Editorials

Capital Punishment: Justice or Revenge?

Ever since the Constitution was signed in 1787, there has always been the discussion of the Eight Amendment, which happens to be the one about cruel and unusual punishment. Even recently there was a Supreme Court case about the Eight Amendment, Shaun Michael Bosse v. Oklahoma.

Shaun Bosse was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in 2010 of Katrina Griffin and her two children. The State or Oklahoma sought the death penalty, but Bosse argued that the sentencing violated his Eight Amendment right; the court disagreed. Even so, there is the question that many people ask about the political and moral arguments that surround the death penalty.

Some people are all for the death penalty, thinking that it serves due justice to those who deserve death, and then there are those people who believe the death penalty is against their morals. In the early days of the United States, cruel and unusual meant a punishment that was torture, inhuman, or degrading. They needed a law to prohibit such punishments, so the Eight Amendment was a way to do this.

“I don’t like the notion of putting someone to death, but I think in some cases it’s warranted depending on the facts of the case,” said Dr. David Persky, a criminal justice professor.

Persky has handled cases in both the criminal and civil divisions of the Judicial Circuit of Florida and has more than enough experience in criminal cases and punishments given to the defendants of the cases. In Bosse v. Oklahoma, Persky did believe capital punishment was appropriate.

But, there’s the argument of whether or not capital punishment is justice or revenge. “What does justice really look like?” Persky asked.

That is the current moral argument in society today and Persky’s question really shows how different each person’s answer may be to the question whether the death penalty is justice or revenge. Each person has his/her own opinion on justice, what justice is and how to get it, and for family members of victims, wouldn’t watching the man who killed your child be justice? Or would it be revenge?

“I don’t know that any of our punishments are justice. I think they are more revenge, and I know that’s harsh to say, but that doesn’t change anything,” said Persky.

Persky’s answer is thoughtful and brings up another great question relating to whether or not any punishments given out are justice. Some people will say yes, they are justice; and others will say they are not.

Dr. Joseph Cillo of the criminal justice department is also very knowledgeable of the criminal justice system, as he was a public defender for many years.

“Personally, I think its vengeance. I don’t think there’s any justice in it,” Cillo said.

Cillo also brought up the moral argument once again.

“If you’re a Christian, you know that you are taught, at least morality wise, that killing is improper,” he said. “So how can you have a faith on a Sunday or a Saturday where you acknowledge killing is wrong and then on Monday as a part of the state legislature vote for the very thing you don’t believe in, the death penalty?”

Both Persky and Cillo mentioned the topic of morals when it comes to capital punishment, but they also brought up the question of whether these punishments work.

“It’s never been a deterrent; people still go out and do these crazy things unfortunately, so I don’t see it as a major deterrent,” Persky said.

Also, Cillo said something along the same line, “Does it [death penalty] deter any crime? The answer to that is no.”

There is still a big argument over whether the death penalty is justice or revenge, whether it’s morally right or wrong, and the argument will remain until another large case comes up regarding capital punishment. Many people are on its side, and many others aren’t, but when it comes time for the Supreme Court to decide, it’s up to nine people who will look at whether or not it’s constitutional. Until that day, there will still be an argument about it.

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