6 Pages, Grade: 1
The question whether capital punishment should be practiced as a penalty for criminals has for a long time been a controversial topic because it concerns people worldwide. It is debatable whether methods of punishment such as the death penalty are an ethical solution to crime. "These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightening is cruel and unusual - they are capriciously, freakishly, and wantonly imposed.” This statement by the American Supreme Court Justice Steward underlines that even some courts, which used to practice the death penalty in the United States in former times, have come to the conclusion that this type of punishment is not a sensible solution to penalize and prevent further crime [INT4]. The use of capital punishment in different countries around the world and its most common methods will be presented below. A selection of studies will illustrate under which circumstances the death penalty is carried out. It will also highlight that minorities are often punished unequally. Various arguments against the practicing of the death penalty will weaken those arguments in favour of it.
In 133 countries in the world, the death penalty has been abolished, whereas in 64 countries, capital punishment is still legal and practiced. In most cases, it is used as a punishment for criminals convicted of murder. In 2006, 1,591 people were officially executed in 25 countries, but the real number might have been higher. 91 percent of these executions occurred only in China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the USA [INT1]. In the United States, the number of prisoners sentenced to death has fortunately decreased significantly since 1999 [INT4].
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) is a non-profit organization collecting information, statistics and studies about the death penalty. It provides people interested in this topic with articles and reports on capital punishment.
Studies have shown that the death penalty is a discriminating and often unjust punishment especially towards minorities. According to the DPIC, race still plays an enormous role in the United States, and it determines the decision about whether the death penalty will be carried out or not. While only about fifty percent of all murder victims are white, in eighty percent of murders resulting in capital punishment, the victims are white [INT3]. In the 1970s, Amnesty International, an organization working for the protection of human rights, had already shown that those murderers, whose victims were white, were much more likely to be sentenced to death than those, whose victims were black. For example, in 1985, almost fifty percent of all prisoners condemned to death were either black or belonged to other minorities, although they amounted to only twelve percent of the US population. In Florida and Texas, studies have shown that black prisoners, who had killed white victims, were condemned to death five to six times more often than white murderers. Also, murderers of white people were condemned to death nine times more often than murderers of black people between 1976 and 1980. Additionally, black people or those who belonged to further minorities were under-represented among the members of the judges (Amnesty International 74-75). The latest studies have supported these findings and have illustrated that this problem is still current. For example, 98 percent of the chief district attorneys are white in states practicing the death penalty, whereas only one percent of them are black [INT3].
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