How To Write An Introduction To An Argumentative Essay On The Death

Contributors: Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper

The following sections outline the generally accepted structure for an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and that your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

You may also use the following Purdue OWL resources to help you with your argument paper:

Introduction

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:

  1. What is this?
  2. Why am I reading it?
  3. What do you want me to do?

You should answer these questions by doing the following:

  1. Set the context –provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the claims you make and support
  2. State why the main idea is important –tell the reader why he or she should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and convincing essay people will want to read and act upon
  3. State your thesis/claim –compose a sentence or two stating the position you will support with logos (sound reasoning: induction, deduction), pathos (balanced emotional appeal), and ethos (author credibility).

For exploratory essays, your primary research question would replace your thesis statement so that the audience understands why you began your inquiry. An overview of the types of sources you explored might follow your research question.

If your argument paper is long, you may want to forecast how you will support your thesis by outlining the structure of your paper, the sources you will consider, and the opposition to your position. You can forecast your paper in many different ways depending on the type of paper you are writing. Your forecast could read something like this:

First, I will define key terms for my argument, and then I will provide some background of the situation. Next, I will outline the important positions of the argument and explain why I support one of these positions. Lastly, I will consider opposing positions and discuss why these positions are outdated. I will conclude with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.

When writing a research paper, you may need to use a more formal, less personal tone. Your forecast might read like this:

This paper begins by providing key terms for the argument before providing background of the situation. Next, important positions are outlined and supported. To provide a more thorough explanation of these important positions, opposing positions are discussed. The paper concludes with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.

Ask your instructor about what tone you should use when providing a forecast for your paper.

These are very general examples, but by adding some details on your specific topic, a forecast will effectively outline the structure of your paper so your readers can more easily follow your ideas.

Thesis checklist

Your thesis is more than a general statement about your main idea. It needs to establish a clear position you will support with balanced proofs (logos, pathos, ethos). Use the checklist below to help you create a thesis.

This section is adapted from Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric Reader by David Skwire and Sarah Skwire:

Make sure you avoid the following when creating your thesis:

  • A thesis is not a title: Homes and schools (title) vs. Parents ought to participate more in the education of their children (good thesis).
  • A thesis is not an announcement of the subject: My subject is the incompetence of the Supreme Court vs. The Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
  • A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact: Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice.
  • A thesis is not the whole essay: A thesis is your main idea/claim/refutation/problem-solution expressed in a single sentence or a combination of sentences.
  • Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, "A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view" (Gibaldi 42). However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.

Make sure you follow these guidelines when creating your thesis:

  • A good thesis is unified:
    • NOT: Detective stories are not a high form of literature, but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them

(floppy). vs.

  •  
    • BETTER: Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills (concise).

  • A good thesis is specific:
    • NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses is very good. vs.

    • BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious.

  • Try to be as specific as possible (without providing too much detail) when creating your thesis:
    • NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious. vs.

    • BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of Freudian psychology and introducing the techniques of literary stream-of-consciousness.

Quick Checklist:

_____ The thesis/claim follows the guidelines outlined above

_____ The thesis/claim matches the requirements and goals of the assignment

_____ The thesis/claim is clear and easily recognizable

_____ The thesis/claim seems supportable by good reasoning/data, emotional appeal

Contributors: Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs: Moving from general to specific information

Your paper should be organized in a manner that moves from general to specific information. Every time you begin a new subject, think of an inverted pyramid - The broadest range of information sits at the top, and as the paragraph or paper progresses, the author becomes more and more focused on the argument ending with specific, detailed evidence supporting a claim. Lastly, the author explains how and why the information she has just provided connects to and supports her thesis (a brief wrap-up or warrant).

Image Caption: Moving from General to Specific Information

The four elements of a good paragraph (TTEB)

A good paragraph should contain at least the following four elements: Transition, Topic sentence, specific Evidence and analysis, and a Brief wrap-up sentence (also known as a warrant) –TTEB!

