Death sentence refers to lawful deaths sanctioned by governments as a result of capital offenses such as murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping, rape, espionage and terrorism.
Capital crimes are interpreted differently in many countries.
While most governments are discarding maximum sentence, a few countries have shown disregard for human lives notwithstanding campaigns from rights organizations against such executions.
Capital punishment is carried out in different ways: firing squad or shooting in the back of the head, hanging, electrocution and lethal injection. Execution as a law is as old as the society.
“…But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe…” (Exodus 21:24). Such is the bible’s stand on penalties or judgement for sins according to the Old Testament. The Sharia Law practiced by Islam also has a similar stand on punishments for sins.
People have different opinions on whether death should be an option among the court rulings for capital crimes. Governments and legislators have divided opinions. Citizens see the laws on crime and capital punishment from different angles.
The questions we should ask are these.
- Have you witnessed, survived or watched a clip of suicide bombings around the world?
- What if your innocent kid was among those massacred in schools by a psychopath for whatever anger he feels against the society?
- Have you ever been held hostage by gunmen or witnessed the carnage done by their sporadic gunshots at unsuspecting citizens?
- Has your friend, wife, sister or a family member been raped and in a worst case scenario, killed?
The answers we give greatly affect our opinions on the death penalty.
For most living victims, it is a natural feeling that killers and rapists should receive the maximum punishment – death. Putting the offenders behind bars for years can never erase the pain.
The governmental system through the constitution has politicized law and court judgements on capital crimes in every country.
A murderer has a right to an attorney. Criminals have rights to be tried in a law court. No citizen of any country should be held in detention for a period more than 24 hours …etc. We are all innocent until proven guilty in a competent court of law. These are an indispensable part of the Fundamental Human Rights.
Karl Marx called “the law” an “opium of the masses”. The law is a tool formed and used by the rich in the society to further their interests against the poor. This is arguably so because the judicial arm of governments observe a lengthy process in capital crime prosecutions.
The constitution in most democratic nations are outdated and politicians who have no love for a crime-free society tend to exploit these shortcomings for selfish purposes instead of carefully and conscientiously amending the laws to square with current realities.
In response to the perceived betrayal of trust, citizens sometimes, choose to take the laws into their own hands. “Jungle justice” or death by the mob still holds sway in most developing countries. Criminals, rapists, kidnappers or murderers are beaten to pulps and, if the police delays in their response, are burnt to ashes. After all, “justice delayed is justice denied”, they say. This is a way of saying “no to long trials” and “no to life imprisonment”.
Capital punishment is the only judgement that can soothe public anger on grave offenses.
A case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother who bombed US at the 2013 Boston Marathon still live in our memories. The televised manhunt held the world, not only Americans, in awe.
Surprisingly, many years have passed after his arrest, arraignment and sentencing at the court. Yet the law on death penalty will continue to drag at appeals, paroles and other judicial bottlenecks.
There are tens and hundreds of murder inmates on death row in many countries who will never smell the hangman’s noose. Hopefully, as the offenders must be wishing, a day will come when the few lucky inmates are granted prerogative of mercy. What a disappointment!
Life sentence for capital crimes is wasteful and expensive. Tax payers money is spent on maintaining federal prisons and paying salaries to prison wardens. The murderers are clothed, fed and given medical attention at a very high cost to the government. These monies could as well, be spent on improving lives and rehabilitating the society for the law abiding citizens.
Has the system failed us on capital punishment?
The capital punishment should serve as a deterrence to all capital crime offenders.
Citizens lose confidence in the judicial system when murderers or rapists evade capital punishment due to a malfunctioning legal system, “bribery and corruption” or “lack of evidence”.
Some rape victims have had to commit suicide rather than face a society who blames her for not fighting or for dressing provocatively.
Should the police accept blames for not effectively protecting of lives and property, which is the reason for it’s establishment? The security agencies blames it on lack of adequate funds, improved technology and a “reasonable ” standard of living.
Little wonder, Lady Justice (the statue that represents law) is a blindfolded woman holding a balance and a sword. Whether she is blind only to corruption or shy towards the elite class is open for another argument.
The following is a statistical show of executions according to Amnesty International.
What is Amnesty International saying?
Amnesty International and other Human Rights Organizations seek to abolish the capital punishment and completely erase it from the constitution of every country.
Although international law says otherwise, for Amnesty International, capital punishment as a law is flawed and therefore should be reduced to prison sentences only.
Countries like (China, Iraq, Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran and USA) as is seen in the chart above, have recorded a sky high number of executions in recent years. Pakistan is recently taking steps that may yet count it as one of the top countries in the list.
The chart shows only recorded facts. Unknown facts from the mentioned countries and more who were presumably executed in secret are not included.
Do we need the death penalty? Or is religion encouraging murder?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.…(Mathew 5:38-39).
The government or any citizen who argues otherwise should not be called evil for not being biblical. Take a look at the picture below and have a rethink.
Errors of the death penalty.
There has been cases where inmates were wrongly sentenced and remained in death row beyond 10 or 20 years before they were found innocent. Some prisoners have served sentences for fabricated lies and crimes they did not commit and made to face execution for lack of evidence.
People have been condemned to death even after showing remorse for their crimes and turning a new leaf although this cannot bring back the lives already taken.
The legal system hasn’t not been without errors in judgement.
However, recent developments in science and technology has narrowed the flaws. Yet most countries think there is no need for the death penalty.
What’s not so bad?
The application of death penalty has not totally eradicated crime in the society. It has also, not reduced the level of crimes though it could instill fear in the mind of first-time offenders and thereby reduce crime rate.
Since it is a known fact that most death row inmates end up in their previous lives of crime if granted state pardon by the government. What then should be done to remove the cost of their incarceration and give victims a relief when justice is served?
Death sentence is the best answer to murder, in a society with reliable law courts, effective and efficient police force, as well as modernized technological equipment to support security outfits and aid investigations.
If the government cannot stop it’s citizens from killing one another, same government should be able to execute murderers as no one individual has the right to take another person’s life.