Essay Example on the Death Penalty in the United States

Published: 2019-09-17
Essay Example on the Death Penalty in the United States
Categories:  Law Punishment Death penalty
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1906 words
16 min read

The death sentence is a type of punishment that is certified by the government, where criminals who have committed capital offenses are put to death. It is a legal sentence in the United States whose adoption can be traced back to the American colonies. Today, this form of punishment is used in several states in the United States. This essay will explore the variations on the criteria for capital punishment between different states, the execution of people considered mentally disabled and juveniles, the disproportionate number of minorities on death row and further provide an argument on the fairness of the death penalty. This essay also explores the probable aspects of its legalization and decriminalization in the U.S. and further provides a personal point of view on why it would be beneficial to legalize Marijuana in the nation.

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Variation On Criteria for Capital Punishment Between States

There remains an absence of uniformity in the capital punishment sentence in the U.S. This is despite the expectation that the federal law on capital punishment would be applied evenly across all states. Today, a level of arbitrariness in the application of the death sentence has been evidenced in the variation of the sentence between states (Cromie & Zott, 2013). This is so given the differences in population, the differing laws in each state as well as the variations in crime rates between different states. However, there are other factors other than the weightiness of the crime that has an impact on the death sentence. This includes elements such as race and gender. Ineffectual procedures and constraints in the practice of capital sentencing and its interpretation among different states in the U.S. have also contributed to these variations.

There is a considerable variation regarding the legality and the frequency of use of application of the death penalty sentence across different states in the U.S. Evidently, a portion of these variations may be attributed to the significant number of states that do not support the use of the death penalty. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable heterogeneity in the real outcome among the states that impose this punishment. In addition, this variation is due to the limited power of the Federal government to enact national laws as the Constitution gives each state legislative power over criminal laws within their jurisdiction. As such, each of the states enacts and interprets its own laws on capital punishment. The map below shows the states that support and those that do not support the death penalty. The 32 states in red enforce the death penalty sentence while the other 18 do not support the capital sentence.

The Execution of Juveniles and Mentally Disabled People


The pertinence of the death penalty sentences for juveniles has been a subject of intense controversy over the last few years. Initially, the juvenile court system in the U.S. was primarily meant to hold minor offenders below the age of eighteen, where the offenders were also rehabilitated. However, since the revised death penalty statutes were reinstated in 1976, it was accompanied by a shift towards stronger policies and punishments. Such included the transfer of juvenile cases to criminal courts where the death penalty was also enforceable. The Supreme Court has constantly evaluated its constitutionality for several times in the past. Nevertheless, the capital sentence for juvenile offenders has been banned in all states following the courts ruling in Roper v. Simmons (2005) (Chambliss, 2011).

Mentally Disabled People

Currently, the U.S. prohibits the execution of people who have been diagnosed with a mental disability. This is according to the landmark ruling that was made by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002. The court held that the eighth amendment prohibits unusual punishments such as death penalties on inmates with a mental disability. The aspect is also described as intellectual disability or mental retardation. This is addressed separately to mental illness by the U.S. legal system since mental competency is capable of being restored. Therefore, inmates who are mentally ill, but not necessarily insane are not exempted from this ruling and are therefore liable to death penalties.

The Disproportionate Number of Minorities On Death Row

For many years, reports have shown that there exists a pervasive bias in the application of the death sentence in terms of race. This racial disparity in the judicial system of the Unites States has from time to time demonstrated that the race of the victim and defendant, play a significant role in determining capital cases. That is most of which involve the death penalty. A report on the study in Philadelphia revealed that the most prospective racial combination that would lead to a death sentence was one with a non-black victim and a black defendant regardless of the severity of the offense. Also, cases that involved black victims and defendants as well had a lower probability of leading to a death penalty. In addition, as of 2002, 178 black defendants had been executed for murders with white victims. This is when compared to only 12 convictions where the victims were black, and the defendants were white.

Argument On the Fairness of the Death Penalty

It evident that the application of death penalty for capital offenders in the United States has demonstrated a serious flaw. Through the years, statistics have proven that the U.S. death penalty systems are tainted with incompetence and unfairness that has at times resulted in the execution of innocent people and vicious criminals spared. For instance, numerous brutal criminals have been set free simply because they have the means to hire the best lawyers who can negotiate deals for them. Also the fact that other inconsiderate factors such as race and geography that play a huge role in the application of death penalty shows that there is a high level of arbitrariness and unfairness in the death penalty.

Legalization and Decriminalization of Marijuana

There is a large number of addictive drugs, which are used for recreational purposes in the United States. Among them is bhang or Marijuana. It is the third most widespread recreational drug in the U.S. behind alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana is used for its psychological and bodily effects such as getting a high (DeVane, 2013). Government surveys suggest that Marijuana is used by nearly one-hundred million Americans.


Legalization means the authentication of something that was previously prohibited by law. This is usually done by the appropriate public authority. In this case, the legalization of marijuana would mean that the people would be free to use the drug for personal recreation as long as the individual using it is above the specified age pre-determined by the law. It would also mean that members of the public would be allowed to obtain licensure to sell the drug in retail. As such, it means that one cannot be arrested, convicted or even ticketed for using or selling Marijuana as long as they follow the national laws pertaining to age, place as well as the amount of consumption (Merino, 2011).


The decriminalization of marijuana is not the same as its legalization. Decriminalization prescribes that the government of the Unites States amends the laws on marijuana in a manner that deems certain acts relating to the drug criminal but not liable for prosecution. This would mean that individuals who are found in possession of insignificant amounts of marijuana for their personal use will neither be prosecuted under the law nor receive a jail term. However, when found in possession of large quantities with the intent of selling, they could potentially be penalized under the law.

Why Legalization Is Preferable

In choosing whether to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, the underlying concepts of each of these aspects come into play. Legalization of the drug proves more viable as it would be much easier to control this market compared to the decriminalization. Legalization creates a platform for a free market where individuals are free to sell the drug under the prescribed laws of the government. This is contrary to the decriminalization, which in essence would still force the development of the underground market and channels for the drug such as those that already exist. Furthermore, legalization of the drug would have numerous benefits for the Unites States government, some of which are described below.


As a way of devising new strategies to boost the nations income, legalizing marijuana would lead to a more than a significant boost in revenues that are collected in the form of taxes levied on its sale and distribution. These revenues, in turn, may be used to fund projects such as putting up parks and repairing the roads. It would also help the government deal with the rising costs and decrease in revenue that is being experienced in numerous states. As a new market, the legalization of marijuana will ensure that the government is able to raise millions of dollar each year in addition to what it currently raises.

Drop in crime

The legalization of marijuana would mean a loss of business to most of the drug dealers within the United States. Because of the limited competition and the high prices that they charge in the street market, such dealers make huge sums of money each day. Through cartels, most of this money is used to fund organized criminal activities which may as well include terrorism. Legalizing the drug would force such cartels to go out of business deeming them unable to fund their organized criminal activities. Also, through the increased revenue, the police departments would have, not only more time and resources to combat crime, but also allow them to go after people engaging in other crimes such as violence. This will aid in making the streets much safer.

Safety and Safety Controls

Another benefit that would accompany the legalization of the marijuana is the introduction of safety controls. Before legalization, there is no way detecting any other dangerous substance that may have been cut into the drug before it is sold. However, efforts to legalize it will necessitate the development of systems of safety controls by the government. Such systems will ensure that the drug being sold meets the standards prescribed by the appropriate public authority of the government. Also, legalizing the drug would mean the creating of a proper and safe point of sales for the drug, which would eliminate the dangers and violence that come with the street sale of the drug.


In light of the above, it is true that the death penalty in the United States, though necessary at times, is seriously flawed. This is because of the variations in the criteria of the death penalty among its states. It is also because the system is tainted with racism and unfairness in the administration of the death penalty. Despite this, the death penalty has positive impacts in terms of keeping spiteful criminals off the streets. It has also shown positivism and consideration with exempting minor offenders from the death sentence. Marijuana is a recreational drug which is used by a huge portion of the United States population. Its legalization would guarantee numerous benefits for the government as well as its citizens. This is because its legalization would serve to increase the national revenue through taxes and further reduce the rate of crime connected to marijuana either directly or indirectly. It would lead to the creation of safety controls of the drug so that the consumers are assured that what they are consuming has been certified as safe by the relevant authority. However, its legalization should be accompanied b...

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