  1. A Transition sentence leading in from a previous paragraph to assure smooth reading. This acts as a hand-off from one idea to the next.
  2. A Topic sentence that tells the reader what you will be discussing in the paragraph.
  3. Specific Evidence and analysis that supports one of your claims and that provides a deeper level of detail than your topic sentence.
  4. A Brief wrap-up sentence that tells the reader how and why this information supports the paper’s thesis. The brief wrap-up is also known as the warrant. The warrant is important to your argument because it connects your reasoning and support to your thesis, and it shows that the information in the paragraph is related to your thesis and helps defend it.

Supporting evidence (induction and deduction)

Induction

Induction is the type of reasoning that moves from specific facts to a general conclusion. When you use induction in your paper, you will state your thesis (which is actually the conclusion you have come to after looking at all the facts) and then support your thesis with the facts. The following is an example of induction taken from Dorothy U. Seyler’s Understanding Argument:

Facts:

There is the dead body of Smith. Smith was shot in his bedroom between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., according to the coroner. Smith was shot with a .32 caliber pistol. The pistol left in the bedroom contains Jones’s fingerprints. Jones was seen, by a neighbor, entering the Smith home at around 11:00 p.m. the night of Smith’s death. A coworker heard Smith and Jones arguing in Smith’s office the morning of the day Smith died.

Conclusion: Jones killed Smith.

Here, then, is the example in bullet form:

  • Conclusion: Jones killed Smith
  • Support: Smith was shot by Jones’ gun, Jones was seen entering the scene of the crime, Jones and Smith argued earlier in the day Smith died.
  • Assumption: The facts are representative, not isolated incidents, and thus reveal a trend, justifying the conclusion drawn.
Deduction

When you use deduction in an argument, you begin with general premises and move to a specific conclusion. There is a precise pattern you must use when you reason deductively. This pattern is called syllogistic reasoning (the syllogism). Syllogistic reasoning (deduction) is organized in three steps:

  1. Major premise
  2. Minor premise
  3. Conclusion

In order for the syllogism (deduction) to work, you must accept that the relationship of the two premises lead, logically, to the conclusion. Here are two examples of deduction or syllogistic reasoning:

Socrates

  1. Major premise: All men are mortal.
  2. Minor premise: Socrates is a man.
  3. Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.

Lincoln

  1. Major premise: People who perform with courage and clear purpose in a crisis are great leaders.
  2. Minor premise: Lincoln was a person who performed with courage and a clear purpose in a crisis.
  3. Conclusion: Lincoln was a great leader.

So in order for deduction to work in the example involving Socrates, you must agree that (1) all men are mortal (they all die); and (2) Socrates is a man. If you disagree with either of these premises, the conclusion is invalid. The example using Socrates isn’t so difficult to validate. But when you move into more murky water (when you use terms such as courage, clear purpose, and great), the connections get tenuous.

For example, some historians might argue that Lincoln didn’t really shine until a few years into the Civil War, after many Union losses to Southern leaders such as Robert E. Lee.

The following is a clear example of deduction gone awry:

  1. Major premise: All dogs make good pets.
  2. Minor premise: Doogle is a dog.
  3. Conclusion: Doogle will make a good pet.

If you don’t agree that all dogs make good pets, then the conclusion that Doogle will make a good pet is invalid.

Enthymemes

When a premise in a syllogism is missing, the syllogism becomes an enthymeme. Enthymemes can be very effective in argument, but they can also be unethical and lead to invalid conclusions. Authors often use enthymemes to persuade audiences. The following is an example of an enthymeme:

If you have a plasma TV, you are not poor.

The first part of the enthymeme (If you have a plasma TV) is the stated premise. The second part of the statement (you are not poor) is the conclusion. Therefore, the unstated premise is “Only rich people have plasma TVs.” The enthymeme above leads us to an invalid conclusion (people who own plasma TVs are not poor) because there are plenty of people who own plasma TVs who are poor. Let’s look at this enthymeme in a syllogistic structure:

  • Major premise: People who own plasma TVs are rich (unstated above).
  • Minor premise: You own a plasma TV.
  • Conclusion: You are not poor.

