Sample Research Paper on Public Opinion and the Death Penalty


In the past decade, America legislature has put in focus tough measures towards crime
offenders. This is through death penalty or capital punishment. However, this approach has
gotten much resistance unlike the situations where individuals are jailed or put in prison (Bohm,
Politicians, judges and civil groups in USA take into consideration the public opinions in
incorporating death penalty. It is this strong public opinion that’s majorly based on
administration of death penalty as a means of punishments in the crime justice system. Bohm
(30) says that public support for the capital punishment accounts to its use in five ways. Firstly,
firm public support sways legislators to favor death penalty. Secondly, judges intend the death
penalty for political reasons instead of legal reasons. Thirdly, it persuades judges to press death
sentences or remove death sentences. Fourthly, the governors tends to disfavor death penalty
since they fear voters may not re-elect them. Lastly, the supreme courts will view the favor for
death penalty as decency towards deciding if death penalty violates the Constitution’s 8th
Amendment which is the “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” clause.
Since opinions on death penalty influence court decisions, it is important that these
opinions are measured accurately. Thus this assesses public’s opinions on the administration of
death penalty. In addition, this research looks at whether one’s support or opposition to death
penalty changes with the introduction of much information and circumstances (McCorkle, 241).

Thirteen American states don’t have the death penalty. These includes:  Alaska, District
of Colombia, Hawaii, Iowa, Main, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode
Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Formal outline
This paper looks at the arguments of death penalty in terms of pros and cons and how the
legislative system chooses to solve the murder cases. There are a number of issues brought such
as death penalty fear, quotes from the bible, sacred life and the conviction of innocent
individuals. Many murderers are removed from prisons early and go on to do murder once more.
This paper has shown the evidence of whether death penalty adoption will deter murder or not.

The thesis statement is: Why do more Americans support the death penalty than oppose it?


Why do more Americans support the death penalty than oppose it?

There are a number of reasons to justify this and this is well explained in the following

They support this because of decreasing threat of death penalty rate of murder. Cochran
and Chamlin (573) asked if there is a way one can explain if death penalty prevents murderers
from killing. The truth is that there is existence of ways of deterring murderers from committing
murder.  In addition, supporters of death penalty don’t have to take burden of showing deterrence
by any reasonable doubt. Neither should the critics show deterrence by a reasonable doubt. All
these sides cannot conquer with each other. Cochran and Chamlin(573) says that common sense
supports the conclusion that if the threats of the death penalties declines, the rate of murder cases
will escalate.

The death penalty should be supported because criminal offences like rape cases and theft
have been found to hinder the victims’ the pursuits of happiness and freedom rights. A person
convicted on death penalty is able to prepare for the death and make final statements or make a

When the criminal is arrested and charged, the judicial system enables the protection of
his rights. In most cases the assailants are being treated as if he was the one being sinned against
by having sympathy from the investigating officers hence leaving the victims with no
otherwise (Jones,33).

In addition, the crime rate increases if the death penalty is not imposed. Many people are
killed and will be killed every day due to our justice system which is not working.   Based
on Cochran and Chamlin (573), there are about 2,000,000 citizens in US beaten and some are
knifed or shot yearly.

The rate of crime growth has been escalating in previous years due to a lot of leniency
accompanying increased rate of citizens becoming victims. There are many ambiguities formed
for criminals, and due to that crime rate has risen drastically.

In addition, there is a concept of free will. People support death penalties because when a
criminal commits heinous act, it is as a result of free will.  Nobody is forced to commit murder,
rape felony or armed robbery.  A normal citizen doesn’t have intentions to become a murderer or
wrongly accused of murder because he or she is troubled of being called a victim.

There are deterrent in 27 States and the proponents base their views on this. Those
opposing the death penalty laments that death penalty don’t deter criminal activities. Based on

Saral and Vidmar(171), who carried a research on death penalty they found out that deterrent
affects on the US 27 states.  When there was a prohibition of death penalty in the United States,
the research showed that murder cases rose by 100 percent.  The research also examined 14
nations who have banned the death penalty and it showed that murder cases increased by 8%
from five years prior to the banning period to the five years after the banning.

