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Running head: DEATH PENALTY

Death Penalty: A Literature Review

Jazmin Rodriguez
The University of Texas at El Paso



The purpose of this literary review is to answer some of the most frequently asked
questions about the death penalty. The death penalty has been around since the start of time. A
form of justice for an act of violence. Capital punishment has evolved through the years. It has
gone from public and dehumanizing to more high classified and more humane. To answer
questions about the death penalty research over several weeks has been conducted. Along with
that there has been primary research conducted for the benefit of the literature review. Economic,
cultural, and political controversies will be discussed and sources will be used to validate the


Death Penalty: A Literature Review

As a form of justice, the Death Penalty spread widely centuries ago. According to the
Death Penalty Information Center this style of punishment traveled into the new world when
Captain George Kendall was executed in Jamestown, Virginia in the year 1608 (2014). Today the
Death Penalty, also known as Capital Punishment, is used as punishment for murder and other
capital crimes in the Unites States. Controversies about the death penalty have spiraled out of
control with key cases. The majority of arguments are between those who abide by it and those
who seek to put a stop to the death penalty. People on the opposing side of the death penalty see
it as an equal form of crime as murder and have argued that capital punishment is a violation to
our rights. The government and the Supreme Court have decided that capital punishment does
not go against the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which bans cruel and unusual
punishment (Legal Information Institute [LII] n.d.). The death penalty is such a broad spectrum
that can be very hard to understand.
Laws and regulations vary from state to state. Out of fifty states in the America thirty
have the death penalty. These states award the death penalty to those found guilty of capital and
heinous crimes. Along with cultural issues that people have developed against the death penalty
based on where they live, come the economic issues. Prisons are ran by taxpayer money and
many people dont see the benefit of their money going into executions. These are some of the
reasons that the debate of death penalty still continuous and leads to these questions to be
1. Why was the death penalty implemented in Texas?
2. Has the death penalty prevented crime?


3. What are the economic effects of death row inmates?

These questions will state the purpose of this literature review. They will dissect the
cultural, economic, and political issues that the death penalty faces. The death penalty can only
be fully understood with extreme research and only with thorough research can one decide on
which side they are on. \

Why was the Death Penalty implemented in Texas?

Texas is one of the thirty-two states in America that has the death penalty. The death
penalty was implemented as a form of punishment for offenders of a capital crime. Texas is for
the most part a republican state. Republicans are known for their hard and cold attitude.
With that reigning over Texas, the lone star state will have the death penalty for as long as the
state remains republican. Although it may seem like the whole state of Texas is strict enough to
sentence a lot of people to the death penalty, there are many counties in Texas that have never
sentenced someone to the death penalty. Though the state of Texas has the death penalty, not
everyone is for it. there is a lot of mixed emotions through the state having to do with the death
penalty. In a close discourse community that the author belongs to 70% of people dont know
what side they stand on (J. Rodriguez, personal communication, Oct 20, 2014). The reality is that
people arent knowledgeable about lethal execution which puts the state of Texas in a bind.

Figure 1: Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty


Source: Death Penalty Fact Sheet. Retrieved from:


Has the Death Penalty prevented crime?

One of the biggest arguments surrounding the death penalty is how much crime has been
prevented since the laws have been implemented. A lot of people argue that there is a decline in
murders in the states where the death penalty is eligible. There has even been several studies that
prove that the death penalty deters crime within the states. A professor named Isaac Elrich from
the University of Buffalo conducted a study in 1975 that proved that in each execution done from
1950 to 1960 there was eight lives saved (Capital Punishment, 2014). With such information
from a trusted source it is safe to say that capital punishment prevents crimes from occurring. His
information was put out for the public to read which led to even more studies to be conducted to


prove whether or not thus is true. This has been a hot topic since and has grasped the attention of
several more studies. The past couple of years the death penalty can arguably be one of the most
talked about issues in our country. With many other contributions to the road of stardom, the
active media plays a big role on how the public feels about capital punishment. With such steam
the death penalty has been under a radar by researchers that has led to more examination that
determined that the death penalty in the last five years has prevented anywhere from three to
thirty-two murders with each execution (Capital Punishment 2014).

Figure 1. This graph shows the rates of executions in contrast with how many murders there was in decades.

