The Morality of the Death Penalty

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The Morality of the Death Penalty essay
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Death penalty cases present a moral question to the contemporary legal system, with the arguments for its validity raising a variety of penological justifications. The inner workings of the litigation structure that enforces this punishment often validate the constitutionalism of the penalty as a response to ‘cruel and unusual’ crimes (Stinneford, 2018). Similar definitions exist regarding the stipulations of the law, the needs of the society for justice, and the role of the social system in either accepting or rejecting the punishment.

In examining the ethical question regarding the death penalty, it is necessary to appreciate the role of social trends, the absence of justice for some communities, and the inefficiency of legal systems in achieving justice through other means (Hinman, 2016). Arguments against the ethical validity of the death penalty commonly infer to its ineffectiveness as a deterrent to crime, the moral corruption of the justice structure and the sheer prejudice that is witnessed in the issuing out of this penalty to specific demographics. Sentencing convicts to the death penalty may be considered to be an impractical approach to instilling justice due to the deficiencies of the American legal system and policies.

The impracticality has been illustrated in the cases of miscarriage of justice, wrongful convictions, racial prejudice and inadequate justification for the penalty (Sarat et al., 2017). Failures of the justice system reflect the challenge of attaining a functional system that identifies crimes that deserve this form of punishment, validating the execution of a convict after a trial through the current structure of justice (Baumgartner, Davidson, Johnson, Krishnamurthy, & Wilson, 2018).

Social perception towards the current system of prosecution and the process litigation reflects these challenges, particularly with regard to the inefficiency and unreliability of the justice system. As such, the discussion will examine multiple arguments relating to the subject while making inferences to litigated cases that have a bearing on ethical arguments. The Immorality of the Death Penalty A conventional trial resulting in the conviction of a defendant by a jury is subjected to the factors of legal consideration, including the criminal history, aggravating factors and the history of violence by an individual (Sarat et al., 2017).

While crimes that have passed through the established structure ought to be transferred to the legal system for judgment, the passing of the death sentence on an individual has been proved to be dependent on other irrelevant aspects that make the process unethical. As such, the possibility of an individual who is innocent being convicted and sentenced is high due to circumstantial evidence making him appear guilty (Stinneford, 2018).

A jury system allows for the inclusion of social factors in the judging of the innocence (and the level of guilt) of an individual outside of the facts of a case. Thereby, defendants of cases of extreme violence may be convicted and sentenced wrongly due to aspects such as the previous history of violence, psychological instability, and social irreconcilability. The modern death penalty system relies on judgments to extreme crimes to issue the penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. While scholars such as Stinneford (2018) considers justice for extreme and unusual crimes to be justifiable, the extreme penalty of death against a convict is not directly relevant in furthering justice.

The extent of implementing justice through the death penalty system is inadequate as compared to alternatives such as life imprisonment. Sarat et al. (2017) argue that capital punishment cannot be administered to convicts in ways that are considered suitable within the legal system. Ethical delimitations for the determination of guilt and sentencing of an individual do not support the idea of contravening the eight amendment and reverting the rights of a convict due to the nature of crimes committed. In as much as extreme violent crimes may warrant the death penalty from a societal perspective, the legal structure does not adequately justify the punishment.

The American justice system is built on the central moral, cultural and religious views of its people over the last two centuries. In the contemporary setting, for a prosecution for preempting capital punishment through the process of proving the nature of a crime, there needs to be an adequate demonstration of aggravating or mitigating factors (Sarat et al., 2017). Achieving the extent of such proof is more difficult than being able to prove the guilt of the accused- which makes the process of agitating for this level of sentencing close to difficult.

In the case of Ring v. Arizona (2002), the extent to which the prosecution was unable to prove the aggravating factors facilitated the overruling of the attempt at achieving the death penalty. A capital sentencing scheme does not ethically justify the dictation of the elements of a crime warranting a certain extent of punishment- among which the most extreme is death. From the American social justice system, it is difficult to morally vindicate factors under which death would exist as a punitive option. Since the Sixth Amendment defines the delimitation of the death penalty to a significantly contentious extent, the process of arguing for the validation of the sentencing remains unethical due to the extreme nature to which the validation of the death penalty would require proof.

