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Word Count: 1,726
Is the death penalty ever a legitimate form of punishment With this essay I aim to refute the most popular arguments in favour of the death penalty Obviously the word-limit precludes my discussing the cases for and against in great depth therefore I will restrict myself to an examination of the state-sanctioned use of capital punishment for capital crime murder In his Speech in Favour of Capital Punishment JS Mill puts forward a forceful case for retaining the death penalty to punish convicted murderers His main argument might be stated as follows iany state-sanctioned punishment against criminals should be the least cruel possible and should act as the strongest social deterrence against future crime iithe death penalty is the strongest deterrence against murder iiicapital punishment is less cruel than the alternative of lifelong imprisonment ivexecutions are quick and death is not so much to be feared vthe murderer has already shown his contempt for life by killing by killing him in turn the state shows how much respect it has for the life of the ordinary civilian therefore viit is right that the death penalty be legally-sanctioned I wish to demonstrate that even if one accepts premise i premises ii to v are false and that therefore Mills argument is unsound The idea that capital punishment deters would-be murderers from committing capital crime seems rooted in common sense what could be a greater deterrent than the threat of death I contend that this view misrepresents human psychology When a murder has been committed it has either been planned or it has not If it was planned then the murderer would have considered the possibility of capture and taken steps to avoid it if unplanned for example a sudden act of violence then the murderer acted instantly and so without regard for the consequences In either case the threat of capital punishment would not have affected the murderers plans
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