Source: Debatepedia, (7 Jul, 2008). Death Penalty Deterrence. Retrieved from:



Even with all of the evidence provided, there are those whose personal lives inflict with
the argument. The people who are against it have conducted studies of their own and have come
up with an opposing view than those who are for it. people have found that; the overwhelming
majority of the experts agreed that the death penalty never has been, is not, and never could be
superior to long prison sentences as a deterrent to criminal violence (Radelet & Lacock, 2009).
This study was a survey that holds a very strong view point. With both opposing sides of the
death penalty having great arguments in their favor, they leave very little to the reader to do;
decide which side one is on.

What are the economic effects of Death Row inmates?

The economic aspect of the death penalty is one of the most criticized parts of the entire
issue. Most people who are against the death penalty are against it because of the economic haul
it has. A lot of community members would rather put money into a school system rather than it
go towards executions (J. Rodriguez, personal communication, Oct 20, 2014). Though it seems
that executions would be more of a one-time expense in contrast to life in prison, the costs of life
in prison are impossible to predict (NBC, 2011). There are various costs that are the same for life
in prison and for execution which are the first steps such as the trials and attorney charges. NBC
states that the costs can almost balance themselves out because of unpredictable circumstances
that a life in prison inmate might have (2011). Some of the unexpected costs could come from
someone who becomes ill and needs surgical medical attention which could cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
Is it really fair to compare a death penalty case to a life in prison case? Forbes Magazine
doesnt believe so, quoting Donald McCartin Its 10 times more expensive to kill them than to


keep them alive.. (2014). The lethal injection costs roughly about $100 so truth of the matter is
that the injection is not what tax payers are concerned about. Forbes says that the time length of a
case up for the death penalty takes about 8,000 hours compared to a non-death penalty case of
180 hours in length (2014). The facts about the cost of executing someone are clear to see why
people selfishly would rather see someone serve life in prison than be put on death row. Along
with that, the authors primary research question about where taxpayers would rather see the
money go was 6 out of 10 into the community. The trial costs are inevitable even if the person in
a death penalty case is found not guilty. The recent downfall in the economy has set the stakes
higher for death penalty cases because of the high costs. In Texas, a death penalty case costs
taxpayers an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a
single cell at the highest security level for 40 years (Dieter, R. n.d.). The high cost is not just in
the state of Texas, across the nation there are millions of dollars being spent on executions. The
country as a whole has looked weaker because of the lack of funds in places where the country is
in need of (Dieter, R. n.d.).
Figure 2: The costs of execution

Source: Death Penalty Facts. Retrieved from: http://deathpenaltyfacts.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/goal.jpg



In conclusion, this literature review has analyzed and answered questions about the death
penalty. There were many aspects and views researched. There are many unanswered questions
about this topic and there will always be many answers because of the opposing views. Will the
country ever agree on the death penalty or agree to ban it? Maybe decades from now, but at the
moment there are too many economical, cultural, and ethical views on it. As the United States
continuous to be a free country opinions will differ. For the meantime we still continue to have
thirty-two states that are proud of the death penalty and eighteen states who have banned the
death penalty. Deterrence from the death penalty will always vary from person to person and
case to case. The decision of sentencing someone to the death penalty will be in the hands of the



Death Penalty. LII / Legal Information Institute. Legal Information Institute, n.d. Web 25 Apr.
Retrieved from:
Part I: History of the Death Penalty. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 26, 2014, from
N.A. (2014, January 1). Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs. Retrieved
October 23, 2014, from
Radelet, M., & Lacock, T. (2009). Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of
Leading Criminologists. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(2), 489-508.
Retrieved October 27, 2014, from
J. Rodriguez, personal communication, Oct 20, 2014.
Anonymous. (2011, September 21). What costs more the death penalty or life in prison?
Retrieved October 26, 2014, from http://www.nbcrightnow.com/story/15519792/whatcosts-more-the-death-penalty-or-life-in-prison
Anonymous. (2014, May 11). Considering The Death Penalty: Your Tax Dollars At Work.
Retrieved October 23, 2014, from
Dieter, R. (n.d.). The High Cost of the Death Penalty. Retrieved October 26, 2014, from