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Op-Ed: The Case for the Death Penalty (HighSchoolers Guide)

Updated: Mar 20

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.

“We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Excerpt from Ronald Reagan Speech. 

The Death penalty has been a practice that has been juggled around for years, when it was reinstated in 1976, a majority of states affirmed the legality following the case Greg V Georgia. Since this time in history more than 8700 defendants have been sentenced to die, 1550 of those people have been put to death. The Death penalty is an important part of today's society in many cases. In the case of Gregg V Georgia (1976), a petitioner was charged with committing armed robbery and murder on the basis of evidence that they had ended their lives and robbed two men. Later the Petitioner was found guilty of two counts of armed robbery and two counts of armed murder. During the penalty stage, the judge inquired to the jury that a life sentence could be carried out as punishment or a death sentence. The Jury in this case found that the defendant was guilty of committing 2 angering circumstances. First of all the murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of other capital felonies, viz., the armed robberies of the victims; and secondly  that he committed the murder for the purpose of receiving the victims' money and automobile.  

The Supreme court later affirmed these convictions, when the trial transcript was reviewed for further investigation. The Court decided to uphold these death sentences for the murders. They later decided that they had not resulted from any form of prejudice or any arbitrary factor. Petitioner challenged the charges as “cruel and unusual” punishment. Under the 8th and 14th amendments. Troy Gregg, the petitioner, was accused of murder and armed robbery. The trial was divided into two phases: a guilt stage and a punishment stage, in compliance with Georgia procedure for capital cases. The petitioner and a traveling companion, Floyd Allen, were picked up by Fred Simmons and Bob Moore on November 21, 1973, in Florida while hitchhiking north, according to the evidence presented at the guilt trial. Even though their automobile broke down, Simmons used some of the cash he was carrying to buy other vehicles, so they were able to continue north. They picked up Dennis Weaver, another hitchhiker; he was later laid to rest at 11 pm. A while later when they came to a halt along the road, the corpses of Simmons and Moore were found inside of a ditch. 

When the petitioner attempted to plead cruel and unusual punishment, this is how Mr. Chief Justice Warren and three other justices inquired. "Whatever the arguments may be against capital punishment, both on moral grounds and in terms of accomplishing the purposes of punishment . . . The death penalty has been employed throughout our history, and, in a day when it is still widely accepted, it cannot be said to violate the constitutional concept of cruelty. " In the end the supreme court held that the punishment of death does not violate the constitution by any circumstances.  

While there are many acceptable arguments against the death penalty, some of these are all similar or equal to religious, moral, or other beliefs. There are many valued arguments that support the use of the death penalty with the historic importance of it against several diverse groups of people.

An example of the death penalty being necessary is the case involving Genny Rojas, a 4 year old girl who was brutally murdered by her Aunt and Uncle Veronica and Ivan Gonzales. She was tortured by being restrained on a hook on a closet wall inside of their apartment. She was tortured in several horrendous ways including being beaten with a hairbrush, strangled, shaken violently, being handcuffed for several days. Eventually she was put to death when they submerged her into a scalding bath tub for three grueling minutes. Later on when this case came to light a Californian Jury sentenced the people to be put to death. Most Americans as it turns out show support for the death penalty, according to Charles Stimson believing that while it is a harsh disciplinary act it remains constitutional.

The Supreme Court has had the death penalty remain constitutional because the 5th and 14th amendments both essentially express that a person may not be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Currently in most of the United States the death penalty is normal. The Federal Government as well as the Military also carry the same punishment for the worst crimes. The thing is acknowledging mistakes can happen in most capital cases does not translate to the death penalty being any more unjust than giving someone a prison sentence for a select period of time when mistakes occasionally occur in non capital cases. Because our current criminal justice system isn't perfect we need to find ways to make it better for those who end up being involved. 

The Heritage foundation goes on to describe that the death penalty serves three main objectives; these main objectives are known as general deterrence, specific deterrence, and retribution. The first objective General deterrence is described by the Heritage foundation as “The message that gets sent to people who are thinking about committing heinous crimes that they shouldn't do or else they might end up being sentenced to death.” General Deterrence is aimed at the entire public including those who have not committed a crime or have not yet committed a crime. This deterrence is measured by testing crime rates and effectively measuring in the case of the death penalty, homicide rates according to the UNH Scholars repository. 

The second deterrence is described by the Heritage foundation, Specific deterrence is “Specific to the defendant. It Simply means that the person who is subjected to the death penalty won't be alive to kill other people.” This deterrent is only measured for the person who has essentially committed the crime. This is measured by reoffending and recidivism. However this is not researched in capital punishment literature because of the nature of capital punishment according to the NHS Scholars repository.

The third and final deterrent (retribution) is described by the Heritage foundation as “an expression of society’s right to make a moral judgment by imposing a punishment on a wrongdoer befitting the crime he has committed. Twenty-nine states, and the people’s representatives in Congress have spoken loudly; the death penalty should be available for the worst of the worst.” Retribution is the notion that punishment is given because the person who has committed the crime deserves the punishment being distributed. Murders are to be given the death penalty because that is the penalty by which they deserve to be given. The phi- losopher Immanuel Kant wrote that retribution is grounded in respect for the autonomy of the offender according to Jones and Bartlett learning. Essentially retribution is seen as an individual moral justification

While this is the case there are just too many cases where we cannot forget about the people who suffered, the victims that were deprived of innocent lives. Genny Gonzales for example would have been at the age of 28 years old this year if she hadn’t been brutally tortured and killed. Genny was never able to live the lives that we have, she was never able to enjoy God's gift of finding love, getting an education, and enjoying the life that she was given. Because of her Murders she is gone and they  deserve to be put to death for their actions.  This is why the death Penalty is absolutely necessary. 

Please note that this article is intended to provide factual coverage of events and is NOT intended to express political opinion. Any and all opinions that may be implied do not represent the official stances of the Poudre Press, Poudre School District, or Poudre High School.

Works Cited:

My name is Andrew Sheneman, I am a Senior student at Poudre High School. I am involved with the Poudre Press here and it is my first year. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I’m excited to contribute to the Poudre Press and take my writing a step further!

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