Over the past few days, The Prindle Institute held events concerning ethics and
capital punishment. From a showing of "The Green Mile" to guest lectures, these
discussions showed what a prominent ethical issue capital punishment is in
Consider some quick background. Recorded statistics for civil executions (aka
nonmilitary) began in 1930 in the United States, although surely unrecorded
executions were occurring before this time. Today, 35 of our 50 states abide by
the death penalty, including Indiana.
The methods used for capital punishment in the U.S. are lethal injection (the
primary method), electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad. Although
firing squad seems pretty old school, Oklahoma still lists it as a method of
execution that can be used if injection and electrocution are found
The most popular arguments for the death penalty include the penalty as a
deterrent for murder, as an equal form of justice and that inmates on life
sentences are more likely to kill other inmates while incarcerated. Ernest van
den Haag, a well-known defender of the death penalty and former professor of
public policy at Fordham University, said that it is, "the most fitting
retribution for murder I can think of."
Overall, I just see too many weaknesses with these arguments supporting the
death penalty. First of all, does capital punishment actually deter murder? I
don't think a murderer is thinking about how he/she will be punished because
they don't think they'll be caught in the first place.
It's also more expensive to sentence and execute criminals to death. There is
also the interesting argument that jurors may be less likely to convict a
criminal if the death penalty is on the table.
For or against capital punishment, the system that decides the fate of these
criminals is flawed. Remember the case of Troy Davis? Why is it that he was
executed even though seven of the nine recorded witnesses recanted their former
Race and the death penalty is another important ethical issue that needs to be
explored. Take the case of death row inmate Duane Buck in Texas. Duane is an
African American who admittedly shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and a male
counterpart. His guilt is not the issue. His case is under review because at
his trial, a psychologist named Walter Quijano testified that black criminals
are more likely to be violent again in the future. In 2000, 6 other cases with
testimonies from Quijano went under review for racial discrimination.
More ethical questions can be addressed with the methods of execution. For
instance, what about the doctors who have to administer the lethal injection?
All doctors abide by the Hippocratic Oath that states that they must practice
medicine ethically. Does purposefully administering death go against this code
Both sides of the capital punishment argument raise important questions and
concerns about our justice system and what we see as fitting retribution for
(source: Opinion, The DePauw; Katie Aldrich is a senior from Lexington, Ken.,
majoring in environmental geoscience)