Friday, August 2, 2019

Capital Punishmennt Essay

Merriam-Webster online dictionary (2011) defines capital punishment as punishment by death for a crime. There are many factors that go into the process of capital punishment and it must start with a crime followed by an arrest, trial, conviction, appeals process and ultimately the execution of the individual. Through the many stages of the process there numerous individuals who are affected, including the criminal and their family, the victim and their family, jury, judge, witnesses and administrators or physicians who perform the execution. In this paper I will look at the ethical issues of capital punishment using the following ethical theories: utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, and the rights and justice theory. In each of these theories I will examine how advocates and opponents to capital punishment can use the theories to validate their position on capital punishment. I will conclude my paper with my position on capital punishment using one of the theories I listed above. According to Boatright (2012) the principle of utilitarianism is the basic premise of pleasure over pain. Utilitarianism considers the impact an event and outcome will have on everyone and they use the fifty-percent theory as the tipping point in decision making. If the pleasure of an event has more benefit than the pain then a decision can be made. Utilitarianism only considers the benefits and consequences when taking into account whether the death penalty is ethical and disregards the natural rights or self-worth of a person when deciding if the death penalty is ethical (Bedau, 1980). The pleasure over pain principle in capital punishment must consider the impact it will have on everyone involved and according to Boatright (2012), â€Å"Utilitarianism requires that we calculate utility not only for ourselves but for all person affected by an action.† When deciding whether or not capital punishment is just an individual must look at the benefits and consequences of everyone involved and determine if capital punishment is ethical. I do not think that one person can make this decision as it would require them to think on behalf of individuals or groups who they may have a conflicting interest with. An example of this would be a sibling of a murder victim deciding if the offender should receive the death penalty. Their feelings on the issue would differ from the offender’s family and create a conflict of interest when using the fifty-one percent theory. I will now examine the utilitarian principle of consequentialism and how it relates to the ethical issue of capital punishment. A consequentialist argument uses deterrence as a benefit of how the death penalty can promote their stance (Douglas and Wilkinson, 2008) and executing a murderer would serve as a possible consequence for the killing of another human being. This may serve as a deterrent to future killings but that is not always the case. Out of 238 paroled offenders who committed murder, less than 1% went back to prison for committing another murder (White paper on, 2012). This statistic shows that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to future killings and thus the theory of capital punishment serving as a deterrent holds no merit. Examining the ethical issue of capital punishment must also look at a cost-benefit analysis that uses a monetary value rather than the classic utilitarianism principle of pleasure over pain (Boatright, 2012). According to Boatright (2012) an application of a cost-benefit analysis needs to place a value on human life. The issue with using a cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment is that not everyone may value human life the same. A person who commits a murder may not value human life the same as someone who does not kill. The family of a victim may find that the life of the killer has no value to them and in contrast the family of a murderer may value the life of the offender as more valuable to them. The cost of capital punishment also needs to be examined when using a cost-benefit analysis. The total cost per execution was $216 million more than life imprisonment (White paper on, 2012). In addition to the cost to execute an individual in a capital offense case there is the cost of trials, the process of appeals and attorney fees that need to be examined. In California the cost of a death penalty prosecution is up to twenty times more expensive than the cost of a life in prison without parole case (Williams, 2011). Also according to Williams (2012), â€Å"the least expensive death penalty case cost $1.1 million more than the most expensive life without parole case.† The cost of the death penalty is more expensive than a life in prison without parole sentence and twenty offenders could be given a life in prison sentence for the amount that it takes to execute one offender (Williams, 2011). I have come to the conclusion that the utilitarianism principle does not justify capital punishment. The pleasure over pain principle requires us to consider the impact on everyone and it does not require us to ignore our interest but we must place our interest no higher and no lower than anyone else (Boatright 2012). When I looked at the cost-benefit analysis I could not justify the use of capital punishment due to the massive costs that a capital punishment case incurs as opposed to the cost of a life imprisonment case. I will now look at the ethical issues of capital punishment using Kantian Ethics. According to Boatright (2012) the first principle of Kant is universalizability which is to, â€Å"act only on rules that you would be willing to have everyone follow.