Controversies Surrounding Capital Punishment The debate on whether or not capital punishment is right is a widely publicized debate, and it comes with many controversial components.


Capital punishment: Putting someone to death under law

Abolish: Putting an end to a practice

Controversial: A topic/situation that causes disagreement

Midazolam: A sedative that some states use in their lethal injection

Deterrent: Something that stop somebody from committing an act

Opposition: Strong disagreement in a topic

What are some alternatives to the death penalty?

Some argue that capital punishment is the only effective punishment for crime deterrent, but there are other alternatives to consider, such as more effective law enforcement and life imprisonment. Stronger law enforcement would let people know that there would be less excuses for violent crimes. Carnegie Mellon Professor Daniel Nagin says that “people are more likely to break the law when they feel they can get away with it” (Ehrenfreund). Nagin also argues that police are at the center of effective deterrent, and money would be better spent on stronger law enforcement components. Life imprisonment is also a valid alternative because it gives promise of a better budget. Professor Wolfers of Stanford believes that investing money in capital punishment is a waste, arguing that a single capital litigation costs more than one million dollars (Liptak). In fact, a study conducted shows many police chiefs believe that keeping the death penalty is a colossal waste of money, and believe that life imprisonment would have the same effect, also with the added bonus of less cost to taxpayers. The death penalty is a time consuming and tiresome process, whereas things such as life imprisonment sentences are often quicker and easier to receive.

What does the death sentence involve?

The death sentence is a drawn out process that involves a large amount of the community’s money and a whole lot of time. In a study conducted by U.S. Newswire, it is found that California spends over 130 million dollars a year on capital punishment, even though the state has not executed a prisoner in about four years (“New Report Shows States Can Save Hundreds of Millions by Abolishing the Death Penalty”). This is a gigantic amount of money, and it begins to raise taxes even higher when somebody is going to actually be put to death, raising taxes to around 10 million per state.Not only does capital punishment carry a hefty price tag, the amount of time an inmate spends on death row is more years than one may think. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “Death row inmates in the U.S. typically spend over a decade awaiting execution. Some prisoners have been on death row for well over 20 years” (DPIC). Contrary to popular belief, being executed can take many years due to things such as court processes being halted and pending appeals that may or may not exonerate the inmate. There are many controversies surrounding capital punishment and the amount of time and costly sentence is not the only thing that concerns citizens.

What are some controversies surrounding the death penalty?

The biggest opponents of capital punishment argue against it because of controversies dealing with unfair treatment of races and inhumane drugs used to perform lethal injection. David Dow, Professor of law at the University of Houston states that “Texas has carried out 470 executions.… You can count on one hand the number of those executions that involved a white murderer and a black victim” (“Capital Punishment: Should capital punishment be allowed in the United States?”). Dow also reveals that many defendants that face the death penalty are often on trial against an unfair jury for murdering a white person, and that 80% of people that were actually executed were African American, and they were put to death for murdering a white person. The use of Midazolam in the lethal injection drug cocktail is under fire, and many people are stating that taking Midazolam as a sedative is a cruel process. In a carried out penalty in Ohio, inmate Dennis McGurie is said to have choked, gasped for breath, and convulsed after receiving the controversial drug (Brumfield). Midazolam is also the culprit of many botched executions, leading people to believe administering this drug is inhumane.

Does capital punishment deter crime?

Most people across the board believe that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent of crime because of the fact that criminals rarely think of punishment, and there is not enough strong evidence to show a valid correlation. In a survey taken by police chiefs across America, results show that 57% of police chiefs believe that the death penalty is not a perfect deterrent because of the fact that criminals rarely consider the fact that a court could kill them when in the process of committing a crime (“New Report Shows States Can Save Hundreds of Millions by Abolishing the Death Penalty”). If the criminals do not even think about receiving the death penalty, then it will be useless in preventing them from doing anything illegal. John J Donohue, economics professor at Yale, describes the lack of evidence between crime and punishment, stating that capital punishment “is applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot reliably be disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors” (Liptak). A death sentence is so rarely handed to anyone these days that it is difficult to find strong evidence, making those who find present patterns of crime deterrence have fragile arguments. In fact, going through the motions of a possible death penalty trial is more difficult than actually being given a death sentence.

What does the future hold for capital punishment?

With all of the controversy and opposition surrounding capital punishment, some believe the rates of capital punishment will continue steadily, while others believe that the courts will turn to other resources to fight crime. In an article by the Huffington Post, author Kevin Sall explains, “In 2014, for example, Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma collectively accounted for approximately 90 percent of the nation’s 35 executions, and similar concentrations within small subsets of states appear across broader time periods” (Sall). Since these states often have influence over many other states, it is assumed that the numbers from these states will continue on a steady path, and that capital punishment will most likely not be ended on a completely national level. However, the American Civil Liberties Union states that capital punishment takes time and energy away from everyone in the court, and that people will soon have to realize that money would be better spent on law enforcement (“The Case Against the Death Penalty”). As resources continue to diminish, the courts may soon have to come up with another way to prevent crime other than executing criminals. The reality is that capital punishment is too large to end on a national level, but other factors could soon make supporters wonder if keeping the death penalty is worth their time.

Works Cited

Associated Press. “A Look at the Status of the Death Penalty in Several States.” New York Times, Accessed 31 January 2017.

Brumfield, Ben. “Arizona execution raises questions over novel lethal injections.” CNN, Accessed 14 February 2017.

“Capital Punishment: Should capital punishment be allowed in the United States?” Issues and Controversies Database,,-law,-and-justice/capital-punishment.aspx?sln=5&hd=1608. Accessed 1 February 2017.

Ehrenfreund, Max. "There’s still no evidence that executions deter criminals." Washington Post, Accessed 20 January 2017.

Liptak, Adam. “Does the Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate.” New York Times, Accessed 24 January 2017.

McKeown, Nick. “The Death Penalty in the USA.” Youtube, uploaded by Tedx Talks. Accessed 15 February 2016.

"New Report Shows States Can Save Hundreds of Millions by Abolishing the Death Penalty." U.S. Newswire, Accessed 21 January 2017.

Sall, Kevin. “What’s the Future of the Death Penalty in America?” Huffington Post, Accessed February 16 2017.

“The Case Against the Death Penalty.” American Civil Liberties Union, Accessed 15 February 2017.

“Time On Death Row.” Death Penalty Information Center, Accessed 9 February 2017.


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