Recently, I’ve been engaging myself into the world of Criminology in order to help me understand Criminal Law better and to know what it consists of. I find Law super interesting especially looking at cases, because each case is different and brings new situations to the table. Anyway, I was reading about Capital punishment in countries such as America and it got me thinking, are we murderers for sentencing criminals to death?
Capital punishment was last used in the United Kingdom in 1946 as in October 1964, the government had introduced an amendment to the Human Rights Bill that basically abolished the death penalty in the UK. However, countries such as the United States still abide by the use of capital punishment with 20 being placed on the death row in 2016. You probably think, ‘oh that’s such a small number’, but in regards to the reasoning and the punishment carried out, it’s huge. The United States of America is the only country in the West that still practises the death penalty with its criminals using methods such as hanging, lethal injections, shootings, gas chambers, electrocution. In fact, they were the first country to introduce and use lethal injections against their criminals that sit on the death row. Criminals are usually sentenced to the death penalty for all sorts of reason; murder, kidnapping, rape, fraud etc. Some criminals wait for about 6 to 10 months until their name is called upon to face the death penalty, whereas others can often wait for up to 10 years in their prison cell for their death penalty to be served. The death penalty is something that has been raised about numerous times in newspapers and on television over time, with many people arguing against and for it. Some people are for the death penalty stating that capital punishment should be used for retribution and punishment. All guilty and only guilty people should be punished, and they should be punished in proportion to the severity of their crime. Therefore if they have taken the life of an individual, then their life should be taken too. They argue that real justice is only served if people are suffered for their wrongdoing appropriate for the crime. Each criminal should get what their crime deserves so a murderer should get death. I see this to be fitting for the argument, ‘an eye for an eye’ as stated in the Old Testament, however that in actual fact means the guilty should be punished and they shouldn’t be punished too leniently or too severely. Further more, from looking from the perspective of the victim’s family, they would be deprived and mourning their loss of their loved one. That feeling may not end with the murder’s execution, however it may bring a feeling of relief and closure about the ordeal- something that may not occur if the murderer was still alive. However, if the goal of any punishment handed by the justice system is to teach us those things is what we should not do, then the justice system is hypocritical and should more adequately teach the criminality of killing by not taking part in it.
Others are against the death penalty because the death penalty goes against our basic human right which is the right of life. We are also in turn playing the role of God by deciding who lives and who dies which can also be seen as morally incorrect. Moreover, being killed by a lethal injection or being electrocuted is not smooth, and is actually a painful death. Do criminals deserve to die a painful death despite the crimes they have committed? No-one has proven that the death penalty is prohibiting others from committing similar crimes, counteracting the common argument that people say which is giving a killer the death sentence will stop them and other from doing it again. However, in law, mistakes are made. For example, one in 25 that are sentenced to death in the US are innocent, so what if the person who is killed is innocent, but has lost their life due to the misjudgment and errors of others? Do they still deserve to face the death penalty? It would still be seen as morally incorrect. We don’t need to maintain a death penalty and submit fear into civilians in order to have power and control over a country. There are other ways to defeat crime on the streets and have order in society without using the death penalty. We cannot rehabilitate a person by killing him or her- there will only be regress not progress. So that brings me to my question, are we murderers for sentencing criminals to death? I believe so, yes. Criminals are defined as people that break the law and commit crimes. By sentencing the criminals to death, we are merely similar to them with the only difference of the law protecting us rather than against us through the excuse of ‘defence’ and ‘removing the evil from society.’ If there was no justice system and we still continued to execute criminals, then we are primarily executing ourselves as we would all be the same. Just because the justice system is there to defend those that support the execution of criminals, the display of immorality and shameful behaviour should not be overlooked. Therefore, we are murderers for sentencing criminals to death, for we do not have a position to say who should die and who has the right of life. Nor should we use the justice system as a justification or defense for placing criminals on capital punishment.