Controversy on death penalty

Conflicting Viewpoints Essay – Part II

The topic selected for assignment 1.1. is controversy on death penalty whereby I discussed whether or not the death penalty should be allowed in the society considering its different moral, ethical and legal implications. In the assignment, I discussed the different circumstances under which the society can approve or disapprove the death penalty, including the proof of guilt or the innocence of the offender, the race of the offender and the opinions of the victim. Based on all of these factors mentioned, my position on the death penalty would be to allow it if it effectively deters crime in terms of the types of crimes prevented and the number of such crimes. 

I support the death penalty because of the following reasons:

  • Deterrence and retribution – the death penalty is effective in deterring crime as some types of crime are heinous and inherently wrong. Studies have also shown that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on different types of heinous crimes such as murder. If the capital punishments have shown to reduce murder rates, then the death penalty should be allowed just for this reason. I selected this reason because of deterrence effect (National Research Council, 2012).
  • The death penalty is not immoral – another reason why I believe that the death penalty should be allowed is that it is not immoral. This is because it is meant for the most brutal and heinous crimes including conscienceless murderers. It does not target the unlucky few; rather, it targets killers and other capital offenders. Using other forms of punishment on such offenders such as life imprisonment would not result in the needed justice to the victims and their families. The death penalty supports the moral order in the society by punishing and deterring the most heinous crimes.
  • The death penalty is constitutional – another reason for supporting the death penalty is that it is legal. According to the Fifth Amendment, citizens can be denied the right to their life, property, and liberty when the due process of law is followed. This implies that the life of a person can be taken by the state under the right circumstances. These right circumstances include committing a heinous or brutal crime.

With the concept of believing in mind, the society can disapprove the death penalty citing the following three premises.

  • The death penalty does not deter crime – those opposing the death penalty argue that there is no detectable effect of capital punishment on preventing heinous crime. The opponents believe that the likelihood of deterring sociopathic murderers is incredibly remote as the risk of being executed is far much lower than the risk they expose themselves to while committing the heinous crime. Besides, any criminal who thinks that he or she will never be caught cannot be troubled by any sanction.
  • The death penalty is immoral – some sections of the society believe that the death penalty is immoral as life is precious and that it should not be taken away no matter what. Some say that the death penalty leads to feelings of guilt for taking someone’s life, especially for those personally involved in the executions (Elbow, 2006). 
  • The death penalty is unconstitutional – those who believe that the death penalty is wrong suggest that capital punishment has led to high rates of conviction of innocent persons. Some say that the death penalty denies the accused of due process, and this increases the likelihood of state-sponsored murders of innocent civilians.

As I evaluated my premises for and against my position on the death penalty, I experienced two types of biases as follows:

  • Confirmation bias – when going through the website, I realized that I was only considering the perspectives that support my preexisting views on the issue while dismissing some opinions. For instance, I focused more on what the constitution says about crime and the need for punishing heinous crime.
  • Anchoring bias – while going through the website for information about the pros and cons of the death penalty, I held the opinion that all those committing heinous and brutal crimes such as murders should face the death penalty. As such, my premises for supporting the death penalty were based on this opinion. 

My own enculturation or group identification might have also influenced my biases. Coming from a community that does not tolerate heinous crimes and protects the innocent, I always held the belief that murderers should also have their lives taken, and this might have influenced my biases. For instance, since I grew up believing that murderers should be punished, I identified a section in the constitution that supports the capital punishment for heinous crimes. 

My thinking about the death penalty has slightly changed after playing the believing game as I now consider different factors on what should form the basis of capital punishment. For instance, I now ask myself whether it solves the mistake committed by the offender. However, I still support the death penalty because heinous crime should be punished.


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