murder. The innocent man who was released was very fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.

In other cases, DNA testing has exonerated death row inmates. Here, too, the justice system had concluded that these defendants were guilty and deserving of the death penalty. DNA testing became available only in the early 1990s, due to advancements in science. If this testing had not been discovered until ten years later, many of these inmates would have been executed. And if DNA testing had been applied to earlier cases where inmates were executed in the 1970s and 80s, the odds are high that it would have proven that some of them were innocent as well.

Society takes many risks in which innocent lives can be lost. We build bridges, knowing that statistically some workers will be killed during construction; we take great precautions to reduce the number of unintended fatalities. But wrongful executions are a preventable risk. By substituting a sentence of life without parole, we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an erroneous and irrevocable punishment.

There is no proof that any innocent person has actually been executed since increased safeguards and appeals were added to our death penalty system in the 1970s. Even if such executions have occurred, they are very rare. Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty.

Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent.

If it can be shown that someone is innocent, surely a governor would grant clemency and spare the person. Hypothetical claims of innocence are usually just delaying tactics to put off the execution as long as possible. Given our thorough system of appeals through numerous state and federal courts, the execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible. Even the theoretical execution of an innocent person can be justified because the death penalty saves lives by deterring other killings.

Gerald Kogan, Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Excerpts from a speech given in Orlando, Florida, October 23, 1999 “[T]here is no question in my mind, and I can tell you this having seen the dynamics of our criminal justice system over the many years that I have been associated with it, [as] prosecutor, defense attorney, trial judge and Supreme Court Justice, that convinces me that we certainly have, in the past, executed those people who either didn’t fit the criteria for execution in the State of Florida or who, in fact, were, factually, not guilty of the crime for which they have been executed.

“And you can make these statements when you understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system, when you understand how the State makes deals with more culpable defendants in a capital case, offers them light sentences in exchange for their testimony against another participant or, in some cases, in fact, gives them immunity from prosecution so that they can secure their testimony; the use of jailhouse confessions, like people who say, ‘I was in the cell with so-and-so and they confessed to me,’ or using those particular confessions, the validity of which there has been great doubt. And yet, you see the uneven application of the death penalty where, in many instances, those that are the most culpable escape death and those that are the least culpable are victims of the death penalty. These things begin to weigh very heavily upon you. And under our system, this is the system we have. And that is, we are human beings administering an imperfect system.”

“And how about those people who are still sitting on death row today, who may be factually innocent but cannot prove their particular case very simply because there is no DNA evidence in their case that can be used to exonerate them? Of course, in most cases, you’re not going to have that kind of DNA evidence, so there is no way and there is no hope for them to be saved from what may be one of the biggest mistakes that our society can make.”

The entire speech by Justice Kogan is available here.

Paul G. Cassell Associate Professor of Law, University of Utah, College of Law, and former law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Statement before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Concerning Claims of Innocence in Capital Cases (July 23, 1993)

“Given the fallibility of human judgments, the possibility exists that the use of capital punishment may result in the execution of an innocent person. The Senate Judiciary Committee has previously found this risk to be ‘minimal,’ a view shared by numerous scholars. As Justice Powell has noted commenting on the numerous state capital cases that have come before the Supreme Court, the ‘unprecedented safeguards’ already inherent in capital sentencing statutes ‘ensure a degree of care in the imposition of the sentence of death that can only be described as unique.’”

“Our present system of capital punishment limits the ultimate penalty to certain specifically-defined crimes and even then, permit the penalty of death only when the jury finds that the aggravating circumstances in the case outweigh all mitigating circumstances. The system further provides judicial review of capital cases. Finally, before capital sentences are carried out, the governor or other executive official will review the sentence to insure that it is a just one, a determination that undoubtedly considers the evidence of the condemned defendant’s guilt. Once all of those decisionmakers have agreed that a death sentence is appropriate, innocent lives would be lost from failure to impose the sentence.”

“Capital sentences, when carried out, save innocent lives by permanently incapacitating murderers. Some persons who commit capital homicide will slay other innocent persons if given the opportunity to do so. The death penalty is the most effective means of preventing such killers from repeating their crimes. The next most serious penalty, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, prevents murderers from committing some crimes but does not prevent them from murdering in prison.”