† The second principle of Kant is respect for persons which indicates one should respect other people and ourselves as human beings (Boatright, 2012). Kant was in favor of capital punishment for the crime of murder and based his view of the death penalty on the theory of retributivism (Potter, 2002). When an individual commits the crime of killing another individual they violate Kant’s first principle and do not follow the rules that everyone is following; namely the right to life which I will cover later in this paper. The killing of an individual also violates the second principle of respect for persons. According to Kania (1999), â€Å"each of us agree not to kill others in exchange for the security that others will not kill us or those dear to us.† Kant subscribes to the term â€Å"isu taloinis† which means the wrong doing is punished by a similar punishment and also believes that the death penalty is the only right way to punish a murderer because the punishment should be the end goal (White paper on, 2012). Kantian Ethics also involves autonomy which means self and law (Boatright, 2012). Autonomy relates to Kant’s principle of respect for persons and a society living autonomously involves creating their own rules and acting freely. This principle is seen in the laws that society has developed to prevent the killing of an innocent person. In the United States it is illegal to commit the act of murder which is different from the killing of a person. The killing of a person may occur during self-defense when an individual fears that their life is in danger. According to Potter (2002) Kant says in a general statement that all murderers should be executed and death is the punishment that must be carried out on the wrongdoer. Violating the principle of universalizability, respect for persons and autonomy all justify the use of capital punishment in Kant’s view. The third ethical theory I will look at is Rights and Justice. I will first examine the rights theory and how it relates to the ethical issue of capital punishment. Rights are part of many of the ethical issues in society and the term rights can be used in many different ways (Boatright, 2012). According to Bedau (2012), a human being has the right to life simply by being born and it is a violation of rights to murder another person. The violation of the right to life does not mean that we are authorized to violate another’s right to life. The judges and juries take another person’s life in their hands during a capital punishment case and by sentencing an offender to execution violates their right to life. Bedau (2012) states, â€Å"Even if a person has committed murder and has therewith intentionally violated another’s right to life, the criminal still has his or her own right to life.† The legal rights are in force to protect us from having our right of life taken away, and if our right is violated we do not have the rights to take someone else’s right to life. In contrast to the paragraph above John Locke argued that a person’s right to life can be forfeited if a person violates the right of life of another person. Locke goes onto say that the execution of a murderer does not violate their right to life (Bedau, 2012). Based on this argument Locke would be an advocate of the death penalty. Since the offender forfeited their right to life they no longer have their own right of life. Locke further states that a person forfeits their right to life when they commit a criminal act that deserves death (Bedau, 2012). The ethical issue of capital punishment and the justice theory coincide using the retributive justice theory. Justice involves the righting of wrongs and retributive justice involves the punishment of wrongdoers (Boatright, 2012). The justice retribution theory indicates that a criminal must and deserve to be punished and that the punishment must fit the crime (Bedau, 2012). The punishment of the crime may be different in each state or country as not all states and countries have the right to sentence an offender to the death penalty. The issue with the theory that the punishment must fit the crime is that each person may have a different viewpoint on how to punish the same crime. For the act of murder one could argue for the death penalty while another person may argue that death penalty is unethical based on their ethics. This leads to some confusion in the retribution theory as each person may have their own idea of proper punishment and retribution. According to Roberts-Cady (2010), â€Å"A retributivist would argue for the death penalty based on the claim that death is what a murderer deserves.