Argument: The most basic argument in favor of the death penalty is the notion that it acts as a deterrent. The promise of a clean bed, outdoor activities and the ability to live out the rest of your life in a cushy prison will undoubtedly not have the same effect on a potential criminal’s decision as the threat of death might. Capital punishment is essential for maintaining order and low levels of crime in a civilized society.

A: Justice is a concept that our government must incorporate into its actions, and some heinous crimes are, without doubt, worthy of a death sentence. Moral relativism cannot be used when dealing with capital punishment. When we begin to factor out righteous punishments, then we ourselves are committing crimes. We cannot doubt our ability to carry out justice in society. This quote from “Boondock Saints” summarizes my second point: “We must always fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil that we must fear the most, and that is the indifference of good men.”

A: Finally, I would like to deal with the issue of potentially innocent people receiving the death penalty. Today we have new capabilities, such as DNA testing, that make verdicts more accurate. Also, what of innocent people who receive life in prison? Our justice system operates on the idea that its verdicts are correct, if that was not assumed it would undermine the basic existence of the system. We must have either complete confidence in the courts or implement an entirely different method of distributing justice.

-Evan Berard

Rebuttal: The most damning evidence that stands in opposition to the effectiveness of the death penalty is whether or not it functions successfully as a deterrent. The FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for 2003 (published in October 2004) shows that the average number of murders in states with the death penalty is 530,000 in comparison to the 290,000 of states without capital punishment. Capital punishment has nothing to do with maintaining low levels of crime and a civilized society; in fact, it probably exasperates and coarsens civil society.

R: Justice is more than a concept that is incorporated into the government’s actions; it’s a system by which our laws are written and enacted. Modern day justice should not incorporate simplistic, ancient codes like an eye for an eye; rather it should move towards a system that rises above the tactics of thugs and warlords. Moreover, justice in an unequal system is no justice at all, so we need not worry about moral relativism in our nation, and instead devote serious concern to the inequalities in our justice system.

R: Even if DNA testing was 100 percent accurate and reliable, our nation would still be faced with the inequalities and injustices in the legal system that make the death penalty unjust. Amnesty International studies show that black and white murder victims are essentially equal, but 80 percent of the people executed since the death penalty was reinstituted were only for the murders of white victims. As for innocent people who receive life, if this is the wrong verdict, then the DNA tests that we presently put so much faith in can ascertain that and then justice can be served by reverting the sentence. Death is irreversible, and therefore, unjust.

-Eileen Arnold

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