“The mistaken release of guilty murderers should be of far greater concern than the speculative and heretofore nonexistent risk of the mistaken execution of an innocent person.”

Full text can be found here.

Arbitrariness & Discrimination

The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.

In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim.

Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence.

With respect to race, studies have repeatedly shown that a death sentence is far more likely where a white person is murdered than where a Black person is murdered. The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable than Black lives. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 296 Black defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 31 white defendants have been executed for the murder of a Black victim. Such racial disparities have existed over the history of the death penalty and appear to be largely intractable.

It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Prosecutors have enormous discretion about when to seek the death penalty and when to settle for a plea bargain. Often those who can only afford a minimal defense are selected for the death penalty. Until race and other arbitrary factors, like economics and geography, can be eliminated as a determinant of who lives and who dies, the death penalty must not be used.

Discretion has always been an essential part of our system of justice. No one expects the prosecutor to pursue every possible offense or punishment, nor do we expect the same sentence to be imposed just because two crimes appear similar. Each crime is unique, both because the circumstances of each victim are different and because each defendant is different. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a mandatory death penalty which applied to everyone convicted of first degree murder would be unconstitutional. Hence, we must give prosecutors and juries some discretion.

In fact, more white people are executed in this country than black people. And even if blacks are disproportionately represented on death row, proportionately blacks commit more murders than whites. Moreover, the Supreme Court has rejected the use of statistical studies which claim racial bias as the sole reason for overturning a death sentence.

Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system.

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. President and Chief Executive Officer, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Inc. Excerpt from “Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice & the Death Penalty,” (Marlowe & Company, 1996)

“Who receives the death penalty has less to do with the violence of the crime than with the color of the criminal’s skin, or more often, the color of the victim’s skin. Murder — always tragic — seems to be a more heinous and despicable crime in some states than in others. Women who kill and who are killed are judged by different standards than are men who are murderers and victims.

The death penalty is essentially an arbitrary punishment. There are no objective rules or guidelines for when a prosecutor should seek the death penalty, when a jury should recommend it, and when a judge should give it. This lack of objective, measurable standards ensures that the application of the death penalty will be discriminatory against racial, gender, and ethnic groups.

The majority of Americans who support the death penalty believe, or wish to believe, that legitimate factors such as the violence and cruelty with which the crime was committed, a defendant’s culpability or history of violence, and the number of victims involved determine who is sentenced to life in prison and who receives the ultimate punishment. The numbers, however, tell a different story. They confirm the terrible truth that bias and discrimination warp our nation’s judicial system at the very time it matters most — in matters of life and death. The factors that determine who will live and who will die — race, sex, and geography — are the very same ones that blind justice was meant to ignore. This prejudicial distribution should be a moral outrage to every American.”

Justice Lewis Powell United States Supreme Court Justice excerpts from McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987) (footnotes and citations omitted)

(Mr. McCleskey, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978 for killing a white police officer while robbing a store. Mr. McCleskey appealed his conviction and death sentence, claiming racial discrimination in the application of Georgia’s death penalty. He presented statistical analysis showing a pattern of sentencing disparities based primarily on the race of the victim. The analysis indicated that black defendants who killed white victims had the greatest likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Powell held that statistical studies on race by themselves were an insufficient basis for overturning the death penalty.)

“[T]he claim that [t]his sentence rests on the irrelevant factor of race easily could be extended to apply to claims based on unexplained discrepancies that correlate to membership in other minority groups, and even to gender. Similarly, since [this] claim relates to the race of his victim, other claims could apply with equally logical force to statistical disparities that correlate with the race or sex of other actors in the criminal justice system, such as defense attorneys or judges. Also, there is no logical reason that such a claim need be limited to racial or sexual bias. If arbitrary and capricious punishment is the touchstone under the Eighth Amendment, such a claim could — at least in theory — be based upon any arbitrary variable, such as the defendant’s facial characteristics, or the physical attractiveness of the defendant or the victim, that some statistical study indicates may be influential in jury decision making. As these examples illustrate, there is no limiting principle to the type of challenge brought by McCleskey. The Constitution does not require that a State eliminate any demonstrable disparity that correlates with a potentially irrelevant factor in order to operate a criminal justice system that includes capital punishment. As we have stated specifically in the context of capital punishment, the Constitution does not ‘plac[e] totally unrealistic conditions on its use.’ (Gregg v. Georgia)”

The entire decision can be found here.

