Home > Free Essays > Law > Criminal Law > The death penalty: Can it ever be justified?
Cite this

The death penalty: Can it ever be justified? Term Paper


The death penalty has been a subject of discussion for a long time in many countries of the world. The issue faces much opposition from the members of the public while there are some who argue for it. It is usually administered to a person who has committed a capital crime such as murder.

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand jury”; in addition, the Fourteenth Amendment also states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” (Riley par. 1).

The proposers of the death penalty use the constitution to justify their claims on the necessity of the death penalty. Nevertheless, such a claim is questionable because it is the same constitution that has a bill of rights indicating that it is the right of every citizen to be protected and to live.

Life of a human being is invaluable and ought to be protected at all costs. Although the government tries to come up with better means of executing convicted criminals, all methods that have been applied exposes individuals to so much suffering which is not only inappropriate but also inhuman. Therefore, the death penalty can never be justified as it is cruel and deprives individuals of their right to live and enjoy maximum protection. In that case, this paper argues for the fact that the death penalty can never be justified.


As the studies of Franck, Nyman, and Schabas( pp.77 ) illustrate, death penalty interferes with human life since leads to death after it is administered. Currently, apart from hanging, other methods are being used to execute criminals.

Such methods are inclusive but not limited to the electric chair, lethal gas, firing squad and lethal injection. Human beings are supposed to be treated with dignity, and most of the constitutions including the United States Constitution have got a provision for the same. The death penalty violates such a requirement as it destroys not only life but also human dignity.

Many procedures that are used while conducting capital punishment have proved to be inhuman no matter the precautions taken. For instance, Times Editorial (par 2) illustrates that the use of lethal injection which was thought to be more humane proved to be inhuman as well. In an execution which was carried out in December involving Angel Diaz, the results illustrated that even the most cautious mode of execution could sill turn out to be inhuman.

After using the lethal injection, doctors and other witnesses reported that there was a high probability that the victim was subjected to a lot of suffering during his death. Medics affirm that chemicals that were used did not end up in the intended places. Such a case is a clear indication that there is no method of carrying out the death penalty that can be said to be human as all of them expose a person to a lot of undesirable suffering.

Apart from being inhuman, death penalty requires a lot of the finances since it takes a lot of time to avoid any error that may lead to the prosecution of innocent victims. Consequently, a lot of money is spent to pay all the staff involved in the trial like the judges, court reporters, and the prosecutors. Also, the same study reveals that the total cost incurred while carrying out a single death penalty prosecution is double the cost of single life imprisonment (Periwal par. 8).

On the same note, it is essential to mention that carrying different forms of executing the death penalty is a complicated issue. For instance, according to Times Editorial (Par. 4), the use of lethal injection requires a lot of procedures that are not only costly but may end up causing other problems. For instance, to have doctors administering lethal injection means that they have to go against their code of ethics.

Further studies illustrate that carrying out a lawful lethal injection does require not only medical professionals but also extra training as well as additional protocols of carrying out the same. Therefore, even if the concerned department plans to make a significant improvement in executing criminals like providing further training and installing cameras in the execution room, it is explicit that the changes cannot result to a more humane execution.

The death penalty is not only final but also irreversible such that in case new evidence comes up, a person convicted cannot have a chance to benefit. As much as a lot of care is taken to ensure that there is not injustice, it is not possible to do away with all errors. Therefore, in case of a crime, it is worse because it ends up being an irreversible injustice.

As much as it is a crime to kill another person, it is essential to note that it would be more beneficial to deal with the crime and not the criminal. Death penalty focuses more on the criminal as it leads to the inhuman treatment and death of a person (Periwal Par. 8).

The death penalty is supposed to discourage citizens from committing a similar crime. However, studies indicate that administering it does not reduce the number of murders committed (Times Editorial, Par 6.). For that reason, although it is not easy to admit the truth, the effectiveness of the penalty in preventing crime is questionable. People continue to commit capital crimes despite the penalty. The study of White (pp. 180) indicates that while given a choice, most of the criminals would choose the death penalty instead of life imprisonment.

In that case, the death penalty does not carry much weight to criminals or to those people who may most likely commit a severe crime. Due to the experience of prison life, most of the convicts may choose death penalty instead of being jailed for life. Apart from being inhuman, it is clear that the punishment rarely achieves all its intended objectives. Therefore, if the penalty does not achieve the goal of deterring crime, it is not an understatement to conclude that the victims suffer in vain.

Counter Arguments

It is not easy to negate the fact that a punishment should be administered about the crime committed. Since murder and other crimes that result in the death penalty are serious crimes, they do require severe punishment. Such a fact is often used to justify the death sentence.

However, it is essential to note that saying no to death sentence does not mean that the criminals should not be punished as there are other forms of punishment like life imprisonment that can be used instead. Therefore, the death sentence is not being compared to any but to other types of punishment that are more human and can be justified.

