Here’s What You Need To Know About The Death Penalty

This week on The More You Know, we’ll be covering the death penalty controversy.


Death penalty usage has declined rapidly over the past 25 years. After the mid 1990’s, new death sentences have fallen by 85%, and actual executions have declined by 75%. Twenty one states have abolished the death penalty altogether after a Supreme Court case, Furman v. Georgia, in 1972 put a de facto moratorium to the death penalty in America. Twenty nine states have since reinstated their death penalty.

All of the prisoners who were executed in the 21st century or are currently on death row have all been convicted of murder. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty cannot be applied to any case in which a homicide didn’t occur, as a result of Kennedy v. Louisiana, 2008.

For decades, the death penalty has remained a controversial topic. These controversies range from whether capital punishment is morally right for killers, and whether rape equates murder or not.

In a broad statement, you can only be sure that a convicted killer will never murder again is by giving him the death penalty. As scapegoats, they show citizens that they don’t want to end up like the killer on the stand. 

While capital punishment isn’t shown in statistical evidence to deter people from becoming murderers, there is still the underlying fact: We don’t know if it would work or not if you don’t try.

If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.”

— John McAdams

In relation to this, people can also make the argument of closure for victims’ families. It might bring them some form of peace at last, and they can try to move on with their lives. While this stands, there is new evidence coming out that capital punishment might not help the victims families at all. 

In cases in which the death penalty is eventually carried out, “[e]xecutions [sic] do not offer emotional catharsis as many would suggest.” Instead, Griffith says, “executing perpetrators actually increased family members’ feelings of emptiness because it didn’t bring back their loved ones.””

— Linda Lewis Griffith

While the pros of capital punishment range from prevention to closure, it is still outweighed by the cons. In a case in opposition to the death penalty, the ACLU, The American Civil Liberties Union, claimed a range of fundamental concerns, from whether the punishment is considered cruel and unusual to it being a waste of taxpayer money.

Two of the most important factors to remember in the article is that states that still have capital punishment are states with the highest rates of crime, and that the death penalty is not confirmed to be a viable form of crime control. ACLU says that in re-instituting the death penalty in certain states, the state governments have ignored the real reasons of high crimes. When asked to rank the most effective ways to reduce crime, police chiefs and politicians ranked the death penalty last.