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Death Penalty

NCJ Number
John F. Grabowski
Date Published
96 pages
This book examines whether the death penalty is a deterrent, whether it is applied unfairly, whether age should matter in imposing the death penalty, whether justice is denied in administering the death penalty, and whether the death penalty is morally right; both sides of the debate in addressing these death penalty issues are presented.
In presenting issues in the debate on whether the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, the author notes that in order for a punishment to be an effective deterrent, the penalty must be certain and must be swift. As these conditions cannot be met with regard to the death penalty, capital punishment cannot be proven conclusively to be a deterrent to others. Certainly, it prevents the person who is executed from committing another brutal crime. For some people, this is reason enough to retain the death penalty. Although it cannot be proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent, it remains to be seen whether or not it is more effective than other punishments, such as life imprisonment. In considering whether the death penalty can be fairly imposed and administered, it must be acknowledged that even when the parties involved in a capital case perform their duties faithfully and to the best of their abilities, there are numerous decisions to be made that will affect the outcome for the defendant. Discretion inevitably creates the possibility of some unfairness, but this is a necessary part of case processing in the justice system. Regarding age as a factor in imposing the death penalty, to date courts across the Nation have not settled on a single way to handle murder cases that involve juvenile offenders; nor have they agreed on an answer to the question of whether a youth convicted of a murder that would result in the death penalty for an adult also deserves to die for that crime. Further, proponents as well as opponents of the death penalty recognize that innocent persons may be and are executed. For some, this is reason enough to abolish the death penalty. For others, it is a risk worth taking. The debate about capital punishment is not likely to be resolved any time soon, since even in the case of the most horrendous crimes, such as the one committed by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing, persons disagree about whether the death penalty should be used. Chapter notes, a glossary, and a list of organizations to contact