Criminal Law: Capital Punishment


Capital punishment refers to the legally recognized imposition of death as a penalty and right from olden times it has been used for a broad selection of felonies. Offenses that can attract a death sentence are referred to as capital offenses or crimes. The reference capital has its roots in Latin where capitalism means head with the initial capital offenses being sentenced by severance of the head from the body.

Capital punishment has in a time gone by been put to practice in nearly all civilizations, even though at present only fifty-eight countries keenly carry it out (The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA, 2010). A further 95 nations have put an end to it while the remaining ones have not carried out a single such act for a decade, only consenting to it in extraordinary situations such as times of war. It remains an issue full of zip debate in different countries and states.

In the United States, this has over and over again remained a controversial societal issue. Whereas in times past civic opinion was often in support of capital punishment, citizens have turned out to be more at odds on the matter in late times. A survey carried out in 2010 by Gallup explained that 64% of US citizens support this form of punishment in crimes of murder while 29% of them were against it. The highest echelon of backing recorded was in 1994 whereby 80% were in support as compared to only 16% that were against. The lowest backing of this form of punishment was in 1966 where 42% were in support with 47% being against it. On the other hand, when offered an alternative between capital punishment and life detention devoid of parole, the Gallup 2010 survey showed that the difference thinned out. 49% were in support of capital punishment while 46% were in favor of life detention (Bakken, 2010, p. 203).

Alteration of capital punishment started in Europe by the 1750s and reforms were backed by academics, philosophers, and law experts, among other prominent persons. The argument was that capital punishment was unnecessarily brutal, prized too highly as prevention, and in some instances enforced in grave mistake. These leading lights were in support of life detention as a more sensible option.

A century later, in the 1850s, these change cries started to reap results. Venezuela and Portugal became the initial countries to bring an end to capital punishment in 1853 and 1867 respectively. In the US, Michigan became the initial state to put an end to it for murder. This was in 1847. The United States of America still holds on to the capital punishment penalty for forgiven offenses and enforces it with altering regularity. Other nations such as China, Japan, several Asian and Middle Eastern nations, and several African countries also keep hold of this form of punishment.

Controversy and debate

Capital punishment is a contentious matter, with several high-up institutions and persons taking part in the argument. The foremost argument is whether the practice is morally up to standard. The state without a doubt has no supreme right to murder its citizenry. In as much as all nations do this in one manner or another, it is not essentially through some conformist type of capital punishment (The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA, 2010). As has been observed in almost all nations, it is through equipping their law enforcement forces and acknowledging the reality that people will time and again be blasted as a consequence and thus at the state’s order.

A reality that those who oppose capital punishment expediently fail to notice is that all humanity is at the end of the day going to die. In a good number of instances, we will know this well in advance. As a result, we will go through immense pain and disturbing torment in the course. This is especially spot-on of persons made out as having incurable cancer or other such diseases. It appears that it is up to standard to be ‘condemned to death by one’s physician minus having carried out any offense at all but intolerable to be condemned to death by an arbitrator having been labeled of manslaughter or drug dealing following a just trial.

Arguments in support of capital punishment

The foremost backup of this form of penalty is that the offender is put out of action. This form of punishment lastingly eliminates the most horrible crooks from the public and should turn out to be much harmless for the rest of humanity than long-run or lasting confinement. Lifeless crooks are not in a position to carry out any more felonies, either inside detention centers or after breaking away or following they’re being freed from it.

Capital punishment is not expensive as compared to the long-run detention of criminals. Resources are not never-ending products or services and the government would rather spend these resources in better ways such as caring for the elderly, sick, among other needy groups in society. Those in opposition to capital punishment in the US have, however, referred to the elevated costs of putting offenders to death as compared to permanent detention (Banner, 2002, p. 39). This can be attributed to the never-ending petitions and hold-ups in enforcing death rulings. These petitions are permitted under the US legal set up where the standard period allowed on death house is above 12 years. In England in the 20th century, the standard period in the death house ran from 3 to 8 weeks, and during this time only a single petition was allowed. Thus, with proper systems and arrangements, the cost of capital punishment can be significantly lowered.

Justice is a major ground for argument for backers of capital punishment. The take is that subjection to death is an especially authentic penalty as compared to some form of reconstructive management. In capital punishment, the offender is made to go through justice infraction to his or her crime.

Capital punishment plays a major role in deterring any future commitment of the same crimes. It is evident from nations like Singapore that enforce death punishments that there exists a lesser amount of grave offenses. Closer home, Texas enforces far more death penalties than any other American state. There exists understandable proof of a restraint consequence (Banner, 2002, p. 42). This means that capital punishment is prevention, but only in places where effecting is a practical assurance.

Arguments in opposition to capital punishment

The foremost opposition to this form of penalty is the practical sureness that indisputably blameless persons will be put to death and the reality that there is no probable manner of recompensing them for this. There also exists another important but less recognized peril in the event of a murder case (The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA, 2010). The individual charged with the murder may have taken the victim’s life and may go ahead and own up but fail to agree that the killing was murder. In such cases, the only persons who are in the know about what transpired are the accused and the deceased. As a result, there is the possibility that persons are charged with murder when they should have been sentenced for manslaughter.

About the above point, there is the reality that the blameless relations and acquaintances of crooks have also to go through hell in the period to and in the course of the implementation. It is always easier said than done for people to accept the reality that their loved one could be in the wrong of a grave offense and without a doubt even harder to reconcile to their demise in this manner. While one cannot and should not refute the anguish of the sufferer’s relations in a manslaughter case, the anguish of the slayer’s relations is without a doubt legitimate as well.

Valid position(s) that one could take on capital punishment

A closer assessment of capital punishment and its effect on deterring crime(s) categorizes these crimes into two. This form of penalty is to a great extent more expected to be a restraint where the offense calls for the need of preparation and the impending offender has time to ponder over the probable penalties. In instances where the offense is perpetrated in the heat of the moment, there is no possibility that any form of penalty will serve as a restriction (The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA, 2010).

Reference List

Bakken, G., ed. (2010). Invitation to an Execution: A History of the Death Penalty in the United States (University of New Mexico Press; 2010) 467 pages.

Banner, S. (2002). The Death Penalty: An American History. Harvard University Press. P 39 – 42.

The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA. (2010). Web.

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LawBirdie. (2023) 'Criminal Law: Capital Punishment'. 23 March.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Criminal Law: Capital Punishment." March 23, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Criminal Law: Capital Punishment." March 23, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Criminal Law: Capital Punishment." March 23, 2023.