To help you understand how induction and deduction can work together to form a solid argument, you may want to look at the United States Declaration of Independence. The first section of the Declaration contains a series of syllogisms, while the middle section is an inductive list of examples. The final section brings the first and second sections together in a compelling conclusion.

Contributors: Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

Rebuttal Sections

In order to present a fair and convincing message, you may need to anticipate, research, and outline some of the common positions (arguments) that dispute your thesis. If the situation (purpose) calls for you to do this, you will present and then refute these other positions in the rebuttal section of your essay.

It is important to consider other positions because in most cases, your primary audience will be fence-sitters. Fence-sitters are people who have not decided which side of the argument to support.

People who are on your side of the argument will not need a lot of information to align with your position. People who are completely against your argument—perhaps for ethical or religious reasons—will probably never align with your position no matter how much information you provide. Therefore, the audience you should consider most important are those people who haven't decided which side of the argument they will support—the fence-sitters.

In many cases, these fence-sitters have not decided which side to align with because they see value in both positions. Therefore, to not consider opposing positions to your own in a fair manner may alienate fence-sitters when they see that you are not addressing their concerns or discussion opposing positions at all.

Organizing your rebuttal section

Following the TTEB method outlined in the Body Paragraph section, forecast all the information that will follow in the rebuttal section and then move point by point through the other positions addressing each one as you go. The outline below, adapted from Seyler's Understanding Argument, is an example of a rebuttal section from a thesis essay.

When you rebut or refute an opposing position, use the following three-part organization:

The opponent’s argument: Usually, you should not assume that your reader has read or remembered the argument you are refuting. Thus, at the beginning of your paragraph, you need to state, accurately and fairly, the main points of the argument you will refute.

Your position: Next, make clear the nature of your disagreement with the argument or position you are refuting. Your position might assert, for example, that a writer has not proved his assertion because he has provided evidence that is outdated, or that the argument is filled with fallacies.

Your refutation: The specifics of your counterargument will depend upon the nature of your disagreement. If you challenge the writer’s evidence, then you must present the more recent evidence. If you challenge assumptions, then you must explain why they do not hold up. If your position is that the piece is filled with fallacies, then you must present and explain each fallacy.

Contributors: Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.

Conclusions

Conclusions wrap up what you have been discussing in your paper. After moving from general to specific information in the introduction and body paragraphs, your conclusion should begin pulling back into more general information that restates the main points of your argument. Conclusions may also call for action or overview future possible research. The following outline may help you conclude your paper:

In a general way,

  • Restate your topic and why it is important,
  • Restate your thesis/claim,
  • Address opposing viewpoints and explain why readers should align with your position,
  • Call for action or overview future research possibilities.

Remember that once you accomplish these tasks, unless otherwise directed by your instructor, you are finished. Done. Complete. Don't try to bring in new points or end with a whiz bang(!) conclusion or try to solve world hunger in the final sentence of your conclusion. Simplicity is best for a clear, convincing message.

The preacher's maxim is one of the most effective formulas to follow for argument papers:

  1. Tell what you're going to tell them (introduction).

  2. Tell them (body).

  3. Tell them what you told them (conclusion).

The United States is one of the few industrialized, democratic nations in the world which still permits capital punishment on a state-by-state basis. Not all states have the death penalty but executions are still carried out in the United States and the punishment remains controversial.

Despite the singularity of its status internationally, the death penalty has historically been a popular policy in the United States, even though it has been hotly debated throughout US history in the legislature and the courts. This essay on death penalty will examine its legal status in the United States, its history, and its future.

Table of Contents

Topics

The Future of the Death Penalty in America

Why America Has a Death Penalty

Death Penalty: Arguments and Counter-Arguments

Death Penalty Pros and Cons

[ more topics for death penalty ]

Titles

A Comparison of the Death Penalty in Different Countries and the United States

The Death Penalty Debate in the United States

The Death Penalty: Is it Just and Fair?

