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NCJ Number: 66710 Find in a Library
Title: PENALTY OF DEATH
Author(s): T SELLIN
Corporate Author: Sage Publications, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 195
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Publication Number: VOLUME 102
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE PARADOXICAL STATUS OF THE DEATH PENALTY IN THE UNITED STATES IS ANALYZED PHILOSOPHICALLY, HISTORICALLY, AND STATISTICALLY, REVEALING WEAKNESSES IN ALL THE ARGUMENTS THAT SUPPORT IT.
Abstract: ALTHOUGH 36 OF THE 50 STATES HAVE STATUTES WHICH PROVIDE CAPITAL PUNISHMENT FOR 1 OR MORE CRIMES, AND HUNDREDS OF PRISONERS REMAIN CONFINED IN STATE PRISONS UNDER SENTENCE OF DEATH, THERE HAVE BEEN ONLY 3 EXECUTIONS SINCE 1976. THE PRINCIPLE OF A LIFE FOR A LIFE, ROOTED IN OLD TESTAMENT MOSAIC LAW, WAS REAFFIRMED BY THE REFORMATION AND IMPLANTED INTO NEW WORLD SOCIAL VALUES BY RELIGIOUS PROTESTANT GROUPS, BUT THE AUTHORITY OF RELIGION OVER LEGAL MATTERS HAS SINCE ERODED. THE CONCEPT OF RETRIBUTION IS THE DOMINANT ARGUMENT FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. IN PRACTICE, HOWEVER, RETALIATION IS HARDLY EVER REALIZED, SINCE NUMEROUS MURDERERS ARE NEVER CAUGHT AT ALL, AND CRIME STATISTICS SHOW THAT ONLY ONE-FOURTH OF WILLFUL HOMICIDES ARE PROSECUTED FOR CAPITAL MURDER, WITH THE LIKELIHOOD OF A DEATH SENTENCE BEING VERY SMALL AND THAT OF EXECUTION EVEN SMALLER. MOREOVER, THE DEATH PENALTY IS APPLIED SELECTIVELY. THE BIAS IS AGAINST BLACKS WHILE CHIVALROUS TREATMENT OF WOMEN MURDERERS DISTORTS JUSTICE AND KEEPS THEM FROM THIS SENTENCE. THE SECOND MAJOR ARGUMENT FOR THE DEATH PENALTY IS DETERRENCE. DETERRENCE HOLDS THAT POTENTIAL MURDERS ARE FORESTALLED BY THE THREAT OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. THIS CONTENTION, HOWEVER, CAN NEITHER BE PROVED NOR DISPROVED. MOREOVER, EXECUTIONS IN RECENT DECADES HAVE EITHER CEASED OR BECOME SO RARE THAT THEY COULD NOT POSSIBILY INFLUENCE THE MURDER RATE. NOR DO DATA ON POLICE DEATHS PROVIDE EVIDENCE FOR THE BELIEF THAT THE THREAT OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT MAKES LAW ENFORCEMENT SAFER. SINCE CAPITAL MURDERERS RARELY COMMIT HOMICIDE UNDER IMPRISONMENT OR ON PAROLE, THEY CONSTITUTE NO SPECIAL THREAT TO SOCIETY. COMPARISON OF HOMICIDE RATES FROM STATES WHERE THE DEATH PENALTY HAS BEEN ABOLISHED WITH RETENTIONIST STATES YIELDS NO EVIDENCE OF THE DETERRENT POWER OF THE DEATH PENALTY. THE PEOPLE IN MOST STATES ARE THUS FACED WITH A MORAL DILEMMA OF HAVING LAWS THAT CALL FOR THE DEATH PENALTY, A PUNISHMENT WHICH THEY ARE UNWILLING TO ENFORCE WITH CONSEQUENCE. TABULAR DATA, FOOTNOTES, AND AN INDEX ARE PROVIDED. (MRK)
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Death row inmates; Deterrence; State laws; United States of America
Note: SAGE LIBRARY OF SOCIAL RESEARCH
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=66710

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