Essay 1 Arguments for Capital Punishment
There are several strong arguments in support of capital punishment. First, a fact that is conveniently overlooked by anti-capital punishment campaigners is that we are all ultimately going to die. In many cases, we will know of this in advance and suffer great pain and emotional anguish in the process. This is particularly true of those diagnosed as having terminal cancer. It is apparently acceptable to be “sentenced to death” by one’s family doctor without having committed any crime at all but totally unacceptable to be sentenced to death by a judge having been convicted of murder or drug trafficking (the crimes for which the majority of executions worldwide are carried out) after a fair and careful trial.
Then, there is the reason about the incapacitation of the criminal. Capital punishment permanently removes the worst criminals from society and should prove much safer for the rest of us than long term or permanent incarceration. It is self evident that dead criminals cannot commit any further crimes, either within prison or after escaping or being released from it.
Cost is another strong reason for the death penalty. Money is not an inexhaustible commodity and the state may very well better spend our (limited) resources on the old, the young and the sick rather than on the long term imprisonment of murderers, rapists, and the like. Anti-capital punishment campaigners in the U.S. cite the higher cost of executing someone over life in prison, but this, whilst true for America , has to do with the endless appeals and delays in carrying out death sentences that are allowed under the U.S. legal system where the average time spent on death row is over 12 years. In Britain in the 20th century, the average time in the condemned cell was from 3 to 8 weeks and only one appeal was permitted.
A fourth reason is retribution. Execution is a very real punishment rather than some form of “rehabilitative” treatment, the criminal is made to suffer in proportion to the offence. Although whether there is a place in a modern society for the old fashioned principal of “lex talens” (an eye for an eye), is a matter of personal opinion. Retribution is seen by many as an acceptable reason for the death penalty according to my survey results.
One of the strongest reasons is that of deterrence. One can ask the question, Does the death penalty deter? It is hard to prove one way or the other because in most retentionist countries the number of people actually executed per year (as compared to those sentenced to death) is usually a very small proportion. It would, however, seem that in those countries (e.g. Singapore ) which almost always carry out death sentences, there is far less serious crime. This tends to indicate that the death penalty is a deterrent, but only where execution is an absolute certainty. The death penalty is much more likely to be a deterrent where the crime requires planning and the potential criminal has time to think about the possible consequences. Where the crime is committed in the heat of the moment there is no likelihood that any punishment will act as a deterrent. There is a strong argument here for making murder committed in these circumstances not punishable by death.
Finally, anti-death penalty campaigners always argue that death is not a deterrent and usually site studies based upon American states to prove their point. This is, in my view, flawed and probably chosen to be deliberately misleading. The murder rate in the U.S. dropped from 24,562 in 1993 to 18,209 in 1997, the lowest for years (a 26% reduction) – during a period of increased use of the death penalty. 311 (62%) of the 500 executions have been carried out in this period. The number of murders in 2003 was about 15,600.
Essay 2 Arguments against Capital Punishment
There are a number of incontrovertible arguments against the death penalty. The most important one is the virtual certainty that genuinely innocent people will be executed and that there is no possible way of compensating them for this miscarriage of justice. There is also another significant but much less realised danger here. The person convicted of the murder may have actually killed the victim and may even admit having done so but does not agree that the killing was murder. Often the only people who know what really happened are the accused and the deceased. It then comes down to the skill of the prosecution and defence lawyers as to whether there will be a conviction for murder or for manslaughter. It is thus highly probable that people are convicted of murder when they should really have only been convicted of manslaughter.
A second reason, that is often overlooked, is the hell the innocent family and friends of criminals must also go through in the time leading up to and during the execution and which will often cause them serious trauma for years afterwards. It is often very difficult for people to come to terms with the fact that their loved one could be guilty of a serious crime and no doubt even more difficult to come to terms with their death in this form. However strongly you may support capital punishment, two wrongs do not make one right. One cannot and should not deny the suffering of the victim’s family in a murder case but the suffering of the murderer’s family is surely valid too.
There must always be the concern that the state can administer the death penalty justly, most countries have a very poor record on this. In America, a prisoner can be on death row for many years (on average 11 years) awaiting the outcome of numerous appeals and their chances of escaping execution are better if they are wealthy and/or white rather than poor and/or black irrespective of the actual crimes they have committed which may have been largely forgotten by the time the final decision is taken. Although racism is claimed in the administration of the death penalty in America , statistics show that white prisoners are more liable to be sentenced to death on conviction for first degree murder and are also less likely to have their sentences commuted than black defendants.
It must be remembered that criminals are real people too who have life and with it the capacity to feel pain, fear and the loss of their loved ones, and all the other emotions that the rest of us are capable of feeling. It is easier to put this thought on one side when discussing the most awful multiple murderers but less so when discussing, say, an 18 year old girl convicted of drug trafficking. (Singapore hanged two girls for this crime in 1995 who were both only 18 at the time of their offences and China shot an 18 year old girl for the same offence in 1998.)
There is no such thing as a humane method of putting a person to death irrespective of what the State may claim (see later). Every form of execution causes the prisoner suffering, some methods perhaps cause less than others, but be in no doubt that being executed is a terrifying and gruesome ordeal for the criminal. What is also often overlooked is the extreme mental torture that the criminal suffers in the time leading up to the execution. How would you feel knowing that you were going to die tomorrow morning at 8.00 a.m.?
Finally, there may be a brutalising effect upon society by carrying out executions – this was apparent in this country during the 17th and 18th centuries when people turned out to enjoy the spectacle of public hanging. They still do today in those countries where executions are carried out in public. It is hard to prove this one way or the other – people stop and look at car crashes but it doesn’t make them go and have an accident to see what it is like. It would seem that there is a natural voyeurism in most people.
In conclusion, the death penalty is the bluntest of “blunt instruments,” it removes the individual’s humanity and with it any chance of rehabilitation and their giving something back to society. In the case of the worst criminals, this may be acceptable but is more questionable in the case of less awful crimes.
1. The report must use your own language. Do not cut and paste sentences from the two essays and place them in your report. Reword sentences.
2. The report must:
have a cover page
use Times New Romans or Arial, font size: 12
be at least 3 pages in length (not including the reference list)
start each paragraph with a topic sentence
be written in the third person (do not use I or my or our or we)
use full sentences (and no bullet points)
3. The report must use the following headings:
Introduce the issue and its importance, state your initial overall opinion of both essays arguments, say what your report will cover
Arguments for Capital Punishment
For each of the 6 reasons identify the reason, fallacies, argument type (by analogy or authority or example), assumptions, and counterexamples (alternative explanations which oppose the reason). Use a separate paragraph when analyzing each reason.
Arguments against Capital Punishment
For each of the 6 reasons identify the reason, fallacies, argument type (by analogy or authority or example), assumptions, and counterexamples (alternative explanations). Use a separate paragraph when analyzing each reason.
Comparison Between the Two Essays
Compare the similarities of the argument types and the fallacies in the two essays. Other similarities? Justify your answer with examples.
Contrast Between the Two Essays
Contrast the differences of the argument types and the fallacies in the two essays. Other differences? Justify your answer with examples.
Restate the issue, summarize the strength of the arguments in the essays, give your opinion about which essay is the strongest with some supporting reasons.
4. Examples of well written analyses of argument essays can be found in the BlackBoard under Assignments.
Where to place soft copies: Assignments in BlackBoard
The following piece of info must appear on the upper left corner of the first page:
UNIV 1212: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Assignment 2: Compare and Contrast Two Argument Essays