“Justice is served”… but is it really?

November 21, 2011

Political action

Capital punishment is an issue that has sparked controversy and anxiety in today’s society. Defined, capital punishment is the death penalty enforced on a criminal that has been convicted of a serious offense- usually murder. In an article on Monday October 24, 2011 on a CNN news website, Justice Eliott C. McLaughlin interprets the most unlikely opponents of the death penalty. I read about the case of Charisse Coleman who suffered from a terrible loss, but still opposes the death penalty. Her story is that a murderer named Bobby Lee Hampton shot her brother, Russell, until death in a Thrifty Liquor Store in Shreveport, Louisiana. If I were in her position, I would want the person who killed my brother to have the same fate; death. However, Coleman’s view on the death penalty was not like what I imagined.

She states,

“My opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with Bobby Lee Hampton,” Coleman said. “He’s a bad dude. He’s never going to be a good dude. If I got a call that said Bobby Lee Hampton dropped dead in his cell last night, I don’t think it would create a ripple in my pond.” Then she added, “I will be goddamned if I will let Bobby Lee Hampton make me a victim, too, by taking me down that road of bitterness and revenge.”

Even though it was her brother that was killed, she does not support the execution of Hampton because she doesn’t believe that killing him will do anything for her family. It will not bring back Russell, and it wouldn’t comfort her in her loss either. I definitely agree with Coleman in her decision to oppose the death penalty. Executing the criminal does not change the fact that the victim is gone and will never come back. Hate, revenge, and anger will never cure the emptiness felt from losing a loved one.

However, the many supporters of capital punishment believe it gives closure to victim’s families who have suffered from so much pain. It is understood that the death penalty will not totally take away the emotions and feelings of the relatives, but it can ease those pains. The grief and despair would be considerably heavier to carry if the relatives knew that the perpetrator was only sentenced to prison and would be released after a period of time. The coined term “Justice is Served” is probably the most fundamental principle of justice because punishment for the offender should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death?

Yet, another interesting observation that I noticed is the considerable change of the population’s views of the death penalty over a period of time. At first, the criminals are looked down upon by society. People are disgusted by the vile, unacceptable acts they commit and feel tremendous sympathy for the victims of murder, rape, etc. Then as time goes on, the death penalty has a way of shifting sympathy away from the victims and to the criminals themselves.

An example of this change in commiseration is the execution of former gang leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams in 2009. He was one of the original members of the notorious Crips gang, which has a long legacy of robbery, assault, and murder. This is a man who was convicted with overwhelming evidence of the murder of four people and didn’t take responsibility for the crimes or apologized to the victims. His situation was one of the most renowned death penalty cases. Williams’s victims had kids and spouses, but instead of compassion for them, sympathy shifted to Tookie. Thousands of protesters were calling out his name, begging for the death penalty to be abolished. Even famous celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Mike Farrell, and Jesse Jackson protested the execution. According to Rita Cosby of MSNCB on CBSnews, Barbara Becknell and the supporters said, “the State Of California just killed an innocent man” after Williams’s demise. These protests and media circuses tried to prevent the execution of a murderer and there are many cases like this, which make a mockery of the evil crimes these degenerates commit.

I feel that victim’s families should be able to choose in whether or not they want the offender on death row to be executed because the criminal affected the family the most. They also shouldn’t be able to have public media attention, which diverts from the crime and helps them gain more supporters, which turns away the pity for the victim.

Although many people are in favor of capital punishment, we should start to think: “Is this really helping the family and friends of the victim? Do they believe that if the murderer is dead, that justice is served?” Do you believe that justice is really served?





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9 Comments on ““Justice is served”… but is it really?”

  1. amgille Says:

    I am, and have been, a supporter of capital punishment for some time, and I do believe that through capital punishment that justice has been served. While the idea of jails rehabilitating individuals seems like a great idea, I don’t believe that criminals who commit heinous acts against others in society should have a chance to improve their lives by gaining an education and skills that they took away from the ones that they acted against. Yet, I do acknowledge that the taking away of life is a huge controversy in the United States. Just because someone takes another’s life, should we do the same?

    In regards to the idea of families determining the verdict on the life of the people that committed the crime, I would argue that this system would undermine our judicial system. It would be unfair to place certain people in jail while committing others to death with the same crime, which works against equal treatment in society. In this way, I believe that measures of a crime should be made to determine if something is criminal “enough” to warrant the capital punishment. I do not believe that any illegal act should warrant this, nor do I believe that I am qualified to determine what should make something count toward a capital punishment, but I do believe that this would help in the cases before us.