Finding Sources for Death Penalty Research

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  • Writing Research Papers
  • Writing Essays
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
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One of the most popular topics for an argument essay is the death penalty . When researching a topic for an argumentative essay , accuracy is important, which means the quality of your sources is important.

If you're writing a paper about the death penalty, you can start with this list of sources, which provide arguments for all sides of the topic.

Amnesty International Site

Amnesty International views the death penalty as "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights." This website provides a gold mine of statistics and the latest breaking news on the subject.

Mental Illness on Death Row

Death Penalty Focus is an organization that aims to bring about the abolition of capital punishment and is a great resource for information. You will find evidence that many of the people executed over the past decades are affected by a form of mental illness or disability.

Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty

This extensive article provides an overview of arguments for and against the death penalty and offers a history of notable events that have shaped the discourse for activists and proponents.

Pro-Death Penalty Links

This page comes from ProDeathPenalty and contains a state-by-state guide to capital punishment resources. You'll also find a list of papers written by students on topics related to capital punishment. 

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  • The Death Penalty in the United States
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  • Furman v. Georgia: Supreme Court Case, Arguments, Impact
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  • Coker v. Georgia: Supreme Court Case, Arguments, Impact


  1. Understanding Death Penalty Support and Opposition Among Criminal

    Numerous opinion polls have revealed that a majority of Americans have supported the death penalty for more than 40 years. However, the results from a 2013 Gallup poll revealed the lowest support for the death penalty since 1972 (Jones, 2013).Furthermore, as discussed in the literature review, a body of evidence from research has begun to develop over the past 40 years, which has provided ...

  2. (PDF) The Death Penalty

    Capital punishment, also known as death penalty, is a government sanctioned practice. whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime. Since at. present 58 countries ...

  3. Attitudes towards the death penalty: An assessment of individual and

    In this paper we build on a small number of studies that have examined cross-national public attitudes to the death penalty (Stack, 2004; Unnever and Cullen, 2010a, 2010b; Unnever et al., 2010; Van Koppen et al., 2002), providing a much-needed update to the evidence base.A great deal has changed since these studies were conducted.

  4. Dead or alive? Reassessing the health of the death penalty and the

    The death penalty, for most of history a commonplace part of political culture, has clearly been in decline in recent decades. There are fewer executions and death sentences globally, and fewer countries have the death penalty in their statutes; as the most authoritative global survey describes, since the early 1990s "there has been a revolution in the discourse on and practice of capital ...

  5. PDF Public Opinion and the Death Penalty: A Qualitative Approach

    whether individuals' support or opposition for the death penalty varies with the introduction of different circumstances and information. Literature Review . Although a large amount of research in this area has been conducted by academics, much of our knowledge of death penalty opinion has been a result of public opinion polls (e.g., Gallup ...

  6. The Social Science of the Death Penalty: Before, during, and after

    The death penalty is a controversial topic that has attracted attention broadly, from diverse groups including lawmakers, religious leaders, and the general public. Social scientists have also been intrigued by the phenomenon and have studied many aspects related to the penalty. Several of these bodies of research are the focus of this chapter.

  7. (PDF) The Dilemma of Death Penalty

    This essay examines Death Penalty, a contemporary social issue in the world today. It gives a. general idea of what death penalty means and shows the argument revolving around th e. implementation ...

  8. 1 Introduction

    1. Introduction. I n 1976 the Supreme Court decision Gregg v. Georgia (428 U.S. 153) ended the 4-year moratorium on executions that had resulted from its 1972 decision in Furman v.Georgia (408 U.S. 238). In Furman the Court had ruled that the death penalty, as then administered in the United States, constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

  9. Introduction

    The Introduction to the first edition in 1989 stated that 'no one can embark upon a study of the death penalty without making the commonplace observation that from a philosophical and policy standpoint there appears to be nothing new to be said'. This is still true: the arguments remain essentially the same.