Death Penalty: A Legal Overview of the Death Penalty in the United States

Outline

I.  Introduction

II.  Body

A.  Status of the Death Penalty in the United States

B.  The Troubled History of the Death Penalty in the United States

C.  Arguments Against the Death Penalty

D.  Arguments in Favor of the Death Penalty and Counter-Arguments

III.  Conclusion

Thesis Statement

Given that public opinion has increasingly turned against the death penalty in the United States, combined with the expense of capital cases and concerns about the innocence of convicted defendants, it is time for the United States to take a stand with the rest of the democratic, industrialized world community and abolish the death penalty.

Body

According to a recent poll of US voters which asked them about their views of the death penalty, support for the punishment is at a historic low. For the first time, a minority of US citizens oppose the death penalty, according to a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. “Only about half of Americans (49%) now favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. Support has dropped 7 percentage points since March 2015, from 56%” (Oliphant 2016). Support peaked in the mid-1990s, “when eight-in-ten Americans (80% in 1994) favored the death penalty and fewer than two-in-ten were opposed (16%)” (Oliphant 2016). Opposition to the death penalty was also vocal in the 1970s, particularly after the US Supreme Court decision Furman v. Georgia (1972) which briefly declared all death penalty statutes unconstitutional, deeming them discriminatory in the ways in which they were enforced.

The Supreme Court later found in Gregg v. Georgia (1976) that the death penalty itself was not cruel and unusual punishment, provided it was appropriately administrated and so long as its use was “judicious” and “careful” (“Gregg v. Georgia,” 1976 ). Post-Gregg, states with the death penalty have introduced safeguards, such as a separate process for determining if death is warranted, versus the subject’s guilt alone. The existence of the death penalty at all remains controversial within America, particularly given that the United States remains relatively isolated in terms of its insistence upon permitting the death penalty amongst modern, industrialized democracies. Other nations which still permit the death penalty include China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia—hardly illustrious company in the sphere of human rights (“Death penalty statistics by country,” 2011).

Image Credit: The Economist http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/images/EconomistMap.png

History of the Death Penalty in the United States

The history of the death penalty extends far back into history, longer than the United States has existed as an independent nation. Even in the ancient world, the death penalty was practiced. “Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon codified the death penalty for twenty five different crimes, although murder was not one of them” (Reggio 2014). In Europe, by the tenth century, hanging was commonly used as a means of execution and by the Middle Ages in Great Britain and the rest of Europe, prisoners were often tortured before being executed, even for relatively minor crimes or for their religious affiliations. Well into the eighteenth century, stealing small sums of money were capital offenses although by the early nineteenth century in Great Britain, only serious offenses were capital crimes. This was also true of colonial America. “By 1776, most of the colonies had roughly comparable death statutes which covered arson, piracy, treason, murder, sodomy, burglary, robbery, rape, horse-stealing, slave rebellion, and often counterfeiting” (Reggio 2014). The US Constitution expressly forbids cruel and unusual punishments under the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

The question of whether the death penalty is cruel and unusual has been hotly debated. It may come as a surprise that as early as the mid-nineteenth century there was a robust movement to abolish the death penalty and many states elected to do so. In 1846, Michigan abolished the death penalty, followed by Rhode Island in 1852 (Reggio 2014). The abolitionist movement was extremely influential in supporting the abolishment of capital punishment as well. However, even while many states banned the death penalty, other states began to simply search for new methods to use to execute prisoners. “Between 1917 and 1955, the death penalty abolition movement again slowed. Washington, Arizona, and Oregon in 1919-20 reinstated the death penalty. In 1924, the first execution by cyanide gas took place in Nevada, when Tong war gang murderer Gee Jon became its first victim,” and the electric chair, versus hanging, became more common (Reggio 2014).

Arguments Against the Death Penalty

The legal argument most frequently used to protest the death penalty is that it is cruel and unusual punishment and thus a violation of the US Constitution Bill of Rights. However, the US Supreme Court has not found the death penalty in and of itself to be a cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, although it has found abusive treatment within prisons to be cruel and unusual. The Supreme Court performs a so-called “ proportionality analysis” when evaluating a punishment according to the following three tests: “Consideration of the offense’s gravity and the stringency of the penalty; a consideration of how the jurisdiction punishes its other criminals; and a consideration of how other jurisdictions punish the same crime” (“Death penalty,” 2017).