    As a family member, I believe that they would have ranging opinions on what the death meant to themselves and to the rest of their family. As the writer acknowledged, the death of the criminal would not bring back the individual, but the death of the individual might actually prevent the murders of other innocent victims in the future if the criminal were to get out of jail. This idea in itself that other families would have to go through the same pain as the ones that had just suffered seems to me to be enough validation for the capital punishment. While I do believe in second chances, I don’t believe that everyone does deserve one and for those that don’t, I would believe that individuals have their justice served to them.

  2. bpkass Says:

    Although there are some valid arguments against the use of capital punishment, I unequivocally support its use in this country. For one, I am in favor of the death penalty for personal reasons because to a certain extent, I support Hammurabi’s Code; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Now, I don’t think that these rules of law should apply to all crimes; rapists should not be sexually assaulted as their punishment. However, I do think that men who commit pre-meditated murder should be sentenced to death. For one, most men sentenced death row are violent perpetrators who cannot be rehabilitated and would pose a danger to society if they were ever let out on parole. Furthermore, if they were only sentenced to life in prison, they could threaten their fellow inmates or the guards who are supposed to maintain order. The proper way to deal with such criminals is clearly capital punishment.

    Now, critics of capital punishment may point to cases when men were sentenced to death row and were later found to be innocent. I do not think this particular point is valid because since DNA was first used as crime evidence in 1989, there have been far less innocent men convicted of murder. In my opinion, the only acceptable argument made by opponents of the death penalty is that executing these men does not necessarily help the families of victims. This is undoubtedly true; the execution of the perpetrators will never make up for the loss of a loved one. Despite this fact, I think that capital punishment is still justified because it benefits our society as a whole.

  3. ngamin1614 Says:

    I have been against capital punishment. I have always believed that criminals should be sent to prison for life instead of executed. I suppose that of course one reason is that killing somebody does not obviously bring back their loved one, like you said. Like the woman you quoted said, all this does is just make revenge and bitterness acceptable in our society. Those two things breed violence and that’s probably the opposite of what we want to achieve.

    However, the main reason I don’t like it is that it almost makes us the same as the criminals, in my opinion. So if a criminal kills somebody, then he gets executed, we just performed the same crime that he was sent to jail for. Now, yes, he committed a terrible crime. His crime was unacceptable and wrong and he is a terrible person. However, we don’t need to kill somebody in order to teach justice. All it does it create a sort of vengeful justice, which in my opinion, is what we do not need.

  4. jeanrichmann Says:

    I do believe in capital punishment. While some families are not affected by the death of a murderer who killed a love one, some are. If we allow the families to choose if the murderer in sentenced to death or not, this would essentially open up pandora’s box. Equality must exist in a fair society. Once a law is set, it must apply equally to everyone. Where is the justice if some murderers are allowed to live, while some are sentenced to death if they both commit the same crime. For a society to function smoothly, equal rights must be instilled. Secondly, if the family is allow to chose whether or not the murderer is sentenced to death, this could be potentially dangerous. Their decision may be affected through bribery, or fear a revenge. Let’s say the murderer was apart of a gang, if the murderer was sentenced to death, the gang members may feel responsible to avenge the murderer’s life. Families may be scared to sentence the criminal to death from their own personal fear. Thirdly, by sentencing the murderer to death, wouldn’t this in turn make the family murderers? How are they any better then the murderer when they themselves condemned someone to death. The decision of capital punishment should be left to the government and should not be a personal decision.

    I strongly support capital punishment. I believe that if you commit the crime of murder, cold heartily and unprovoked, the same crime should be done on to you. This is the golden rule instilled into members of society since preschool. Some persons may be against capital punishment because they believe it is a worse punishment for the murderer to remain in prison for life feeling guilt and ashamed for what they did. This ideal sounds like a fair punishment, but in real life if a person has the capacity to commit murder, and not feel any sorrow for what they did, I strongly doubt they feel this way. They may regret their actions now that they must remain in jail for the rest of their lives, but this is for their personal interest. They will not truly feel remorse or guilt for what they did to another.

    It has also been brought up that the government performing capital punishment is a form of hypocrisy. I see capital punishment as a case of dirty hands. The government is performing an act for the common good, for the good of society. While they make take someone’s life, the ends justify the means. While the government must commit homicide, the murder is justified because the ends, the riddance of a criminal who will no longer be able to harm others, justify the homicide.

  5. adamstillman2011 Says:

    I think that you present an interesting option by giving the family the choice. I think that this could work if the jury finds the death penalty to be an option the family of the victim ultimately decides whether or not to have them executed. Every family has different values and a policy like the one that you propose reflects that. Every family deals with grief and tragedy differently.

