Capital Punishment in the United States

For the purpose of the term paper, I have chosen Capital Punishment in the United States. I have always been fascinated and disturbed at how easily a human life can be destroyed under the law. I would like to provide some background information on Capital Punishment in the United States as I will be discussing it further in detail in my paper. Capital punishment( a.k.a the death penalty) in the United States is limited under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to cases of homicide, crimes against the state, and crimes against humanity committed by mentally- competent adults( 2005). However, in practice, it is only ever used in cases where aggravating circumstances exist, including aggravated murder, felony murder, and contract killing.  The death penalty is currently a legal sentence in 37 states and in the federal civilian and military legal systems. At this point, the method of execution is thru a lethal injection (Death Penalty, 2008).There are seventeen U.S states that do not have a death penalty:








New Jersey

North Dakota

Rhode Island


West Virginia




New Mexico

New York

John Finnis would say that the death penalty is unjust because he believes death penalty is a violation of the requirement that law should value human life. Finnis’s  7 basic forms of human flourishing include:

  1. The valuing and transmission of life.
  2. knowledge for its own self
  3. ‘play’
  4. ‘aesthetic experience’
  5. ‘sociability’ and especially friendship
  6. ‘practical reasonableness’ that ‘seeks to bring an intelligent and reasonable order into one’s own actions and habits and practical attitudes’- this structures the ways in which we pursue basic goods
  7. ‘religion ‘ or the value of spiritual experience (Pavlich, 2011)

Therefore, Finnis would argue that by cutting a person’s life short is in clear violation of the first of the seven basic forms.

Critical race theory would say that the death penalty is unjust as it mainly affects the minority race groups, such as black, Hispanics, and Aboriginal people. I will support the critical race theory by providing case studies.

Reference List

“Facts About the Death Penalty”, Retrieved on November 25, 2012 from the webpage, Death Penalty Information Center, 2008

Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407(2005).

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.



Filed under Musing

3 responses to “Capital Punishment in the United States

  1. This is an interesting topic. You may find David Garland’s work on the US death penalty to be of interest:

    It looks like your ideas are in the early stages of development at this point, so there is not much that I can offer by way of constructive feedback. I think that you are on the right track with Finnis. With regards to critical race theory, the key will be to go beyond noting the racialized application of the death penalty and explain how this form of lethal discrimination has come into play. You may also want to look at Mbembe’s commentary on ‘necropolitics’ (in Pavlich 2011).

    Looking forward to reading your paper.

  2. Hello Mike,

    I’m writing a background info on the death penalty, but not sure what you mean by the racial part. Did you mean that I should look into the history of the race based death penalty?

    • From what you wrote in your initial post, it looks like your application of critical race theory to the death penalty is largely descriptive – you are using case studies and statistics to explain the way that the penalty disproportionately affects certain groups. This is reasonable.

      I am suggesting that your analysis should also help to explain *why* the death penalty is differentially applied in this manner.