Another important argument against the death penalty is its discriminatory nature. Historically, African-Americans have been executed in greater numbers than whites, even for the same offenses. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) notes that while “56% of death row inmates are black or Hispanic” and despite the fact that “racial minorities comprise half of all murder victims nationwide, a far greater proportion (77%) of the victims in capital convictions were white,” indicating that the act of an African-American or Hispanic individual murdering a white person may lead to a higher conviction rate (Love 2012). Furthermore, the humanitarian watchdog group Amnesty International notes “20% of blacks nationwide were convicted by all-white juries” (Love 2012).

There is also a significant state-by-state discrepancy that can result in entirely different systems of justice being dispensed, simply depending on the location of where a crime has occurred. For example, “nationally, Alabama ranks 23rd in population, but second in executions in 2011” and “African-Americans are 27% of the population, yet comprise 63% of the prisoners” (Love 2012). The former states of the Confederacy make up the vast majority of the states executing criminals in the US. “Over three quarters of executions take place in the states of the former Confederacy (including 35% in Texas alone) with their history of racial violence, lynching and arbitrary Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, which sanctioned death for blacks for certain offenses” (Love 2012).

Image Credit: No to War – http://www.notowar.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/death6-500×375.jpg

The discriminatory nature of the death penalty is one of the major reasons that the US Supreme Court found the way in which the death penalty was enforced in the US to be unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia (1972): “The Court reasoned that the laws resulted in a disproportionate application of the death penalty, specifically discriminating against the poor and minorities.  The Court also reasoned that the existing laws terminated life in exchange for marginal contributions to society” and found no evidence of any deterrent value (“Death penalty,” 2017). Yet while this temporarily required states to review how their death penalty statutes were written, it merely prolonged rather than terminated the use of the death penalty in the United States, as states reviewed how death penalty cases and sentencing were administrated. “In Gregg v. Georgia, the Court held the death penalty was not per se unconstitutional as it could serve the social purposes of retribution and deterrence” and “upheld Georgia’s new capital sentencing procedures, reasoning that the Georgia rules reduced the problem of arbitrary application as seen in earlier statutes” given that the new death penalty was not discriminatory against African-Americans nor arbitrary as previous death penalty statues of the kind overturned in the Furman case (“Death penalty,” 2017). Yet the statistics still indicate that the death penalty is being administered in a discriminatory fashion.

The US Supreme Court has had to act in numerous instances to prevent certain states in engaging in egregious actions and stepping beyond the bounds of the law to use the death penalty in cruel and unusual ways. A good example is that of the execution of mentally incapacitated defendants with low IQs. In Atkins v. Virginia, (2002), the Court found that executing patients classified as mentally handicapped was cruel and unusual because the nature of their disability “lessens the severity of the crime and therefore renders the extraordinary penalty of death as disproportionately severe” (“Death penalty,” 2017). The Court similarly found this to be the case with the execution of juveniles. In Roper v. Simmons (2005), the Court found that given that the justice system does not regard juveniles as mentally competent adults “juvenile offenders assume diminished culpability for their crimes” and death is therefore not a just punishment (“Death penalty,” 2017). The fact that state legislatures permitted such executions upon the mentally incapacitated and very young to take place in the past highlights the extent to which emotion can affect the administration of justice.

Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that innocent individuals have been found guilty of capital crimes, further highlighting the risks of subjecting criminals to the ultimate punishment. According to Levy (2014), in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated” and an estimated “innocence rate is 4.1 percent, more than twice the rate of exoneration.” A lack of access to adequate representation can cause many defendants to languish in the criminal justice system.

Despite claims that the death penalty is just because it does not require the tax payer to subsidize a criminal for the duration of his or her existence, the actual evidence suggests that the death penalty is more expensive than imprisoning an individual for life because of the prolonged duration of the judicial process. “Death penalty cases are much more expensive than other criminal cases and cost more than imprisonment for life with no possibility of parole. In California, capital trials are six times more costly than other murder trials” due to “complex pre-trial motions, lengthy jury selections, and expenses for expert witnesses are all likely to add to the costs in death penalty cases” (Dieter 1992). Given the budget-strapped nature of many states, arguably such money is better invested into improving law enforcement and drug treatment efforts, versus the expense of bringing death penalty cases to trial.

