Capital Punishment Petitions Reveal Social Rifts

One of the most controversial petition topics at GoPetition is that of Capital Punishment. Over several years, GoPetition has been inundated with petitions on this topic, both for and against. What are the issues? And why is the debate so heated?

One of the critical issues in examining this topic is social context. For example, the debate in Iran is vastly different to the debate in the UK, the USA and other western jurisdictions such as Australia.

Take Iran, for example. There are strong arguments to suggest that capital punishment has been used as a tool by the Islamic regime to oppress freedom and democracy without cause. GoPetition is replete with heart-wrenching campaigns seeking to save freedom lovers from the noose. Activist Idamla Insiyatifi, in an Iranian petition protest, remarks, 

"Even though human right to life has been guaranteed through some international laws and codes such as "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" and "European Convention on Human Rights", regimes like the Iranian one is still using the death penalty as a way of punishment. It is stated, in above mentioned codes, that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."

He continues, "However, the Iranian regime with its outdated criminal law is executing political prisoners one by one in front of the eyes of whole world, as in the execution of Ehsan Fattahian, Kurd prisoner."

This view has been repeated ad nauseum and I invite readers to search "Iran" + "death penalty" at GoPetition for a thorough listing of these causes.

What about capital punishment in western jurisdictions? There is growing discontent from many people that criminal sanctions (punishments) are becoming both less stringent and less effective. The most tragic case study is that of child sexual abuse and murder. These cases bring emotion of such force that it is difficult to convey in a Blog. Debra Dabbs, a campaigner from the U.S. argues, "Please sign this petition so we can be the voice of JUSTICE for the children who have been wrongfully taken from this world, while their killers walk freely, without justice for their unspeakable crimes. Let [the children] be heard, and put a STOP to this unnecessary pain and suffering."

In the UK, the famous Sarah Payne case evokes strong emotions. One campaigner suggested that Sarah's killer, Roy Whiting, be locked up for life. "We, the undersigned, ask Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg to please keep Roy Whiting in prison for the full 50 years that he was sentenced. Roy Whiting is an evil predator. He is a child murderer and if released, we feel he will re-offend. When Whiting was convicted in 2001, his previous convictions were then told to the courts. He is a re-offender and his crimes escalated to the murder of an innocent young girl. He must be made to serve his full sentence."

Others would be less generous and happy to see Whiting hung.

The same goes for cop killers in the United States. GoPetition has seen several campaigns to "terminate" convicted cop killers. Please see our YouTube channel which lists a campaign by Sheriff Grady Judd, of Florida, to expedite the death sentence of convicted cop killer, Paul Beasley Johnson.

The feelings against capital punishment seem to run just as deep as those for it. In Australia, the Australian Services Union National Office argued for a complete ban of the practice, "We request that the House of Representatives and the Senate legislate at the earliest opportunity to introduce and pass laws that prohibit the use of capital punishment against all Australian citizens. We also seek that this Government and all future Governments protect Australian citizens from the death penalty in other countries."

The arguments against capital punishment include that it is "cruel and unusual", or may constitute "torture". Others are concerned that "mistake" renders the punishment unfit for a caring society. Conversely, proponents raise the issue or re-offence rates which can be quite high in the capital offence arena.

My own observation of the debate is that social context is critical, and each case deserves to be dealt with on its own merits. Does capital punishment in some cases prevent crime, save the taxpayer money, and more importantly, promote "Justice"? Or are other counter arguments more important: that innocent people have been put to death and that capital punishment is used as a tool of the state for purely political purposes, to wit, Iran? The aim of GoPetition is not to take sides but to facilitate the debate on a case by case basis.