The Death Penalty

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The Death Penalty

Death penalty or capital punishment is a historical legal process where convicts are put to death as a punishment for their crimes. The judicial decree that sentences someone to death and enforces execution originated from Latin times. This form of punishment was initially practiced by virtually all societies as a punishment for political, criminal or religious dissidents. In the Jewish Empire, Jesus was the famous convict to suffer capital punishment by crucifixion. Generally, the death sentence was complemented by torture and execution was performed on public, perhaps, to serve as retribution to future criminals.

Most societies have continued to use strict punishment to discourage potential criminals from performing unlawful actions. Since the society holds the highest interest in crime prevention, it should provide the strongest punishment available to deter crimes such as murder. According to Birkegaard (45), this can best be prevented through the existence of death penalty. If convicted murders are sentenced to death, potential murders would reconsider their action before committing the crime for fear of losing their life as well.

For a long time, criminologists have analyzed the rates of fluctuation of murder cases to see if capital punishment provides a retribution effect. However, due to the rare application of death penalty in modern societies, the effects are not easily established as it takes time before any execution is carried out. Punishment that is recognized to be more swift and certain serves as the best deterrent. States that have not abolished capital punishment would now be experiencing more capital crimes if the punishment was removed.

Dead Man Walking

In the movie, Dead Man Walking, produced in 1982, the theme of death sentence is presented in details. The film features Mathew as a convicted murderer locked in a death row prison in Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary. This daring drama reveals a lot about capital punishment Mr. Mathews is not a character who prompts for sympathy since he invites none at all. His unremorseful swagger reveals his boastful ego about his acts in crime.

Based on the lucid memoir of Sister Prejean, a nun in Louisiana, the film is an account of the playwright’s eye-opening understanding of death row issues. The plot concentrates on a man alleged to have taken part in the murdering two teenagers who got abducted from a lover’s lane. Mr. Mathews admitted of witnessing the killings but never took part in the murder (Smith, 24). This action was enough to make him a social pariah and even worse to the victims. Based on the circumstance Mathew found himself in, Sister Helen risked opprobrium to become a spiritual advisor of the socially condemned man. Sister Helen revealed an example of compassion with the death row prisoners. Helen also met with the slain teenager’s parents in court and listened to their account of rage, loss and grief. When she meets with Mathew, she is patient to withstand the racial hatred, anger and callous disregard of human suffering he brought in other’s lives. At the same time, the reality of prison life, loneliness and isolation shocks her.

In his last hours of life, the prison officials exercised no intimacy and denied Mathew a chance to hug his mother. They also force him to listen to the moral righteousness and justification of capital punishment from several guards and the chaplain. This was the simplest explanation that no matter how remorseful and resentful a victim becomes, the decision is not revertible.  This shocks Helen and she wonders where these sinners can find solace. Meanwhile, her salutary effect on Mathew helped him to accept his responsibilities and seek forgiveness before he was executed. In the tormented moments before he walks to the execution chambers, Helen assured him that God is there, and when he is finally killed, she instilled in him the roles of emissaries of God’s love.

Thus, Dead Man Walking is a film that presents a rounded look of the life of an extraordinary nun. Her working experience with death row inmates changed the direction of her calling. According to Robbins et al (23), the importance of this memorable film was to expose the severity of death row victims through the use of lethal injection. However, she opined that victims of capital crimes should have been provided with an alternative path of punishment based on individual’s level of compassion and forgiveness. The film also illustrates that hate is the worst form of imprisonment that an isolated prisoner can suffer. 

Justification of Capital Punishment

Despite the inducement in the film, proponents of capital punishment quote crime deterrent, retribution and absolute justice as the main reason why death penalty should be upheld. In some cases, death penalty serves as the fairest way of providing justice to the victims. For instance, in the case of Adolf Hitler who bore responsibility for murdering millions of innocent people and performed the worst atrocity in the history of mankind punishment by death would be the only appropriate reward for his heinous crimes. In such case, it is believed that capital punishment is completely justified and should be performed in order increase the deterrence rate.

In another case, the American constitution allows for death penalty in some states, although, it is exercised with maximum caution.  In the state of Texas, death penalty is a legal form of punishment for capital crimes like murder. However, the convict is put on the death row for too long. It would be more justified to execute the person and this could save the state more money for economic development. The death punishment is also justified at times because there is evidence that supports the crime and it can only be used to inflict the same kind of pain suffered by the victim. This judgment can be passed when evidence is proven without reasonable doubt that the crimes committed by the criminal deserved a death sentence. Otherwise, in presence of doubt, imprisonment might be sufficient.

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