Moreover, life imprisonment is also a severe punishment as it denies someone freedom, but it is reversible because in case some evidence comes up, the convict can regain freedom. Therefore, when there are other forms of punishment that can be used, it beats logic why the criminal justice system should continue to handle death penalty which is inhuman and ends up lowering the dignity of an individual.

One may fear that once a convicted murderer is set free, there is the possibility of committing other murders and continue to put the lives of innocent citizens at stake. However, it may be true to some extent, but it is important to note that as illustrated earlier, there are other more humane forms of punishment that can be used.

Any murderer ought to be punished for the crime committed and can be imprisoned for life. With the right criminal justice system, people convicted of murder can pay for the crime committed by serving life imprisonment and have no chances of committing other crimes. Therefore, one of the reasons why death penalty cannot be justified is because there is another form of punishment that can be used in its place and still bring out desirable results (Barnet and Bedau pp. 126).

The supporters of the death penalty believe that since human life is invaluable and precious, those people who take away life should also suffer by having their life taken away. It is true that taking anyone life is a serious crime and anyone should suffer for doing it. However, the experience of death is like an experience of not being born.

Therefore, one does not suffer after being killed as it is intended. Moreover, killing someone because he or she has committed murder is more of revenge other than punishment, and in that case, it becomes appropriate since it is supposed to act as a punishment.

The relatives of a person who has been killed sometimes argue that they can only have peace when the convicted murderer is executed. In such a case, executing a person for the sake of the relatives of the murdered victim is not a just claim whatsoever since it is based more on emotions rather than on reason.

It is true that the constitution of the United States and other countries that have death sentence have such a prison of allowing the execution of the death penalty victims. Therefore, the proponents of the death penalty argue that even the state predicts the necessity of a death penalty and hence the reason why there is such a provision.

However, it is the same constitution that has the bill of rights which protects the life of the citizens and prohibits anyone from taking the life of another person. Since the state recognizes that killing is inappropriate and crime, it does not make it lesser evil when the government conducts it (Hood pp. 112). More to that, it is so humiliating for a person to be executed as in most cases, close relatives and other interested citizens are given a chance to witness the whole process.

It is right to argue out that death penalty should be continued since there is no statistical evidence indicating that innocent victims have been convicted. However, in some of the researches that have been conducted, results have illustrated that some people are convicted unfairly.

For instance, some people who have committed serial murders have been condemned to life imprisonment while others who have even committed fewer crimes due to mental problems have been convicted with the death penalty. In that case, although there are rigorous and thorough procedures before any judgment, there is a possibility that people can be judged unfairly and when the death penalty is the punishment in place, there is no possibility of reversing the injustice since the convict will be dead already.


Concluding that the death penalty is inhuman and cannot be justified does not mean that criminals who commit murder should be left free. The main concern is the fact that since the death penalty is unjust as it violates human rights, other forms of punishment should be used instead. Since justice should not be one-sided, it is crucial to focus on the crime and the convicted criminal as well.

Bearing in mind that the convicted criminal is a human being and having committed the crime does not reduce him to a lesser being, it is vital to put all factors into consideration and see to it that justice is not denied. Therefore, since the death penalty cannot be administered humanely, it cannot be justified, and that is why it ought to be discouraged.

Works Cited

Barnet, Sylvan and Hugo Bedau. Current Issues and Enduring Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking and Argument, with Readings. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.

Franck, Hans G̈oran, Klas Nyman and William Schabas. The barbaric punishment: abolishing the death penalty. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2003. Print.

Hood, Roger G. The death penalty: a worldwide perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Periwal, Aditya. Web.

Riley, Jim L. The Death Penalty Justified. Web.

Times Editorial. Execution Rules still Inhumane. 2007. Web.

White, Welsh S. The death penalty in the nineties: an examination of the modern system of capital punishment. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.

This term paper on The death penalty: Can it ever be justified? was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Need a custom Term Paper sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar
Writer online avatar

301 certified writers online

Cite This paper

Select a citation style:


IvyPanda. (2019, October 28). The death penalty: Can it ever be justified? Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-death-penalty-can-it-ever-be-justified/

Work Cited

"The death penalty: Can it ever be justified?" IvyPanda, 28 Oct. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-death-penalty-can-it-ever-be-justified/.

1. IvyPanda. "The death penalty: Can it ever be justified?" October 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-death-penalty-can-it-ever-be-justified/.


IvyPanda. "The death penalty: Can it ever be justified?" October 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-death-penalty-can-it-ever-be-justified/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The death penalty: Can it ever be justified?" October 28, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-death-penalty-can-it-ever-be-justified/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The death penalty: Can it ever be justified'. 28 October.

Related papers