Capital Punishment And Ethics
The use of capital punishment has been a permanent fixture in society since the
earliest civilizations and continues to be used as a form of punishment in
countries today. It has been used for various crimes ranging from the desertion
of soldiers during wartime to the more heinous crimes of serial killers.

However, the mere fact that this brutal form of punishment and revenge has been
the policy of many nations in the past does not subsequently warrant its
implementation in today's society. The death penalty is morally and socially
unethical, should be construed as cruel and unusual punishment since it is both
discriminatory and arbitrary, has no proof of acting as a deterrent, and risks
the atrocious and unacceptable injustice of executing innocent people. As long
as capital punishment exists in our society it will continue to spark the
injustice which it has failed to curb. Capital punishment is immoral and
unethical. It does not matter who does the killing because when a life is taken
by another it is always wrong. By killing a human being the state lessens the
value of life and actually contributes to the growing sentiment in today's
society that certain individuals are worth more than others. When the value of
life is lessened under certain circumstances such as the life of a murderer,
what is stopping others from creating their own circumstances for the value of
one's life such as race, class, religion, and economics. Immanual Kant, a great
philosopher of ethics, came up with the Categorical Imperative, which is a
universal command or rule that states that society and individuals "must
act in such a way that you can will that your actions become a universal law for
all to follow" (Palmer 265). There must be some set of moral and ethical
standards that even the government can not supersede, otherwise how can the
state expect its citizens not to follow its own example. Those who support the
death penalty believe, or claim to believe, that capital punishment is morally
and ethically acceptable. The bulk of their evidence comes from the Old

Testament which actually recommends the use of capital punishment for a number
of crimes. Others also quote the Sixth Commandment which, in the original Hebrew
reads, "Thou Shall Not Commit Murder." However, these literal
interpretations of selected passages from the Bible which are often quoted out
of context corrupt the compassionate attitude of Judaism and Christianity, which
clearly focuses on redemption and forgiveness, and urges humane and effective
ways of dealing with crime and violence. Those who use the Bible to support the
death penalty are by themselves since almost all religious groups in the United

States regard executions as immoral. They include, American Baptist Churches

USA, American Jewish Congress, California Catholic Council, Christian reformed

Church, Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite General

Conference, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, Northern

Ecumenical Council, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church of America,

Southern California Ecumenical Council, Unitarian/Universalist Association,

United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (Death Penalty Focus).

Those that argue that the death penalty is ethical state that former great
leaders and thinkers such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin

Franklin, Kant, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Mill all supported it
(Koch 324). However, Washington and Jefferson, two former presidents and admired
men, both supported slavery as well. Surely, the advice of someone who clearly
demonstrated a total disregard for the value of human life cannot be considered
in such an argument as capital punishment. In regard to the philosophers,

Immanuel Kant, a great ethical philosopher stated that the motives behind
actions determine whether something is moral or immoral (Palmer 271). The
motives behind the death penalty, which revolve around revenge and the
"frustration and rage of people who see that the government is not coping
with violent crime," are not of good will, thereby making capital
punishment immoral according to ethical philosophy (Bruck 329). The question of
whether executions are a "cruel" form of punishment may no longer be
an argument against capital punishment now that it can be done with lethal
injections, but it is still very "unusual" in that it only applies to
a select number of individuals making the death penalty completely
discriminatory and arbitrary. After years of watching the ineffectiveness of
determining who should be put to death, the Supreme Court in the1972 Furman v.

Georgia decision "invalidated all existing death sentence statues as
violative of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and thus
depopulated state death rows of 629 occupants" (Berger 352). This decision