Death Penalty in America

Todd Johnson

ECPI University





















Since mankind first stepped into colonizing lands and creating civilizations, laws have been the backbone that have supported and expanded those civilizations. Various laws exist from fining certain amounts of money, to prison time, or even community service; but one of the most controversial actions taken by the 31 states that currently use it is Capital punishment or the death penalty.  Capital punishment has more or less changed throughout the years, but the end goal is the same: to legally put an individual to death. As the year’s tick on public view of the death penalty has significantly decreased the number of people that are put on death row.  Although the general population leans towards the death penalty being inhumane, the cost is also a factor that may influence the state and federal opinions when considering an appropriate punishment.  The death penalty was used substantially in the past to make a strong statement against the worst criminals; but with moral concerns, the expensive death row cost, and the technical issues/prisoner life in death row, there are more effective punishments that can be implemented.

The death penalty has been under the moral concern spotlight for quite a number of years now and the support to ban capital punishment is growing. A majority of individuals believe that putting someone to death for any crime is just, but this presents a very strong issue present in the mindsets of those people. According to (Fieser. 2008), “In 1777 London clergyman William Dodd was executed for check fraud, despite the protests of his influential friends in government.”  Even though the circumstance that happened to Mr. Dodd was centuries ago, it would not be hard to find individuals who would consider putting to death criminals for smaller crimes.

Another contributing factor to whether the death penalty should be implemented is if capital punishment deters criminals to not commit crimes. Based on human understanding of right and wrong it would seem like a no brainer to realize that committing a serious crime such as murder, would lead someone down a path of their own destruction. While it is reasonable to say that the death penalty would most definitely deter future offenders, it is impossible to determine how many innocence would be saved down the road, compared to the number of people executed. There are also certain cases in which the criminal is not deterred to conduct an enormous amount of heinous crimes such as serial killers. It would be hard to say that serial killers are not aware of the consequences of their actions, yet they continue to carry out their sick and twisted plans with little to no hesitation. Murderers live to kill and by keeping them trapped in prison for life, will provide an excruciating punishment for those individuals, without putting them to death.

When making federal decisions regarding actions taken to control criminals who have committed offenses, money and cost is always going to be considered no matter what crime has occurred. The cost comparison between death penalty and life imprisonment is very clear; death penalty is substantially more expensive.  While it may seem like the death penalty is a quick and cheap way to carry out justice, the amount of money spent takes an enormous toll on tax payers. “A report of the Washington State Bar Association found that death penalty cases are estimated to generate roughly $470,000 in additional costs to the prosecution and defense versus a similar case without the death penalty” (Phillips, 2014).  These numbers don’t even include the cost of housing criminals on death row, which are substantially higher. California has a cost of 137 million dollars annually for death row cases, while non death row cases totaled just 11.5 million (Phillips, 2014). The 50 states that make up America are paying so much more to pursue this form of punishment.

Another cost issue that is present when discussing the use of the death penalty is the appeal process. Appeals create a dramatic increase in the amount of money spent to implement the death penalty. It’s impossible to completely remove the appeal process since human lives depend on appeals being successful. Having even a small chance to live regardless of the crime, is how true justice should be sought.

With the convicted living on borrowed time and approaching their demise, it would seem to most that they have comfortable living conditions on death row. One issue that has arisen in Death Row facilities located throughout Texas; is the lack of “the last meal”. Although the acts of criminals sentenced to death might not deserve a last meal, it is still a right as human being’s that they should be able to eat what they want before death. Most states continue to implement a last meal, but Texas no longer allows that option, stating that “It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege. It’s a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim” (Lewis, 2015).

When performing an execution, it is absolutely imperative that it is performed perfectly with no technical issues.  Throughout the history of the United States a number of executions haven’t gone smoothly, thus increasing outrages by the public. One example of a failed execution, happened to Pedro Medina who was sentenced to death by electric chair for stabbing in 1997. His execution, though planned to be simple and smooth, took a turn for the worse. “After the current was turned on, as one newspaper put it, flames “leaped from the head” of the condemned (Austin, 2014).  There are many more cases and examples of executions going horribly wrong. Technical issues have arisen from all methods of death penalty; from hangings, to electric chair, and even lethal injections not working as intended.  If the death penalty is sought out by the state it needs to be performed without any errors.  Causing extra pain or discomfort is not a form of justice no matter what that individual has done.

Capital punishment has been one of the most controversial issues that has stood since the founding of the United States of America. The amount of people that have been put to death, and how those executions are carried out, have changed drastically as time has gone on. Furthermore, as the country progresses, support against the death penalty is steadily rising.  The future holds many different possibilities for improvement on domestic concerns that continue to split a nation with such promise. The death penalty has been a part of American history since the beginning; but with technical concerns that affect the living conditions/final moments of the convicted, the enormous expensive cost of appeals, and implementation of capital punishment compared to life imprisonment, and the incredible moral and inhumane concerns that the public expresses, show that there are better ways to punish the scum that plague the bottom of American Society.












Austin, S. (2014, Apr). Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty. Available from

Fieser, J. (2015, Jan 1). Capital Punishment from Moral Issues that Divide Us and Applied Ethics. Retrieved from

Lewis, D. (2015, Jan 7). Texas’s Last Last Meal: Why Death Row Inmates in Texas Don’t Get to Pick Their Last Meals. Retrieved from

Phillips, K. (2014, May 1). Considering The Death Penalty: Your Tax Dollars At Work. Retrieved from




















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