The Death Penalty

November 14, 2007
By Joseph Staton, Stafford, VA

Whether or not the death penalty should be legal in the United States is one of the most debated issues today. Many people oppose the death penalty because they believe that it violates the Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment. This belief however is wrong. I believe that the death penalty should and needs to remain a legal form of punishment. Since the dawn of civilization it has been the duty of the government to protect society from those who would threaten its stability. This responsibility usually involves putting offenders in prison to punish them and protect the people. However it is sometimes necessary for those who have shown themselves incapable of functioning in society, pose a danger to the public, and have knowingly committed the crime of premeditated murder to receive capital punishment in order to protect society.

Many on both sides of the debate do not know that the Supreme Court ordered a temporary suspension of capital punishment from 1972-1976. This was because they found the method of executing prisoners to be cruel and unusual. Although the method of execution needed to be changed, the suspension of all executions turned out to be a grave mistake. Before the temporary suspension there were 9,250 murders in the U.S. However the number of murders increases by over 100% to 20,510 murders after 1975.

There are many examples in the 1970’s showing the failure of the temporary suspension. One such example is the murder of a woman named Rosa Velez when her house was robbed by a man named Luis Vera. According to during questioning he said “Yeah I shot her, and I knew I wouldn’t get the chair.” Because the Supreme Court had suspended all executions Luis Vera and everybody else who had been convicted of murder would not be able to receive the death penalty. The maximum sentence they could receive under the law was life without parole. This rule also applied to all the criminals who were already on death row.

Another more famous example is that of mass murderer and cult leader, Charles Manson. Charles Manson is responsible for the 1969 killing of Sharon Tate and six others. He was originally sentenced to death but it was commuted to life in prison with parole after the California Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional. According to Manson is still extremely violent and his mental stability has been frequently called into question. During interviews he has freely admitted to committing the murders and has shown no remorse for them. He has also made several ambiguous threats about what he would do if he was ever paroled or managed to escape from prison. He is eligible for parole again in 2012. However one of the best examples of the failure of the temporary suspension is that of the violent prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood.

The Aryan Brotherhood is the largest and most powerful prison gang in America today. It has members in both state and federal prisons. The crimes that the Brotherhood is best known for are drug trafficking, hired protection, and excessive violence against both prison guards and fellow inmates. When capital punishment was suspended the Aryans took full advantage of the situation. All through the 1970’s the Aryans committed several violent and often fatal attacks against prison guards. The Aryans that already had life sentences were more willing to attack the prison guards because even if they were tried and convicted there was nothing that the justice system could do to them because they had already received the maximum sentence allowed at that time.

It is obvious that people like Charles Manson and members of the Aryan Brotherhood needed to be and deserved to be executed. However one of the down sides of Capital Punishment is that it cost more to execute someone than it does to put them in prison for life. This is because of the number of appeals that are made during a murder trial where the accused has been sentenced to death. To stop this I believe that the number of appeals made during a murder trial should be severely limited. This will help speed up the process of execution.

The fact that many states in this country are trying to abolish or hinder the application of the death penalty is wrong and unacceptable. Those that oppose capital punishment say that the death penalty does not deter people from committing murder. However history has proven this theory wrong. If you oppose capital punishment I would like you to consider this, if the death penalty had not been suspended in the 1970’s would Luis Vera have murdered Rosa Velez? Would Charles Manson be making a bid for freedom in 2012? Would the Aryans have attacked and killed those prison guards? The answer is most defiantly no.

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