Capital Punishment is Morally Indefensible

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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The story of one of the most horrific hate crimes of our day came to an end this past Thursday. Or did it? Capital punishment also termed punishment by death was used on John William King by lethal injection for the murder of James Byrd Jr. The family however shared with CNN news reporters as they watched their brother’s murderer be executed, “they believe this was a just punishment, however, they felt nothing, there was no sense of relief.”” Understandably they will never have their brother back; they will live the remaining days of their lives with questions that will never be answered.

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Before today there was one other man executed for the murder of James Byrd Jr. in 2011 and a third who received a life sentence. Do you believe that capital punishment was the correct moral choice of action for such a hate crime, or would you believe there may have been a more just form of punishment that would have had a better outcome for the victims’ family and the criminals at fault? If there is another form of punishment that would bring more of a sense of relief to the family and surrounding communities while also serving as a punishment to the criminals then capital punishment would then be considered an immoral practice. I believe there is another form of punishment that could meet these requirements, therefore capital punishment is considered an immoral practice.

John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant, both strongly supported the death penalty. Mill’s belief was that the death penalty was a good substitution for criminals who were served with a life sentence in prison. In his speech, “The Use of the Death Penalty” he quotes a friend, “Member for Northampton (Mr.Gilpin) has himself remarked, the most that human laws can do to anyone in the matter of death is to hasten it; the man would have died at any rate; not so very much later, and on the average, I fear, with a considerably greater amount of bodily suffering.” He then goes on to claim regard the death penalty that; “while it inspires more terror, is less cruel in actual fact than any punishment that we should think of substituting for it.” Life without the possibility of parole is the most serious sanction for aggravated murder aside from the death penalty. If we revisit the views of Kant in regard to capital punishment, he also seemed to be a member of the death penalty support club. His view shouts emphasis on a solid retribution. The golden rule do unto others as you would have them do unto you comes to mind. If you go out and kill someone, Kant believed in turn that it was moral for you to be killed as well.

Human beings make mistakes, not one of us is perfect. Our criminal justice system is run by human beings and so it too fails from time to time. Innocent people have died by execution due to the mistakes our justice system has made during the investigations of some crimes. If there was another way, since we have more technology and resources at our disposal today, we should consider those other options, especially if it would prevent all mistaken executions. It is known that Mill’s views of death weighed in as a lesser evil. Mill states that it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. Is our justice system taking the path of execution to satisfy oneself without considering the options of first living a good life? A punishment involving these criminals creating some sort of pleasure for others instead of receiving pain inflicted on themselves seems like it would morally be a more valiant option. It would be best to exhaust all available options so as not to look a fool before settling on the option of death.

On point with Kant’s view, what if everyone followed that lead. What if you were a soldier and took a vow to protect and serve your country at all costs. You go into war and there is no other way but to kill so as to save the people of your country. In this case retribution seems to have no business being considered, yet the man committed murder to another human being. Surely he does not deserve to be sentenced to the death penalty because he killed other beings to save his country. Kant says, An act is morally acceptable if and only if its maxim is universalizable. Therefore, I find indiscretion in his support for capital punishment. Say a punishment for murder became a series of events the prisoner would have to accomplish that would help our world become a better place and make others happy while they were doing it. It would act as a punishment to them, however they would then in turn be making a grand difference in the world in which we live as punishment for the lives they stole by murder. I am not talking about just your run of the mill, go around picking up trash, but perhaps something along the lines of sticking them all on a ship and have them help clean up our oceans while they are serving their time.

Some sort of grand gesture that many of them could work at, to say that they made such an impact on our planet as they did on the family that will be hurting for the rest of their lives. Prisons are in need of more jobs for these inmates. We should open jobs up on a larger scale instead of just inside their prison walls. There are many jobs that prisoners can have as they are in prison, I don’t see why adding on the work of saving our planet would be any different. Sure, it would require closer security, and some education for them to understand their job. That would also create jobs for criminal justice majors. I call it a win, win!

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Capital Punishment is Morally Indefensible. (2019, Oct 11). Retrieved from