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Death Penalty

January 3, 2018
by Anna Veltri , Emmetsburg News

Iowa is not a state that utilizes the death penalty, but there are still 31 that utilize this capital punishment. Many states had actually abolished the death penalty as a result of Furman v. Georgia as it was considered "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the following years, states were able to reinstate the death penalty.

The death penalty is often the topic of a school essay or persuasive speech- it is an issue that has strong support on both sides of the argument. While I have my own opinion of the death penalty, I recently found out some information that I thought was quite interesting.

Since 1976 (when most states had reinstated the death penalty) there have been nearly 1500 executions. When a person is on death row, he may be executed in one of five ways: lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. If a person lives in a state in which multiple techniques are used, he may get to choose how he dies. Most prisoners choose lethal injection as it is the least painful: an anesthetic is used so the prisoner becomes unconscious, then a medication called pancuronium bromide is used to cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest, and finally, potassium chloride is injected to stop the heart ( It has been rumored that if a person survives their own execution then they are released. This is actually false- the language of a death sentence specifically states that the prisoner will suffer a method until dead.

States may use the death penalty because they believe the threat of it will deter other people from committing homicide. According to a study done by the National Research Council, it actually does not have this effect. As an example, the FBI stated the south has the highest murder rates, and this same part of the country is responsible for 80% of executions (

Numerous studies have been done on how race effects whether or not a person will receive the death penalty. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington, a jury in the state of Washington are three times more likely to recommend the death penalty for a black defendant than for a white defendant in similar cases. The Louisiana Law Review stated that the odds that a person receives the death penalty increased 97% if the victim was white (

Financially, death penalty cases are incredibly expensive. In Oklahoma, a capital punishment case costs over 3 times more non-death penalty cases. In Florida, the death penalty costs the state $51 million dollars a year more than it would cost if it were a life without parole state. A Duke University study stated that in North Carolina, the death penalty costs $2.16 million per execution over that of a life imprisonment case (

Ethically, there are many ways that one can look at the death penalty. Are we any better than that person if we kill them? From a utilitarian standpoint, one may argue that killing a death row inmate is for the good of the many especially if it deters others from killing (though as we've found out that's not effectual).




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