Morality Issues Over Capital Punishment

The idea of capital punishment has been debated as long as it has been around. Forms of capital punishment have been enforced since ancient times in most societies. Death has been used as punishment for crimes ranging in gravity from petty theft to murder. Modern opposition to capital punishment arose in France in the eighteenth century and spread throughout Western Europe, where most nations abolished such laws in the twentieth century. In the United States the death penalty was applied with decreasing frequency after World War II, and in 1972 the U.S. Supreme Court voided all federal and state laws calling for the death penalty on the grounds that condemned persons were being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Cruel and unusual punishment is in violation of the 8th amendment to the Constitution. The court left open, however, the possibility of new, constitutional laws, and since then the U.S. and most states have enacted measures imposing the penalty in specified kinds of murder cases. As of today, all but eleven states enforce some kind of death penalty.

The question of whether or not the death penalty should be legal is the large dividing line between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives tend to support the idea and most people against the penalty hold liberal views of politics. In his book Moral Politics, George Lakoff discusses how his two moral models, Strict Father morality and Nurturant Parent morality, handle the issue of capital punishment.

Lakoff starts by stating “Nurturant Parent morality militates against the death penalty” (Lakoff 1996, p.208). He explains this claim by telling how the death penalty is not equal due to the fact that the courts can not guarantee that the penalty is applied fairly. The idea of inequality is a direct violation of the empathy expressed by the nurturant parent. Lakoff brings up two ways the penalty could be unfairly enforced. First, he notes that if a person is found guilty and put to death, “there is no recourse if he is later discovered to have been innocent” (Lakoff 1996, p.

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