    One of my cousins friends growing up ran a red light and killed a man in another car, and the family of the victim didn’t press charges because they thought that my cousin’s friend would have to live with this his whole life, and the victim’s family didn’t want him to go through any more trouble. This isn’t a death penalty case, but it does show that everyone looks at these situations differently.

    Hopefully I am never in this situation where I would have to make a decision like that, but I have thought about this situation before. I think that if one of my loved ones was brutally killed I would want the person who did it executed. In my opinion murder is a heinous senseless crime and those who commit it should receive the ultimate punishment of the death penalty.

  6. Brandon Baxter Says:

    I think the best defense for not having a death penalty is looking at the country of Norway. Norway does not have the death penalty and the longest you can be in prison for is 21 years. Because of this Norway has arguably the happiest population, highest standard of living in the world, and the least amount of crime. The method works so well that even in the aftermath of the Norway killings the people want the same treatment applied to Anders Behring Breivik as everyone else because the system works. In Norway their prison rooms look like dorm rooms and have flat screen TV’s and unbarred windows.

    The United States is a pretty big supporter of capital punishment, and is pretty isolated in the world today in terms of that. Even our ally Israel has only executed two people (and one of them was guilty of Nazi war crimes). We also have the highest prison population in the world, and our cities are quite dangerous when you really look at it. While someone would have to give a much more effective argument than a comment could give to prove significance, I think it is reasonable to point out that there is most likely a connection.

  7. asgersh Says:

    I do not believe in the death penalty. In my opinion what can be worse then being confined and having all your liberties and freedoms taken away for life. This is not only one of the worst possible ways for a human to live the rest of their lives, but it also leaves them a lot of time to think about who they are and what they did. In many interviews with people who have committed crimes that have landed them in prison for the rest of their lives admit that being left alone to just their thoughts is one worst things imaginable. Even though I cannot imagine what it must be like to loose someone to murder, I believe I would want the person to be confined to a tiny prison cell on 23 hour lockdown for the rest of their lives. I feel like when faced with that and capital punishment, that death would be the easier way out. In addition I feel like if I was a family member asking for the death of the murderer I would have some someones death on my mind for the rest of my life. I also feel like asking someone who was not involved or does not even know the victim to take a life of another is not the right thing to do.

  8. jrphilli Says:

    I do not believe in the death penalty, I believe all that is doing is continuing the cycle of death. Giving someone the death penalty is not going to bring that victim back. To believe that killing the killer will bring closure to that family, is not always true, because they are still missing one thing that victim. Also, I do believe that the victims family can give their opinion, but they should not have the final say in ending someones life or not. I believe the death penality if giving that person the easy way out. When every someone goes on a killing spree, they always end up killing them selves, instead of handling the consequences of their actions. By killing them, they escape the consequence of what they did, I believe having to sit in jail for the rest of your life, is worst than the death penalty. Having to sit and watch life go by, while in prison, is torture. To know that you will never see outside that prison, is far worst, and harder to handle than the death penalty. Now, one would say how is this true, when this person is losing their life, what could be worst than death. Also, on the fence about it is, if you have a bunch of people in prison who are going to be there for life, what would happen, but then again what goes on in the state prisons that do not have the death penalty.

    Also, not having a death penalty helps stop the killing of innocent people on death row. Because in some cases the media can help, because if that person is innocent, but sent to death row, shouldn’t we help stop it, but we wouldn’t know about it without the media. Like with the Troy Davis case. Where the was a lot of reasonable doubt on his case, I mean clear as daylight evidences that he did not do it. His death was postpon numerous times, but they still killed him. Despite all the efforts done to stop it. The state of Georgia killed an innocent man that day. Now, in other cases yes the media can take away from the victim and turn the killer into a victim, but they can also bring light to some unjustice going on in our world.

    No human should have the right to kill another human.

  9. drainey323 Says:

    I am against the death penalty for a number of reasons. For one, it denies due process of the law that our society so heavily promotes. It deprives an individual of the opportunity to benefit from new evidence or new laws that might warrant the reversal of a conviction, or the setting aside of a death sentence. For example in Troy Davis case as the commenter above mentioned. Even if there are very few cases of innocent men being sentenced to death, isn’t one innocent killing enough to show the injustice?

    Also, one of the main reasons that punishments are set is to help deter people from doing the crime. But there is no conclusive proof that the death penalty acts as a better deterrent than the threat of life imprisonment. The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. So what is the death penalty really accomplishing?

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