Capital punishment necessary in US justice system


Recently, there has been a building discussion on the use of capital punishment in the U.S. Back in January, my home state of Ohio executed Dennis McGuire who was convicted of the rape and murder of a pregnant woman back in 1989. The controversy arose after the state used a new cocktail of drugs to execute McGuire, who died 25 minutes following the injection — during which witnesses claimed he visibly struggled and gasped for air before expiring. His lawyers and his family have planned a federal lawsuit, claiming the procedure constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Overall, 18 states currently ban the death penalty. Opponents claim that the death penalty is a cruel and unusual form of punishment that comes at a tremendous cost to taxpayers and is already banned in most civilized countries. Supporters claim that the death penalty is a necessary evil to administer justice for the most heinous criminals. Additionally, some opponents claim there are better ways to punish criminals for horrendous crimes.

I want say that I fully support the use of capital punishment. In McGuire’s case, I take issue with the fact it took so long to execute him, but I don’t take issue with the decision to execute him. In McGuire’s case, he should have been executed quicker the traditional drug cocktail. His victim’s family noted that his suffering paled in comparison to the suffering he inflicted when he decided to rape and murder. 

Personally, I disagree with the decisions by some states to ban the death penalty. I believe it is a necessary function for states looking to unequivocally punish convicts for the most heinous crimes. I see the point where some states would prefer that criminals spend the rest of their lives in prison to essentially think about the crime and rot in their cell. However, I disagree with the notion that utilizing the death penalty makes our country look uncivilized: A true civilized society is essentially a utopian society with no crime whatsoever.

If a crime is so heinous, I think execution is warranted. Take some other examples of criminal executions in Ohio. In 1989, Jeffrey Lundgren systematically mass murdered a family that was part of his fanatical religious cult. He was executed. In 1986, Richard Cooey and a friend assaulted, tortured and killed two female college students. Cooey was executed while his friend received life in prison because he was a minor at the time of the crime. The point is these crimes were brutal and downright despicable. These criminals sealed their fate when they committed these horrendous acts. Execution was warranted in these cases.

In Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, two Ohio state representatives participated in a side-by-side debate over the use of the death penalty in the state. Each repeated the same talking points in support of their positions. Yet, I was struck by the response by of Rep. Jim Buchy, R-84. He wrote, “People like me are frequently criticized for being unashamedly pro-life, while at the same time supporting capital punishment. I simply believe that life is a precious thing, and therefore taking the life of someone else should be met with equal retribution.” Quite frankly, Buchy deserves criticism because his position is hypocritical. He could at least be consistent in his beliefs. Meanwhile, Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-13, cited statistics that states with the death penalty had lower crime rates than those that did. Quite frankly, her citation is a silly statistic because violent criminals aren’t necessarily lawyers, and not thinking of what the punishment is when they commit the crime — they just do it.

I believe states should open debate on what methods of execution they prefer, if they offer capital punishment. But, capital punishment should be enforced better, so cases with unclear evidence don’t result with the death of innocent men. Opponents of the death penalty are right when they claim that there is nothing humane about capital punishment. Capital punishment is not supposed to be humane, it is supposed to be reserved to punish the most egregious criminals and crimes. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gov. Rick Perry, R, boasted about how many executions he approved. Proud? Really? No state should take pride in executing inmates. There is nothing to be proud of. It is not a particularly nice thought that most states in our nation still must utilize the death penalty. It is necessary for criminals who deserve a punishment that fits their crime, particularly the most heinous. McGuire deserved his punishment, but the circumstances of his execution do deserve discussion.


Michael Denis is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science with minors in history and public policy.

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