  10. The death penalty: a breach of human rights and ethics of care

    "The death penalty is, in our common experience, an atavistic relic from the past that should be shed in the 21st century", said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk in April, 2023, during the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council. The death penalty has existed since the Code of Hammurabi, with its history seeped in politics and discrimination. Physicians have been ...

  11. Scholarly Articles on the Death Penalty: History & Journal Articles

    The abolitionist movement to end capital punishment also influenced state legislatures. By the early 1900s, most states had adopted laws that allowed juries to apply either the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison. Executions in the United States peaked during the 1930s at an average rate of 167 per year.

  12. PDF The Death Penalty and Human Rights

    penalty is no longer acceptable in modern society, given what we know about its. arbitrariness and mistakes, and given the alternatives that are now in place. The thesis of this paper is that international law and an analysis based on human. rights are useful means to address the death penalty in the U.S.

  13. Introduction To The Death Penalty

    In the 1600s, the American colonies used the death penalty as a punishment for most serious crimes. By the 1800s, many began to oppose the death penalty because they felt that it was inhumane and unconstitutional. The 1972 U.S. Supreme Court Case Furman v. Georgia deemed the death penalty unconstitutional in it's current state, and found that ...

  14. (PDF) Introduction to the Death Penalty Symposium

    Abstract. In 1975, Isaac Ehrlich launched the modern econometric evaluation of the impact of the death penalty on the prevalence of murder with a controversial paper that concluded that each ...

  15. PDF Death Penalty: A Necessary Evil or a Violation of Human Rights?

    death penalty, served as the impetus for the development of the contemporary abolitionist movement. During the negotiations that took place in 1791 in France regarding the introduction of a new penal code, there was a passionate argument in favour of the elimination of the death penalty. Throughout the 19th century, notable

  16. Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty

    The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable than Black lives. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 296 Black defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 31 white defendants have been executed for the murder of a Black victim.

  17. Death Penalty Research Paper: Sources for Arguments

    When researching a topic for an argumentative essay, accuracy is important, which means the quality of your sources is important. If you're writing a paper about the death penalty, you can start with this list of sources, which provide arguments for all sides of the topic. 01. of 04.

  18. PDF Death Penalty: An Unethical Punishment

    This research paper focuses on discussing the reasons why society should abandon the death penalty. Based on the research and the analysis, the article mainly uses the utilitarian ethical values to argue that the death penalty is unethical: 1. Death penalty fails to deter the criminals. 2. The death penalty may brutalize the victim's family. 3.

  19. Understanding Death Penalty Support and Opposition Among Criminal

    Introduction The death penalty is one of the most controversial subjects in America today. Although the practice remains legal in 36 ... stances, and those who are opposed to the death penalty. The first areas of this research focused on the personal character - istics of people and how these characteristics were related to

  20. Death Penalty in the Philippines: Evidence on Economics and Efficacy

    However, the literature suggests that there is still no clear and credible empirical evidence to back the argument that the death penalty is a crime deterrent. Furthermore, this paper examined the potential drivers of the growing death penalty support in the Philippines and the possible implications of reinstating the death penalty in the ...

  21. The Death Penalty Essay, with Outline

    Here is an example of a sample of death penalty. Death Penalty Essay Outline. Introduction. Thesis: The death penalty should be abolished because it is not one of the best methods of punishing criminals and addressing crime. Body. Paragraph 1: Capital punishment is not an effective way of deterring crime contrary to arguments of those who ...

  22. (PDF) Capital Punishment in India: Is it Time to ...

    The death penalty is a government and judiciary-imposed practice to deter crime, give justice to the victims, and purge the criminals from society to refrain them from doing such crime again. It ...

  23. Death Penalty Essay Introduction

    The death penalty or capital punishment is the execution of a criminal by a government as punishment for a crime. In the United States, the death penalty is the most common form of sentence in murder cases. A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. The essay introduction begins with an attention-grabber, followed by ...