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Death Penalty Once More

NCJ Number
University of California Davis Law Review Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: (Summer 1985) Pages: 957-972
E van denHaag
Date Published
16 pages
People concerned with the death penalty disagree on three major questions: Is it constitutional? Does it deter more crime than life imprisonment? And is it morally justifiable?
The U.S. Constitution authorizes the death penalty in both the 5th and 14th amendments. Arguments against its constitutionality have been based on arguments of evolving standards, its capricious enforcement, discrimination, and its comparative excessiveness. Yet, the courts and the public favor capital punishment, discrimination against one group is necessarily for another, and chance inevitably plays a role in human affairs including criminal justice. The issue of deterrence also has been debated, but this is not the decisive issue for abolitionists: whether or not it deters crime, it punishes more than alternate penalties. Questions about the morality of capital punishment have been raised with respect to miscarriages of justice, the wrongness of vengeance, appeals to charity and justice and human dignity. Others have claimed that the death penalty is legalized murder, has no regard for the sanctity of life, and is repulsive in its severity. However, the benefits may outweigh the harm of wrongful deaths of innocents, vengeance is not the purpose of capital punishment and is sanctioned in the Bible, and charity and justice are not identical. Moreover, execution is no more degrading than life imprisonment, its uses legitimize killing but not murder, and its use is appropriate to the crimes it punishes. 51 footnotes.