† The retribution theory also values that a punishment should be exactly the same as the crime committed which is known as the eye for an eye principle (Roberts-Cady, 2010). Using the eye for an eye principle, a murderer would be subject to the same act they committed and subject to death themselves. It does not involve a judge or jury sentencing them to the death penalty and I interpret it as an automatic sentence for the murderer. The eye for an eye principle supports that murderers ought to be put to death (Bedau, 2012). An advocate of the death penalty using the retribution theory would find that capital punishment is just in cases involving murder. The issue with the above reasoning is that it is sometimes not possible to apply the eye for an eye principle in every situation. It would not be possible to punish an individual or group of individuals who commit mass murder that has more victims than offenders. An example of this would be the execution of the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center killing thousands of individuals. The number of victims of this act far outweighs the number of hijackers that were aboard the planes. According to Bedau (2012) the execution of a mass murderer is morally inadequate as retribution cannot be served upon the offender given their inhumane and heinous acts. Another counter-argument for the eye for an eye principle is the equivalent to the crime is not always morally acceptable (Roberts-Cady, 2010). For example if a person were to be sexually assaulted, the retribution to the offender would entail being sexually assaulted in return. This would force the victim to decide if their offender should be subject to the same offense they endured and the victim may not be willing to make that decision and prefer to leave the punishment up to the justice system. The legal system in the United States takes this decision off of the victim and places it on a judge and jury. Although the victim will have to testify and recount the crime they would not deciding the fate of the offender. According to Robert-Cady (2010), â€Å"For certain heinous crimes, either the punishment would be roughly equivalent and immoral, or it would not be roughly equivalent.† The justice and rights theory seeks justice for those whose rights are violated but it is not applicable in all situations. If we are looking at capital punishment strictly from a rights perspective the right to life is violated when a person is murdered but what right do we have to take someone else’s right to life? Retribution and justice involve the righting of a wrong and uses the eye for an eye principle which is not always applicable to the crime committed. Using the rights and justice theory I came to the position that capital punishment is not ethical as I do not believe that I have the ethical grounds to take someone else’s right to life. The retribution theory is not clear enough for as I believe life in prison without parole would be just as effective as the death penalty. In this paper I have examined how utilitarian, Kantian ethics, and the rights and justice theory apply to the issue of capital punishment. I presented both an advocate and opponent view to the death penalty and whether capital punishment is ethically just according to each theory. Prior to researching this topic I considered myself as an advocate of capital punishment as I felt it was the most effective way to serve as a deterrent to murder and also a just punishment. I also consider myself a subscriber to the utilitarianism theory and choose to look at the big picture of an issue and how it affects everyone. I also look at situations using the cost-benefit analysis which allows me to make an informed decision. After researching the ethical issue of capital punishment and applying the information to my beliefs I realized that my stance on the death penalty conflicted with my utilitarianism view. In the utilitarianism section of the paper I came to the conclusion that capital punishment was not ethical. I also presented the cost-benefit analysis of capital punishment and the cost of an individual is much more expensive than sentencing a person to life in prison without parole. I have come to the conclusion that based on my utilitarianism view that capital punishment is not ethical. References (2012). White paper on ethical issues concerning capital punishment. Ferney-Voltaire, France: World Medical Journal. Bedau, H. A. (1980). Capital punishment. Matters of life and death, 1033-66. Boatright, J. R. (2012). Ethics and the conduct of business. (7 ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. Capital Punishment. 2011. In Retrieved May 8, 2011, from House, R. (2009). The death penalty and the Principle of Goodness. International Journal Of Human Rights, 13(5), 680-688. Kania, R. E. (1999). The Ethics of the Death Penalty. Justice Professional, 12(2), 145. Potter, N. T. (2002). Kant and capital punishment today. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 36(2), 267-282. Roberts†Cady, S. (2010). Against Retributive Justifications of the Death Penalty. Journal of Social Philosophy, 41(2), 185-193. Wilkinson, D. J., & Douglas, T. (2008). Consequentialism and the death penalty. The American Journal of Bioethics, 8(10), 56-58. Williams, C. J. (2011, June 20). Death Penalty Cost California $184 Million a Year, Study Says. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

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