The US Supreme Court has also increasingly limited the range and type of offenses which may receive the death penalty. Proportionality is a key criteria for allocating the ultimate punishment to prisoners, according to the Court. In the case Coker v. Georgia, the US Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty cannot be applied to rape cases (“Death penalty,” 2017). Interestingly enough, one of the arguments used by the court in Coker was that public opinion did not support the use of the death penalty for rape. The fact that opposition to the death penalty is at an all-time low is thus extremely significant, given that notions of proportionality and what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment are even, from a court perspective, somewhat subjective. Additionally, the public has also expressed fears and concerns about the way the death penalty is administrated. In the Pew Research study on public opinion and the death penalty, “majorities said there was some risk of an innocent person being put to death (71%) and that the death penalty does not deter serious crime (61%)” (Oliphant 2016). This fear underlines the moral principle that it is better to let a guilty person go free than to see an innocent person condemned to suffer an unjust punishment.

Arguments in Favor of the Death Penalty and Counter-Arguments

Given that a large percentage of the population still supports the death penalty, it is still important to give careful consideration to their counterarguments. When arguing for the death penalty, the punishment’s deterrent value is often cited. Simply put, this suggests that when people fear the loss of their lives if they are convicted of a heinous crime, they are less apt to engage in such crime. The principle of deterrence is inherent to the criminal justice system itself, given that punishment is allocated and based upon the presumption that people are less apt to commit crimes when they will suffer unpleasant consequences.

But according to the humanitarian watchdog group Amnesty International, there is no significant statistical evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. It cites the nonpartisan National Research Council’s conclusion of a meta-analysis of studies “claiming that the death penalty affects murder rates were ‘fundamentally flawed’ because they did not consider the effects of noncapital punishments” and used “incomplete or implausible models” (“The death penalty and deterrence,” 2012). If life in prison has an equally deterrent effect, it should be used instead, given the possibility of judicial error. Additionally, a 2009 survey of criminologists found that 88% stated that there was no evidence that the death penalty acted a deterrent to heinous crimes (“The death penalty and deterrence,” 2012).

Also questioning the deterrence value of the death penalty is the fact that it is unjustly applied—as noted before, the death penalty’s effects are disproportionately felt by minority communities. The uncertainty as to how this ultimate punishment may be allocated argues against the idea that people, regardless of race or class, will think twice before committing an evil action because they fear the death penalty. There is also evidence that the death penalty is not a deterrent because “murder rate in non-Death Penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in States with the Death Penalty,” suggesting that other social forces are significant in terms of the behavior of individuals and their decision to violate or to act in accordance with the law (“The death penalty and deterrence,” 2012).

Of course, another popular argument used to defend the death penalty is the idea that it is just retribution for a heinous act. Once again, this traces back to the ancient notion of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth being the only fair and just punishment to be meted out for the taking of a life. But once again, the fact remains that not all murders are punished by death in the US and the ways in which the death penalty is enforced vary considerably based upon the state where the trial takes place and the racial identity of the criminal versus the victim. Furthermore, given the presumption that murder is the most evil action which can be performed, the potentiality of the state taking the life of an innocent person, which is a very real possibility, argues against the notion that the death penalty is in any way just.

Opponents of the death penalty also argue that it is irrelevant if other nations, including most industrialized European nations, have prohibited the death penalty. They argue that it is important for the United States to take a stand for its own moral values. However, given that the United States wishes to take a bold stand in favor of human rights, it cannot afford to disregard what other nations do and the standards other moral nations have set regarding how criminals are treated within their justice systems. According to a 2011 study published in The Guardian: “China, together with Iran, North Korea, Yemen and the US (the only G7 country to still execute people) carried out the most executions last year” (“Death penalty statistics by country,” 2017). The US is in a poor position to criticize other nations when it carries out similar policies in regards to its prisoners. The United States should stand as a beacon of moral light to other nations in regards to its policies versus engage in troubling practices in terms of the ways in which it treats its own prisoners.

