If the death penalty were an effective crime deterrent, it would follow that all previous state-sponsored executions would have somehow resulted in reducing crime. As regards the crime of murder, however, there actually seems to be a reverse correlation between murder rates and states who do NOT have the death penalty. The foregoing is graphically illustrated in a chart prepared by DeathPenaltyInfo.org that shows that 18 out of the highest 20 murder rates are in states WITH the death penalty. The majority of the states without the death penalty are at or the bottom 50 percent in murder rates for 2009.
So the argument that the death penalty does not deter crime may valid statistically, but it does not address the issue of the death penalty fully. In fact, arguing against the death penalty from that perspective (It does not prevent crime, so let’s abolish it), may even be somewhat disingenuous. In fact, there is a somewhat better argument for keeping the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for a crime. It is this: There simply are some crimes that are so terrible and egregious that the death penalty is the ONLY appropriate punishment.
Crimes like premeditated, heartless and cruel murder involving torture and enjoyment of the pain of others would be one example. Such crimes must necessarily meet a rigid standard. That standard would be that restoration of the balance in society as a whole can only be accomplished by the ending of the perpetrator’s life and that the end of that life is the only appropriate remedy. It would also include the criterion that confining the criminal behind bars for life is far too lenient and humanitarian for the person’s outrageous and antisocial behavior that ruined or ended the lives of others.
One appropriate example would be the case of Theodore Robert “Ted” Bundy, who was executed in Florida on January 24, 1989. Bundy was a serial killer, necrophile, rapist, and kidnapper, who was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 women (and probably more) in a killing spree that extended from Washington State to Florida. This ghastly murderer often returned to the scene of his crimes and had sex with the dead bodies of his victims. In a few cases, he even decapitated and kept the heads of his victims as trophies. Bundy, was, in short, a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure in the terror and suffering of his victims. When he died in Florida’s electric chair, the world was well rid of this dangerous animal.
Imagine if Bundy had received life in prison instead of death. Chances are today, over 20 years later, he would be an honored senior citizen among the prison population, where rapists and predators rank high in the social strata of the cons. Given Bundy’s psychological profile, it seems likely that Bundy’s warped ego would only have been fed in prison. He was a self-admitted cold hearted man, and he needed to be removed not only from society at large, but from the ranks of humanity.
So, no, the death penalty may not deter crime, but it should be retained to protect us from the likes of Ted Bundy. If we have the right to unleash hellfire missiles on Taliban terrorists, who wish us dead, we should retain the right to put mass murderers in their graves. It’s all about protection retribution, and applying the only truly appropriate punishment to the worst imaginable behavior. If the retribution does not deter others, then others need suffer the same penalty as those who preceded them.