It is worth noting that the average years in death row from death penalty are 10 years.
However, with appeals, the death penalty has not been swift.  Also many murderers have felt that
they will never be sentenced to death.  If death penalty could be swift unavoidable homicide rate
would decline.

People propose the death penalty because the fear of death deters criminals from doing
heinous acts. They tend to think about death before committing any sin. It is common sense to
think that if any killer who had murdered someone died instantly, the murder rate would decline
since no one wants to die.  People cannot do this, but if Justice System makes it swift and severe,
people would convert laws to make death penalty faster and appealing a shorter process. Thus,
the capital punishment is crucial due to saving the lives of millions of victims who are
vulnerable. (Bohm, 27)

The proponents also claim that no innocent can be executed falsely and there has never
existed any evidence or proof of this. The research by others on people being wrongfully
executed is controversial. However, our judicial systems need to be cautious to ensure the
innocents’ rights are not violated.  There is high probability that an innocent person cannot be

Death penalty has been found to save lives of million. The question posed is
whether or not the innocent citizen has strong argument to ban the death penalty.  Repeated
murders will be eliminated and predictable murders are prevented if death penalty is enacted.

Wesley Lowe stated that for the penal system, wrongful execution of an innocent person
in this erroneous world, calls for the citizens to take risks to get in return the safety.  He said that
risks need to be acceptable and therefore sometimes people risks executing wrong person but this
is important because it saves the lives of innocent millions  who might become the victims in

Opponents claim that the state is compared to murder and it is similar to it himself. In this
case it is argued that if executing someone is like murder, then the killing of an enemy at war is
also said to be murder and this cannot happen anywhere in the world and therefore the state
should cease going to wars. Contrary, it is important to protect rights of individuals. Therefore
the death penalty is crucial to protect individual’s right to live. It is also important that execution
is not murder but punishing an offender in the society.

On bible quotes as evidence of death penalty legality, McGarrell and Sandy(501) said that
death penalty is unworthy according to biblical quote on (Romans 12:19) which says that
vengeance belongs to God but (Numbers 35:16-18), laments that a murderer should be put to
death, hence it acknowledges that death penalty can be enacted. All religious organizations have
a belief that life is sacred and by denying another person live, makes that person suffer little
inconvenience and cheapens the human living.

Proponents say that if we are not aware that death penalty deters others from committing
crimes then we shall be faced with a lot of uncertainties. If death penalty is imposed on criminals
but there is no deterrent effect on criminal cases then there is a net loss of life of murderers. If
the death penalty is imposed and the deterrents are noticed then the lives of victims are spared in
future including the murderers who could have been executed. Therefore, a gain is achieved from
death penalty not if the sentenced murderer is more valuable than the victim (Cochran and
Chamlin, 573)

Death penalty isn’t excess or unnecessary penalty to those committing murder knowingly
and intentionally in premeditation, to take lives of others.  Despite the death penalty not
practiced often, it remains threat to criminals.

Justice entails punishing the guilty. This is done even to the few and compromising the
innocents. Morally, there is need for it to be preferred over equality. It doesn’t ever allow judges
to spare the guilty individual, or punish the innocent to attain equality because some have
undergone punishment or spared. Practically, penalties cannot be applied if its insisted on
afflicting the guilty not unless it is applied to all the guilty (Bohm, 29)

Cochran and Chamlin(573) said, that by killing a man through premeditation, you
perform something unique than stealing from that man. He said that he favors death penalty for
the sake of justice and maintenance of human dignity and need to be appropriate based on the
level of how serious is the crime.

Murderers have always been found to commit multiple killings and there is no much
punishment they can get and thus the death penalty is the only punishment that can deter them.

