Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment


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An evaluation is made on the use of capital punishment in various countries around the world. This would provide vital information as to the use of this practice. This involves the study of the availed literature as well as conducting research as to the figures or numbers of individuals in support of this practice. The use of capital punishment is termed as inhumane given that it is essentially taking away human life instead of preserving it. This article seeks to provide general and statistical information on capital punishment with an explanation of arguments from each side, which are the opponents and the proponents. However, there are no visible inferences as all individuals are focused on ensuring justice and that there is satisfaction between the two sides in terms of fair judgment.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment or the death penalty has been used for a long time where a person is executed upon verification that they are guilty as accused. Capital crimes or crimes punishable by death are few and could vary with different countries. While in the United States capital punishment are those involving brutal murder, in Saudi Arabia capital crimes are several, including adultery, sorcery, drug offenses, armed robbery, rape, false prophecy and apostasy. According to Zuhur (2011), the rate of non-murder executions in Saudi Arabia was higher than murder case executions, (P. 378). Additionally, method of execution differs among the countries using it, where worldwide statistics show that the most common method is hanging followed by beheading and lethal injection. While around 97, countries have abolished it with 57 still practicing. The rest have not practiced it for many years. Debates over capital punishment have been around for a long time with proponents and opponents providing many arguments for and against it. The opponents argue based on the value of human life, right to life, executing the innocent, the expense, unfair application and deterrence amongst others. On the other hand, proponents’ argument is based on deterrence, rehabilitating, preventing criminals from committing such crime again and closure and vindication. This article seeks to provide general and statistical information on capital punishment with an explanation of arguments from both sides.

Execution methods

The most common execution method as aforementioned is hanging, which accounted for 430 executions in 2011 in nine countries. These countries included Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Bangladesh, Singapore, Somalia and the Sudan. In some countries such as Iran, there were public executions where the victims are hanged in front of masses watching (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013).

The other method common was beheading, which is the one practiced in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, the country beheaded 73 men and 3 women publicly. In 2009, 69 were executed (Zuhur. 2011. P. 377). The offenses included murder, sorcery, and rape as well as drug offences. Being the only country to use beheading, this means that capital punishment in Saudi Arabia is quite high since this was the second most popular method. Additionally, Saudi Arabia could order crucifixion of the beheaded body for a few days after execution for all to see. This is rooted in their sharia law since it is a Muslim country (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013).

The nest common method of execution is the lethal injection that happens in United States and China. The lethal injection happens in special chambers and in some cases in special mini-buses. This is supposed to be painless although this has been debated about especially in the United States. The other methods included shooting by a firing squad that happened in China, Dubai, North Korea, Taiwan and Palestine. The other methods although not practiced is the electric chair. None of the current execution recorded use of this method (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013).

Countries with the most executions

In 2011, 20 countries worldwide carried out judicial executions. Statistics shows that the highest number of executions happened in china, where it is believed to be more than 1000 executions. The top six ranking countries in executions in 2011 are china that is ranked first, Iran raked second, Saudi Arabia coming in third, Iraq fourth, united states fifth and Yemen sixth. North Korea. The total number of executions in 2011 was 676, excluding those carried out in China, where the statistics were kept secret (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013).

In the previous years, the ranking is different but several countries that have remained among the top include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States, Iraq and Pakistan. In 2010, the number of executions excluding those in China was at least 527. This was a drop from 714 in 2009 still excluding data from China. In 2008 when data for china is available, executions in 25 countries were 2,390 with 1,718 happening in China (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013).

Survey results

The survey conducted indicates that an overwhelming 60% of respondents’ sampled were of the opinion that the practice should be embraced, whereas another 26.67% evaluated indicated that they were against the practice (SurveyMonkey, 2013). In addition, 13.33% from the survey indicated the need to diversify the ranges of crimes that should be punishable by capital punishment. The majority of the respondents were women who accounted for 68.75% of the responses, while the remaining 31.25% were male. Additionally the ages of the individuals were varied to obtain a fair view across all age brackets. Majority of the individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24; they accounted for 93.75% whereas the remaining 6.25% were individual between the ages of 55-64 (SurveyMonkey, 2013).

Of those who were totally against the capital punishment, their major reason was that everybody should live with their mistakes. In this regard, they meant that killing puts people away from their mistakes, meaning that living with ones mistakes is more punishing than being dead. The other reason was that the family of the victim would be left suffering for the loss of their loved one. It should also be noted that the families of the murder victim also suffer the same way. Thus, this is not a credible reason for abolishing capital punishment (SurveyMonkey, 2013).

Proponents of the capital punishment according to the survey felt that any person or criminal who intentionally, knowingly and recklessly engages in criminal activities punishable by death should not be spared from judicial execution. This is quite true sine they are aware that they stand to b executed during the time of committing the crime. Thus, to deter such potential criminals capital punishment is right. 13.33% of the respondents cited that capital crimes should be diversified to allow other crimes to qualify as capital crimes (SurveyMonkey, 2013).

It is clear from the survey that majority support capital punishment considering that majority of the respondents was from Saudi Arabia. However, the survey does not represent a whole population since there were only 11 respondents. The reason that majority of the respondents were young is due to the nature of the survey, which was done through the internet. Majority of the older generation may not be conversant with use of computers for such surveys, making it harder for them to respond.

