An Acceptable Punishment When you think of an extreme crime you think of murder. When you think of an extreme punishment you think of the death penalty. Crimes of such severity sometimes deserve an equal punishment and we as a society accept this. However, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan argues that society seriously questions the appropriateness of the death penalty. It is true that over the years since the death penalty was first implemented it has undergone some changes but this does not suggest that we believe that the death penalty is unacceptable.
Justice Brennan states his argument as follows: 1) If there has been a successive restriction of the death penalty, then society seriously questions the appropriateness of the death penalty today. (implied) 2) There has been a successive restriction of the death penalty. (a) Methods of inflicting the death penalty have changed, as have circumstances surrounding executions. (b) Fewer crimes have death penalty, so it is more rarely inflicted. 3) Therefore, society seriously questions the appropriateness of the death penalty today.
The order and logic in which he presents his argument is quite reasonable. However, I believe that it is not a sound argument. His first premise implies that because the death penalty has been restricted to more specific circumstances that we think it is unacceptable. This is not true by any means. The death penalty has been restricted to spare those who have committed crimes that are not comparable to murder or rape.
In earlier times one could be executed for something as petty as stealing. This is obviously not deserving of the death penalty. The laws were changed when society felt that the punishment did not fit the crime. The second premise suggests that because the methods of inflicting death have changed that we question its appropriateness. The methods have changed this is true, but it is still being inflicted. The methods have changed to reduce the pain and suffering involved in executions.
They have been changed to fit into the modern definition of humane. The successive restrictions regarding the death penalty have made it a more fitting punishment for the crimes that it is allocated. When society believes that the death penalty is not a justifiable punishment it will let its lawmakers know and the death penalty will then no longer exist. I believe that the death penalty is an acceptable punishment for severe crimes and I believe that society shares this point of view or it would eliminate the death penalty. 1) The laws of a country are representative of its people beliefs.
2) Congressmen pass the laws. 3) Congressmen respond to what the public wants. 4) The death penalty exists because Congress allows it. 5) If the public finds a law to be unacceptable it tells its government. 6) The government would lift the law. 7) The death penalty still exists.
8) Therefore, society finds the death penalty to be acceptable. My view comes from a very logical perspective. When people don't want something they do away with it if they have the power to do so. In this country today, we as the public have the power to have laws made and changed. We have made the death penalty a punishment reserved for those crimes that we feel are the most heinous but we have not completely done away with it. This must mean that the majority of our society still believes that it is an acceptable punishment.
If the truth is that we don't still believe in the death penalty then we ourselves are at fault for not taking actions to change it. The objection might arise that some states so not have the death penalty and this shows that our society is finding it to be unacceptable. This may hold true for some states. However, 70% of the states in this country do have the death penalty and that is a great majority.
The fifteen states that do not have the death penalty have a majority that does not approve of it. This is only a small percentage of the entire population that does not approve. It is not enough to state that we as a society do not find the death penalty to be acceptable.