DEATH PENALTY IN THE USA SHOULD BE ABOLISHED
Capital punishment has existed for many centuries and goes back to the 18th century BC during which the first death sentence law got its inception in Babylon (“The Death Penalty” 1). America, during its colonization by the Europeans, inherited this practice and George Kendall became the first American to face execution in 1608 on grounds of undercover work for Spain (“The Death Penalty”1). Different colonies in America had varying death sentence legislations some of which were adverse. The Divine, Moral and Martial Laws for instance, that was passed in 1612 by the then governor of Virginia was so severe that it pronounced death for even the most petty act of slaughtering chicken (“The Death Penalty” 1). Michigan was the earliest state to eliminate the death decree for all wrongdoings except sedition in 1846(“The Death Penalty” 3). To date, America remains the single Western nation still implementing the death penalty although it should abolish it.
In a 1767 essay by Cesare Becccaria titled Crimes and Punishment, which theorized that the states were in no way justified to take a person’s life (Hicks 7), Cesare’s sentiments go against the conception that capital retribution works as a deterrent of capital offenses. On the contrary, it has a brutalizing effect that consequently leads to an escalation in the homicide rates (Hicks 14). Previously, the public had confidence in the death penalty because it believed in its deterrent effect but according to Dieter, a poll carried out among the people of America, 60% of the population believed that the penalty is in no way a deterrent (12).
Death penalties are extremely pricey in terms of money and time (Hicks 21). Due to the unwillingness of the perpetrators to plead guilty, appeals are made and what follows is a series of trials that exploit taxpayers. In a study done in the State, it was established that the average cost of a capital case is $508,000 exclusive of the appeals and execution charges, which ultimately amount to 4.26 million dollars compared to the $740,000 of an ordinary case (Hicks 22). Further, it has been established that a life sentence is way cheaper and preferable.
Death penalties are irreversible in nature and this is traumatizing in the case where the innocent may face execution and later on truth emerges of their innocence (“The Death Penalty” 1). Faulty judgements arising from proof withholding, unskilled lawyers, bogus witnesses and so on have raised concerns as to whether the decision to carry out death penalties is indeed right (Dieter 9). Moreover, the citizens of America have lost faith in this execution technique according to a poll conducted done in 2007 (Dieter 10) that reveals people’s fears that many innocent people have already lost their lives. This recent change of heart about the effectiveness of the death penalty is because of developments in the DNA testing that has proven many innocent (Dieter 12).
The psychosocial trauma suffered by both the convict and his family is unimaginable. Harrison and Tamony speak of death row phenomenon and death row syndrome which convicts go through while awaiting death (2). This psychological trauma is a compound of the death penalty itself, the solitary confinement during this period as well as the amount of time the convict awaits his/her death (Harrison and Tamony 3). This type of trauma is not justifiable considering the person is going to die anyway.
In conclusion, it is inarguable that the death sentence is actually an atrocious act that should be done away with in the USA not only to uphold the international human rights and dignity, but also so that the state can show it has attained a level of moral decency in line with the rest of the nations in the world.
Bedau, Hugo, and Cassell, Paul. Debating The Death Penalty Should America Have Capital Punishment?The Experts On Both Sides Make Their Best Case. London: Oxford University Press. 2004
Dieter, Richard. Changing Views On The Death Sentence In The United States. Web. December 2, 2011. Available at:
Michigan State University and Death Penalty Information Centre. The Death Penalty. Web. December 2, 2011. Available at:
Schabas, William. The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law. London: Cambridge University Press. 2002
Tuel, John. Juvenile Offenders and the Death Penalty. Web. December 2, 2011. Available at: