Death by Design: Capital Punishment as Social Psychological System

By Craig Haney | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Concluding Thoughts
Death Is Different

Those whom we would banish from society or from the human
community itself often speak in too faint a voice to be heard
above society's demand for punishment.

—Justice William Brennan, McCleskey v. Kemp (1987)

The death penalty stands as a symbol of crime and punishment in our society, one onto which many Americans project their fears of criminal victimization, their attitudes about fairness and justice, and their beliefs about the nature of evil and the possibility of moral redemption. Social science researchers know that a person's attitude toward capital punishment is pivotal—it is the one attitude that tells us the most about someone's general beliefs on a broad array of other criminal justice issues.

To political philosophers, however, the death penalty is more than a symbolic statement about crime control. It also expresses something important about the relationship of citizens to the state and the enormous power that some societies have entrusted to government officials. Indeed, near the end of the 17th century John Locke actually defined political power itself as "a right of making laws with penalties of death."1 Throughout history, the death penalty has been at the center of many partisan debates, and, in modern times, it has retained much of its political cache. In fact, capital punishment remained the mainstay of many elected officials who struggled to find an emotional issue with which to excite and galvanize supporters.

Like the violent encounters that give rise to them, capital trials often are dramatic, tragic, and compelling. These human dramas are part of what command the public's attention in death penalty cases—a horrible crime has been committed and the life of the accused hangs in the balance. Even though these dramas touch only a comparatively few persons in a direct or personal way—of the thousands upon thousands of persons who pass through the criminal justice system, very few are tried for capital crimes and fewer still

-241-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Death by Design: Capital Punishment as Social Psychological System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 329

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?