Life is sacred and anybody who takes someone’s life should also forsake his own life and there is
no need for that murderer to see it as inconvenience by being imprisoned for sometime (Cochran
and Chamlin, 573)

Some opponents argue that death penalty tends to disregard and brutalize the society
since it is a legalized matter because it is like an eye for eye. People however, should learn that
they are not disregarded or brutalized by penalty but they are brutalized by the brutal acts of

Putting the culprit in prison cannot achieve the deterrent effects since at any time the
person can be released. Even if it is life imprisonment, it cannot achieve the deterrent effects
which could have resulted from death penalty. Death penalty is really an irreversible penalty and
this is a result of people fearing it (Cochran and Chamlin, 573)The writers of the constitution
believed that death penalty was an acceptable means of protecting people from
criminals(McGarrell and Sandy, 501).

More people do not support the death penalty because of the following reasons or

Other people do not support death penalty because it fails to rehabilitate. The opponents
claims that nothing is accomplished by imposing the death penalty since the victim dies and
cannot be brought back. Fear of death doesn’t deter murder since many murders are acted upon
with passion or when a person is not thinking rationally (McGarrell and Sandy, 501).

Death penalty is also disturbing or annoying to a person who values life according to
arguments of critics. In fact, 99 percent of criminal defendants have ended up being penniless

when their cases are being appealed and have always claimed that they are always treated in
unfair manner. Many murderers with no money get death penalty while in counties with many
cases of death penalties always receive death penalties (McGarrell and Sandy, 501).

Criminologists have claimed that publicized execution leads to more murders in the
preceding days. Publicity encourages criminal cases instead of preventing them. There is no
proof that supports the usefulness of the death penalty to secure citizens’ lives(McGarrell and
Sandy, 501).. Death penalty is a likely deterrent to murder but it has failed in deterring it.

An extreme penalty is required to deter crime and this can be a strong argument if it is
evidenced that it discourages felony. There has never been evidence that death penalty
discourages crime.

It is apparent that those states practicing death penalty should have had no murder cases but
these states have the most murder cases while those states which have banned the death penalty
have less murder cases. The states that have the death penalty should be free of murder, but those
states have the most murders, and the states that abolished the death penalty have less.

Convicting innocent people do occur and death is a sign of a miscarriage of justice which
is irreversible. In fact the states of Maine and Rhode Island prohibited the death penalty since it
saw it as a public shame and remorseful after they realized that they have been executing
innocent people.

Death dear don’t declines crime as suggested by those opposing it.   Most of historical
executions were publicly and brutally shown.  Many were crushed to death under heavy

weight.  Crimes were more common during those periods as compared to present. It shows that
execution does not deter capital punishment.

McGarrell and Sandy (503), explains that death penalty’s motive is revenge.  Legal
revenge hardens social cohesion against a law breaker and is the alternate private revenge to
those harmed.


This paper on the issue of death penalty illustrates various pros and cons of capital
punishment in the criminal justice system.  Presently, there are a lot of pros and cons on the
capital punishment or death penalty.  Nonetheless, if individuals weigh the arguments presented
clearly and get empathy for felony victims, they will be persuaded to favor death penalty.  In
fact, many people in the U.S. presently are in favor death penalty.  But more states are needed to
enact and enforce the capital punishment or death penalty.

As shown in this paper death penalty aids to retrench future murderers, therefore, saving
more lives.  The chance of murdering an innocent person is minimal.



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Acker, R. M. Bohm, & C. S. Lanier (Eds.), America’s experiment with capital
punishment: Reflections on the past, present, and future of the ultimate penal sanction
(pp. 27-54). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
2. Cochran, J. K., & Chamlin, M. B. (2005). Can information change public opinion?
Another test of the Marshall hypothesis. Journal of Criminal Justice, 33, 573-584. doi:
3. Jones, P. (1994). It’s not what you ask; it’s the way that you ask it: Question form and
public opinion on the death penalty. The Prison Journal, 73, 32-50. doi:
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six common crimes. Crime & Delinquency, 39, 240-252. doi:
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capital punishment. American Behavioral Scientist, 39, 500-513. doi:
6. Sarat, A., & Vidmar, N. (1976). Public opinion, the death penalty, and the eighth
Amendment: Testing the Marshall hypothesis. Wisconsin Law Review, 17, 171-206.