It was midnight when it all happened. Tom Peterson was sleeping in bed next to his wife after a tiring day at work, while his two little daughters slept in the next room. Suddenly he was violently awakened by the terrified screams of his wife only to get a glance of a huge man standing over him with a butcher's knife. Tom was stabbed thirteen times, one of his daughters was killed and his wife was severely injured. Now, the Peterson family has just exited the supreme court of justice in which the judge has condemned the murderer of their little girl to the death penalty, for as it turns out the Peterson family had not been the first victim of this murderer.
Unfortunately, the Peterson's case is not unique. Their case is only an example of one of a million crimes that are committed daily in which the death penalty could be applicable to punish the perpetrators and therefore stop them before they attack, kill, rape, or rob another victim. However, not all of the murderers or serial killers are captured; and most of the time, it takes many years to get enough evidence to give closure to their innocent victims
and their families.
I am interested in the subject of the death penalty because like many Americans I am scared that one day what happened to the Petersons may happen to me or to one of my loved ones; and if it did I would want justice to be imparted.
Therefore, in my speech, I will provide you with information that illustrates the benefits of the death penalty and why it should be used in some cases.
I will accomplish this by first providing you with a brief history of the death penalty, then I will discuss grounds for justifying the death penalty, and finally I will dispute some of the popular arguments against the death penalty.
To start off, I will discuss the history of the death penalty. The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century
B.C. in the code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes. Death sentences were carried out by such means as crucifixion, boiling, beheading, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement.
In the Tenth Century A.D., hanging became the usual method of execution in Britain. In the following century, William the Conqueror would not allow persons to be hanged or otherwise executed for any crime, except in times of war. This trend would not last, for in the Sixteenth Century, under the reign of Henry VIII, as many as 72,000 people are estimated to have been executed. Britain influenced America's use of the death penalty more than any other country. When European settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment
. The first recorded execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. Kendall was executed for being a spy for Spain.
Today, the death penalty continues to be an issue of controversy, but the number of people that are for the death penalty continues to grow. An example of this is the law that passed in 1994. As part of an omnibus crime bill, the federal death penalty was expanded to some 60 different offenses. Among the federal crimes for which people in any state or territory of the U.S. can receive a death sentence are murder of certain government officials, kidnapping resulting in death, murder for hire, fatal drive-by shootings, sexual abuse crimes resulting in death, car jacking resulting in death, and certain crimes not resulting in death, including the running of a large-scale drug enterprise.
Now, I will discuss some of the grounds for justifying the death penalty. First of all, one of the most convincing reasons why the death penalty should be used is because it lowers crime rates. According to Steven Goldberg the chairman of the sociology department at City College in New York, the best evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent in crime is not based on statistics but is rather based on common sense and experience. Furthermore, Professor Isaac Ehrilich said that each additional execution prevents about seven or eight people from committing murder.
Another good reason why the death penalty should be used in our society is to protect our loved ones against horrible deaths by murder. As Edward I Koch explains, human life deserves special protection, and one of the best ways to ensure that protection is to assure that convicted murderers do not kill again, and only the death penalty can accomplish this end.
However, if the death penalty fails to prevent the killing of an innocent person, the one thing that it can help with is giving closure to the families of the victims. Using the death penalty, justice is applied without the people taking the vengeance into their own hands. However, not only does the death penalty provide closure and resignation to the families of the victims, but also to the perpetrator himself for in most cases the weight of the guilt of committing such horrible crimes is too much for them to handle and they end up committing suicide.
Finally, I will dispute some of the popular arguments against the death penalty. Opponents of the death penalty argue that in many cases innocent people accused of false crimes are sentenced with the death penalty and are not found to be truly innocent until after the sentence is carried out. However, modern technology such as DNA testing is being used to prevent this from happening. Another example is the Innocence Protection Act, signed by congressmen that are pro-death penalty. Congressman George Nethercutt said, "I support the death penalty, but I want to make sure we're getting the right people."
In summary, I have provided you with a brief history of the death penalty, I also discussed grounds for justifying the death penalty, and finally I disputed some of the popular arguments against the death penalty.
As a final note, I urge you to think about the information that I presented you with and try to imagine yourself in the position of the Peterson family. Then would you be for or against the death penalty?