Conclusion

The history of executing prisoners has had a long and troubling history throughout civilization since the ancient world, but particularly in the United States, which espouses the value of freedom and democratic values. Today, the tide of public opinion is increasingly against the idea that capital punishment is aligned with the principles of the United States. There has been increasing attention drawn to notable cases of individuals who were exonerated after languishing for years on death row. The potential failures of the justice system suggest that wielding a permanent punishment is unwise, unjust, and cruel and unusual. The US Supreme Court has increasingly restricted the ability of state legislators to execute criminals, even though it has drawn the line against declaring the death penalty itself to be cruel and unusual. Finally, the fact that the death penalty has been disproportionately used against persons of color and historically-discriminated against minorities, versus in a fair and just fashion, further underlines the need to abolish the death penalty.

References (APA Format)

Furman v. Georgia. (1972). Capital Punishment in Context. Retrieved from: http://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org/resources/casesummaries/furman

Death penalty. (2017). LII. Retrieved from: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/death_penalty

The death penalty and deterrence. (2012). Amnesty International. Retrieved from: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/the-death-penalty-and-deterrence

Death penalty statistics by country. (2011). The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/mar/29/death-penalty-countries-world

Dieter, R. (19992). Millions misspent: What politicians don’t say about the high costs of the death penalty. Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved from: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/millions-misspent

Gregg v. Georgia. (1976). Bill of Rights Institute. Retrieved from:  https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons/gregg-v-georgia-1962/

Levy, P. (2014). One in 25 sentenced to death in the US is innocent, study claims. Newsweek. Retrieved from: http://www.newsweek.com/one-25-executed-us-innocent-study-claims-248889

Love, D. (2012). Racial bias of the US death penalty. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/03/racial-bias-us-death-penalty

Oliphant, B. (2016). Support for death penalty lowest in more than four decades. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/29/support-for-death-penalty-lowest-in-more-than-four-decades/

Reggio, M. (2014). History of the death penalty. PBS. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/execution/readings/history.html

Works Cited (MLA Format)

“Furman v. Georgia.” Capital Punishment in Context. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

“Death Penalty.” LII. 29 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

“The Death Penalty and Deterrence.” Amnesty International. 2012. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

“Death Penalty Statistics by Country.” The Guardian. 29 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Dieter, R. “Millions Misspent: What Politicians Don’t Say About the High Costs of the Death Penalty. Death Penalty Information Center. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Gregg v. Georgia.” Bill of Rights Institute. 29 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Levy, P. “One in 25 Sentenced to Death in the US is Innocent, Study Claims.” Newsweek. 2014. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Love, D. “Racial Bias of the US Death Penalty.” The Guardian. 3 Jan 2012. 29 Mar 2011. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Oliphant, B. “Support for Death Penalty Lowest in More than Four Decades.” Pew Research Center. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Reggio, M. “History of the Death Penalty.” PBS. Web. 16 Mar 2017.

Notes for Writing a Death Penalty Essay

  • A thesis statement must be arguable and controversial in nature.
  • Titles or headings should be 15 words or less. Capitalize all significant words.
  • This page provides a list of references cited in APA format
  • MLA format call the reference page a Works Cited Page
  • You can view our death penalty essay writing guide for more information.

We hope this example Death Penalty essay will provide you with a template or guideline in helping you write your own paper on this topic.  You are free to use any information, sources, or topics, titles, or ideas provided in this essay as long as you properly cite the information in your paper and on your reference page.  You can also purchase a one-of-a-kind custom written essay example on death penalty.

Latest APA Format (6th edition)

Death Penalty Essay. (2017, April 13). Retrieved from https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essay/death-penalty-essay/

Latest MLA Format (8th edition)

"Death Penalty Essay." Aceyourpaper.com. Student Network Resources Inc, 13 April. 2017. Web. 8 March 2018.

Latest Chicago Format (16th edition)

Student Network Resources Inc. "Death Penalty Essay." Aceyourpaper.com. https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essay/death-penalty-essay/ (accessed March 8, 2018).
   

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