For instance, Fleury-Steiner, Kaplan, and Longazel (2015) illustrate the increased likelihood of a conviction and passing of the death penalty for defendants of Hispanic or African descent, as compared to their Caucasian equals. As such, validating capital punishment would involve unequally implementing the punishment amongst specific races- particularly since the number of convictions favors similar racial and ethnic inclinations (Baumgartner et al., 2018). Furthermore, the inquiry into the racial aspect as a factor of sentencing death on convicts is not ethically sound and cannot be justified within the American legal structure. Within the history or racially imbalanced legal treatment of individuals, the death penalty with similar statistics cannot be justified in actions by the social justice system itself.

A sentence is passed after the consideration of multiple aspects, including the testimonies from the community within which the subject existed- including family, neighbors and correctional officers who collectively have a bearing on the decision that a jury is likely to make. As such, the system is rigged against defendants lacking an advantageous social structure, having histories of violence or previous convictions (Baumgartner et al., 2018). While other convictions are stacked against the favor of such individuals, the death penalty is more likely to be placed on such persons due to the existence of sentencing factors determining their likelihood to be arrested, accused and found guilty of violent crimes.

Therefore, it is unethical to worsen the legal structure that discriminates against the disadvantaged in the community, particularly through capital punishment that is exclusive to one segment of society.

Capital cases attract the attention of the society, and the handling of cases that necessitate the most severe actions by the justice system influences the social system. The role of the judiciary, therefore, goes beyond dealing punishments- specifically with regard to preventing violent crimes and shaping social perception (Bessler, 2016). The moral justification of capital punishment arises from the necessity to set a cautionary standard for offenders. The constitutionalism of capital punishment is dependent on the meaning of cruel and unusual punishment delimitations, which validate the issuing of death penalties in specific cases. Punishment for certain criminal offenses requires the court system to honor the law, and act on the provisions of the constitution in response to criminal convictions that qualify as being cruel and unusual (Fleury-Steiner et al., 2015).

For such cases, capital punishment if legally and morally valid. Societal perspective towards criminal cases litigated publicly validate the necessity of capital punishment as a means to justice. In cases of public interest, the support for the pursuit of justice validates the actions of the judicial system in following constitutional provisions to satisfy the legal context (Stinneford, 2018). In the case of a conviction of an individual in a case that is judged both within and without the courts to qualify as being of unusual and cruel nature- there is validation in both the 6th and eighth amendments for the execution of the convict. Nonetheless, the consideration of the situation is necessary to ensure that the delivery of justice fits the situation. The decision as to the validity of the death penalty in each scenario lies with the legal system since the legality of a conviction and the sentence resulting from it is determined therein (Bessler, 2016).

Where a punishment such as the death penalty has been authorized by a member of the court and imposed the verdict of a jury, it is fully valid in the eyes of the American constitution, and by extension, the public upholding these laws.


Moral debate relating to the death penalty commonly makes references to the handling of ethics within the American legal system. In as much as the arguments regarding the difficulties of establishing just systems for all may invalidate the death penalty, extreme crimes validate capital punishments. The need for the death penalty as a cautionary measure, the last result in punitive actions and as an alternative for the American justice system cannot be disregarded.

However, in the contemporary justice system where legal and social matters are intertwined, it is necessary to evaluate capital punishment on a case-by-case basis. The morality of the punishment, therefore, is dependent on whether the society validates the extreme penalty, whether the crime necessitates the sentence and the social perspective. Moral validation stems from the combination of each of these aspects, which reflects the ethical standards that apply to each case.

The Morality of the Death Penalty essay

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The Morality of the Death Penalty. (2020, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-morality-of-the-death-penalty/

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