Worldwide reasons against capital punishment

Although many countries that practiced capital punishment have continued to abolish it, around 58 countries as of 2011 still practice capital punishment. Many arguments against capital punishment have been raised over the years that have contributed to some of the countries abolishing the practice. The most common and strong argument against capital punishment is the possibility of executing innocent people. The possibility that innocent people could be executed is increasing with around 69 people being released from the death penalty since 1973 in United States when death penalty was reinstated. The opponents cite that possibility of error could render innocent people to execution (Siegel, 2009. P. 513).

The other argument against capital punishment is the value of life, which is more of a religious view. All people know that human life is valuable and that it should not be taken by anybody. Those advocating for the abolition of capital punishment cite that life is valuable and should be preserved as it is unless a good reason for taking it away exists. The other argument is on the right of life, which suggests that all human beings have a right to live their life. Sentencing people to death means violating the right to life. Although the argument is that no body has a right to kill, neither do the criminals have a right to take away life. In this case, the state represents the law and protects the innocent. However, even the bible does not oppose to capital punishment, and it is morally correct (Siegel 513)

It has often been cited that capital punishment does not deter crime, which is the main purpose of a sentence. Death penalty has not proven to reduce or deter crime. Crime continues to happen in many countries despite having capital punishment. In a research conducted for United Nations, it was found that execution did not show any greater ability in deterring crime than life imprisonment did. In fact, what was more likely to deter crime is not the punishment given. Rather is the possibility of being caught (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012). Thus, governments should aim at increasing ways of detecting crime and arresting the right people. Many people may refrain from committing crime because thy do not want to be caught and convicted. The research found that the death penalty is harsh as a punishment but not effective on deterring crime.

Finally, the expense of the death penalty case as well as incarceration is expensive, and the state has to finance some of the cases. An example that proves the high costs of capital punishment is the case of Timothy McVeigh, convicted because of the Oklahoma bombing that used around $13 million. Opponents of capital punishment advocate for life imprisonment without parole. However, proponents of capital punishment counter this argument by citing that life imprisonment without parole is not cheap either (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).

Reasons for capital punishment


Despite the arguments against capital punishment, some people argue that it is not wrong and should continue to be practiced. Their first argument is on retribution, citing that any guilty person deserves reprimand. Only the guilty deserve punishment, and this should be proportionate to the crime committed. Thus, if one kills, then they deserve to be killed. This is an argument stating that a person must suffer consequences equal to the magnitude of their atrocity. Many people advocating for this argument find it to represent true justice. According to Siegel (2009), “Putting dangerous criminals to death also conforms to the requirement that punishment must be proportional to the seriousness of the crime,” (P. 513).


Proponents of capital punishment argue that killing inmates convicted for murder deters other potential criminals from killing. However, opponents cite that this may not be so effective considering the time it takes to execute a person convicted for murder. However, capital cases take even more than a decade before the convicted person is executed. Thus, deterring crime using capital punishment is not clear. However, not all countries take too much time between judgment and execution.

Prevents re-offending

Proponents of capital punishment argue that it stops the offenders from committing murder again. By killing them, they will not commit other crimes since they are dead. However, opponents argue that life imprisonment will stop them from committing murder again. The possibilities of a person escaping prison and killing again or killing while in prison are rare. Therefore, this is not convincing enough to suggest that capital punishment should be practiced. Incapacitating the criminals prevents re-offending (Siegel 493).

Capital case legal process

The first part is pre-trial where the case is decided whether it is a brutal murder calling for a capital case. The police gather proof from the scene of the crime and use witnesses to come up with a strong case. This is followed by an arrest of the suspect, who is subsequently charged. Arraignment follows, where the case is heard in a court of law as the charges are read to the defendant. Preliminary hearing follows where a determination of the sufficiency of evidence to prosecute the accused (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012). A grand jury follows to decide whether the evidence is enough to hold the trial. Indictment follows, a formal document of accusation presented to the court by the grand jury. Information follows where a criminal charge is filed by the prosecutor without a grand jury.

A hearing on pre-trial motions is held to discuss the facts, which is followed by an intention to seek the death penalty if the defendant is found guilty. A selection of jurors by the judge follows. This is followed by opening statement, prosecution case, where prosecutors offer evidence, defendant’s case where defendant offer evidence to prove innocence and a closing statement before deliberations (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012). The judge then provides jury instructions, which are meant to state the laws to be use in the case. The verdict is read on whether the defendant is guilty as charged. This is followed by the death penalty phase that involves the aggravating circumstances, followed by mitigating circumstances that are facts not justifying an offense but could reduce the moral culpability of the case. The victim impact statement follows, which is followed by a jury sentence recommendation before the sentence is made by the judge.

With this process, the time it takes before the inmate is convicted is long since after the judge administers the sentence the defendant could have several appeals. Therefore, it takes a long time before the court proceedings are over, sometimes taking several years. After the case is judged, enough time has to be allowed in order to give the defendant time to appeal a well as provide new evidence. As indicated, death cases take quite long and lose their essence of deterring crime. Considering the time it takes, sometimes more than decades before inmates are convicted. For instance, the longest time before execution served in prison by a death row inmate in United States is 36 years, which is quite a long time. One could ask whether his death deterred crime in any way (Death Penalty Information Center, 2013). Hence, majority of individuals as per the survey were of the view that capital punishment was necessary and essential.


Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2012). Capital Punishment, 2010 – Statistical Tables. Retrieved from

Death Penalty Information Center. (2013). Time on Death Row. Retrieved from

Siegel, L.J. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice. New York, N.Y: Cengage Learning.

page 493 has some statement referred. Page 513 second paragraph as the quote used.

SurveyMonkey. (2013). Capital Punishment. Retrieved from

Zuhur, S. (2011). Saudi Arabia. Goleta, CA: ABC-Clio.

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