death penalty | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction 

The death penalty is a homicide sanctioned and ultimately committed by the state as a punishment for a crime.

As a technical matter, the death penalty is still legal in the United States.  However, because of the legal expense of pursuing the penalty, it is seldom used.

The death penalty is a highly controversial form of punishment that is used by some countries as a means of punishing certain types of crimes. In essence, the death penalty is a homicide that is sanctioned and ultimately committed by the state as a punishment for a crime that has been deemed to be particularly heinous or egregious.

The use of the penalty as a form of punishment dates back to ancient times, and it has been used by a variety of societies and cultures throughout history. In modern times, the use of the penalty is somewhat less widespread, but it is still used by some countries, including the United States, China, and several others.

One of the primary arguments in favor of the penalty is that it serves as a deterrent to crime. Proponents of it argue that the possibility of being executed will deter some people from committing crimes, particularly those that are particularly violent or heinous.

However, opponents of it argue that it is not an effective deterrent and that there is no evidence to support this claim. They also argue that the use of the death penalty is a violation of human rights, particularly the right to life and that it is inherently cruel and inhumane.

Another argument against the penalty is that it is often applied unfairly. In many cases, the death penalty is more likely to be imposed on people who are poor or from marginalized communities, and it is often applied in a discriminatory manner.

There is also the issue of wrongful convictions, which is a serious concern when it comes to the death penalty. There have been numerous cases in which people have been wrongly convicted of crimes and sentenced to death, only to be exonerated later. This underscores the fact that the death penalty is an irreversible punishment and that there is always the risk of executing an innocent person.

In addition to these issues, there are also practical concerns associated with the use of the death penalty. For example, it is a very expensive form of punishment, as the cost of appeals and legal proceedings can be quite high. This can place a significant burden on the criminal justice system and can divert resources away from other important areas.


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Last Modified: 04/20/2023


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