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Under What Circumstances Would You Support Capital Punishment as Opposed to Life Imprisonment?

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Under what circumstances would you support capital punishment as opposed to life imprisonment?

Under no circumstances, do I support capital punishment as opposed to life imprisonment. The logical place to begin is to define capital punishment. Wikipedia defines capital punishment as the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Similarly, The Free Dictionary by Farlex describes it as the lawful infliction of death as a punishment or the death penalty. White (undated) defines capital punishment as the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person. The practice of executing people for certain crimes is very old; in fact, the term itself dates to a Latin root, capitalis, which means "of the head," a reference to a common execution method used in Roman times.

Subsequently, according to Wikipedia, life imprisonment, also known as a life sentence, lifelong incarceration or life incarceration is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life. The Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement defines life imprisonment as punishment of a criminal by imprisonment for the rest of his life.

There are many grounds that support my opposition to capital punishment. Every human being's life is valuable and he or she has the right to live, and because of this I am of the opinion that life imprisonment is a good replacement to capital punishment. Should the value of a person's life be diminished because of his or her bad conduct? I think not. Moreover, everyone has an indisputable human right to life, even those who commit murder; sentencing a person to death and executing them violates that right.

Another reason why I will not support capital punishment under any circumstances is that sooner or later, innocent people will get killed, because of mistakes or flaws in the justice system. According to Amnesty International, "the death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated." Witnesses, prosecutors and jurors can all make mistakes. When this is coupled with the imperfections in the legal system, it is probable that innocent people will be convicted of crimes. Where capital punishment is used such mistakes cannot be put right. We can all wonder if Troy Anthony Davis, an American man convicted of and executed on September 21 this year, for the August 19, 1989, murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia is another victim of the flawed system.

Retribution is morally wrong and on that basis I do not support capital punishment. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the advocates for Troy Davis, maintains that to take a life when a life has been lost is revenge and not justice. Correspondingly, at a U.S. Catholic Conference, it was purported that we cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. If one of the key principles of capital punishment and retribution is that people should get what they deserve then this is violated when capital punishment is implemented on the innocent. Besides, why don't crimes other than murder receive a punishment that mimics the crime? Are people guilty of assault beaten up or are rapists punished by sexual assault? For the people who believe in retribution, don't you believe that the death penalty does not provide sufficient retribution? Life imprisonment without possibility of parole causes much more suffering to the offender than a painless death after a period of imprisonment. I do not support capital punishment because there is no purpose but to serve as a false reconciliation toward the deceased. Retribution is always on the lips in debates about capital punishment but what about restitution. A major part of a criminal's punishment should be to compensate the family of those who he or she has harmed.

It has yet to be proven that the death penalty deters people from committing violent crimes. A survey conducted in 1988 and updated in 1996 for the UN to determine the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates concluded that "...research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. The key to real and true deterrence is to increase the likelihood of detection, arrest and conviction. The death penalty is a harsh punishment, but it is not harsh on crime" (Amnesty International). If it was a deterrent, there would be no murders.

Another reason for not supporting capital punishment over life imprisonment is the need for doctors to go against their medical ethics. Doctors are asked to perform lethal injections which go against the Hippocratic Oath they took to preserve life when there is hope of doing so. Feinberg and Feinberg (2010)



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