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Capital Punishment: Society’s Self Defense by Amber Young is an essay that argues to agree with capital punishment, stating reasons such as self-defense, lack of care in the preservation of life, liberty being more important than freedom, and the chance of a guilty person going free rather than an innocent person being convicted. All the reasons are given to build up the case claim of the essay: “Just as a person is justified in using deadly force in defending himself or herself against a would-be killer, so society also has a right to use deadly force to defend itself and its citizens from those who exhibit a strong propensity to kill”. The claim in this essay is attempting to state that just as a person is able to defend themselves with deadly force against a criminal such as a killer, a nation should be able to use deadly force such as death penalty and capital punishment to get rid of first-degree murderers like Ted Bundy that are a menace to society with the havoc they cause. The claim is qualified by the phrase “whenever the opportunity and the urge arise”. The author doesn’t see pity for the first-degree murderers that take others’ lives, thus, whenever a first-degree murderer gets convicted it should be alright for him or her to receive capital punishment. The exceptions offered for the claim by the author is that “the burden of proof in a criminal case is on the government, and guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt”. This goes onto state that court rarely prosecutes those that are innocent, and the innocent who are wrongly prosecuted without guilt proved beyond a reasonable doubt are exception to the claim. The rest of this paper will focus on the reasons, what makes these reasons relevant and good, the evidence that supports the reasons, as wells as the objections and rebuttals to these reasons.
According to the author, “the most legitimate and strongest reason for capital punishment is not punishment, retribution, or deterrence, but simply society’s right to self-defense”. What makes this reason relevant to the claim is that the claim compares a person defending themselves against a killer through deadly force to a nation or a society defending themselves against a killer by capital punishment, and overall makes seem capital punishment as a sort of self-defense. However, the reason isn’t necessarily good. Although a person could defend themselves against a killer using deadly force, they’re only a person, and don’t really have a variety of other options. On the other hand, a nation or a society have a myriad of resources, institutions, staff, and authorities they can utilize to spare life and ensure first-degree murderers like Ted Bundy stay imprisoned for life. As the author stated, “many prisoners would prefer to die than to languish in prison”. If this is true, then it’s more the worthwhile that a prisoner learns their lesson through imprisonment and rehabilitation then have their life taken at someone else’s mercy. The evidence the author provided is that “many people will readily or reluctantly admit to their willingness to use deadly force to protect themselves or their families from a murderer,” which again brings one back to the objection of people and nations not really being comparable when it comes to self-defense. Moreover, the author can provide the rebuttal “Society has a right to expect and demand that its government remove forever those persons who have shown they cannot be trusted to circulate in society, even on a limited basis, without commuting mayhem. First degree murderers, like Bundy, who hunts and kill their victims without premeditation and malice aforethought must be removed from society permanently as a matter of self-defense.”
The second reason the author gives is that “few in our society go so far as to believe that life is sacrosanct, that its preservation is required above all else”. The author believes that society doesn’t see the preservation of life as significant and gives examples like the military giving their life for liberty, the prisoners rather choosing death over life in prison, and thousands of people dying in car accidents. This reason attempts to justify the claim by stating that few in the current society care for the preservation of life, implying there wouldn’t be anyone who would truly care if first-degree murderers do get executed. However, once again, it’s not a necessarily good reason. Although it’s claimed here that life preservation isn’t too cared for in society, it is because of the very love and care that society has for life and its preservation that there’s a controversy and opposing sides about capital punishment. If more credible resources and statistics were provided to support this reason, than it would be a good reason.
The third reason the author gave: “In our society, which was literally founded and sustained on the principle that liberty is more important than life, the argument that it is somehow less cruel and more civilized to deprive someone of liberty for the rest of his or her life than just to end the life sounds hollow”. This reason is related to the claim because it states that liberty is more significant than life and makes the relation by saying that if given the choice, prisoners would choose death over life in prison. Unfortunately, this is yet another reason that isn’t good. Although the author states that our society was literally founded on the principle that liberty is more important than life, she repeatedly contradicts herself by also stating that “the U.S. Constitution does not place either life nor liberty at a higher value than the other”. Some of the evidence and rebuttal the author provides for this reason is “Patrick Henry, who would later be instrumental in the adoption of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, is most famous for his defiant American Revolutionary declaration ‘I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”. Although Patrick Henry was a significant and notable historical figure, his stance on freedom and prisoners of our current society as well as first-degree murderers like Ted Bundy’s stance on freedom and liberty are completely different. When Patrick Henry was stating these words he surely wasn’t imagining prisoners of today like Ted Bundy getting liberty over death.
The last reason the author gives for the claim is that “the chances of a guilty person going free in our system are many times greater than those of an innocent person being convicted”. This reason attempts to strengthen the claim by implying that if a person is convicted guilty, because it’s so difficult to convict them, then they most likely must be guilty, thus, deserving whatever punishment coming their way. A person that gets convicted in the United States has to go through court processes where he or she has to be proven guilty and in most cases, evidence supporting the court case against the defendant, making those who are convicted guilty cases that are believable. This is a good reason as well as a relevant reason; not only do guilty people often walk free, but in our current society with frequent crime committed by police and authorities who often get away with their crimes, and even continue on with their jobs. The evidence that the author provides as to why innocent people don’t often get convicted is given by the statement “the number must be low because when the scandal of an innocent person being convicted comes to light, the media covers it from all angles”. That evidence is undeniably true; whenever it’s discovered that an innocent person has been in jail or wrongly given the death sentence, it’s unimaginably big news.
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