This research examines the use of capital punishment from an ethical perspective. It will set forth the pros and cons of capital punishment as a matter of public policy and then discuss the ethical issue fronts that emerge when the subject emerges in discourse, with a view toward arguing against the idea that imposition of the death penalty has ethical standing.
There is no doubt that from the earliest period of organized civil society capital punishment was employed as an instrument of state authority, prestige, and power. The unjust condemnation of Socrates, deplored, as Socrates predicted in the Apology, throughout history, vividly shows that exacting the ultimate price for severe infractions against the public order has been embedded into political analysis throughout the history of the West. As Socrates said to the men who condemned him:
Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained. . . . If you think that by killing men you can prevent someone from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which iseither possible or honorable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving yourselves. This is the prophecy which I utter before my departure to the judges who have condemned me (Apology 58).
Over the course of the 20th century, the Western world, as well as a good deal of the Eastern world, did away with capital punishment. In 1967, a moratorium was declared on capital punishment while various court challenges to it were pending. In 1972, capital punishment was specifically outlawed in the United States by the Supreme Court. But that changed in 1976, when a majority of the Supreme Court reversed the decision. and it positioned the United Stat...