In the final analysis, the findings lend substantial support to the Marshall hypothesis. In other words, when more considerations about capital punishment’s administration are provided, attitudes and opinions about its adoption decline drastically. Moreover, given the constraints on attitudes in most survey instruments, the final result may have been an understated one. For instance, on top of constraints imposed by the sample, low informational quality of the questionnaire, and the short time-frame given to the respondents to state their opinion, “instability in these attitudes should also be limited by consistency effects created by the pretest-posttest question order and respondents’ tendency to discount information that conflicts with their attitudes toward capital punishment”. The following passage captures this reality quite lucidly:
“Death penalty attitudes are complex. This complexity likely contributes to the ongoing controversies surrounding capital punishment, as most recently manifested by the uproar caused by the commutation of all death sentences in the state of Illinois. Hence, it is implied that the political and legal justifications of capital punishment may rest on mistaken conceptions of attitudes toward the death penalty and its application.” (Murray, 759)
Expert evidence from renowned criminologists from the United States leads to the inference that death penalty “fails to deter violent crime, and they do not agree with public justifications for its use”. Some of the expert opinion even suggest that death penalty “tends to devalue human life and sends Americans the message that killing is in some circumstances appropriate”. Consider the following statistic taken from The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology:
TABLE 3 RESPONSES OF CRIMINOLOGISTS TO GENERAL QUESTIONS ON DETERRENCE (N=67) (IN PERCENTS) (Radelet, p.6)
A. Overall, over the last twenty years, the threat or use of the death penalty in the United States has been a stronger deterrent to homicide than the threat or use of long (or life) prison sentences.
Strongly agree 0
Strongly disagree 49.3
B. Overall, how would you evaluate the empirical support for the deterrent effects of the death penalty?
Moderate support 4.5
Weak support 44.8
No support 49.3
The above results reveal the broad consensus among America’s eminent criminologists that “the death penalty does, and can do, little to reduce rates of criminal violence and that they do not concur with one of the most important public justifications for the death penalty in modern society.” (Radelet, 14)
The following passage serves as a fitting conclusion to the thesis in opposition to capital punishment:
“Capital punishment will continue to generate much public debate in the early decades of the next century and various bodies of opinion will be consulted. The question of whether or not the death penalty can reduce criminal violence is–at least for the presidents of the major scholarly societies in criminology–a settled issue. Hopefully this will provide policy makers with information that might help move political debate beyond “gut” feelings and simplistic demands for the death penalty as a way of “getting tough” on crime. Careful consideration of alternatives can build a public consensus around more effective policies that really hold promise in reducing America’s high rates of criminal violence. Politicians should pay more attention to experts when they develop criminal justice policy as this might move it beyond simplistic debates of “getting tough on crime.”” (Radelet, 12)
Smith, Clive Stafford. “Forget the statistics, killing is wrong: supporters of the death penalty say it deters murderers. Be careful, says Clive Stafford Smith. Using bald figures to resolve moral dilemmas is fraught with danger. ” New Scientist. 187.2513 (August 20, 2005): 20(2).
Mulligan, Kenneth. “Pope John Paul II and Catholic opinion toward the death penalty and abortion *. ” Social Science Quarterly., 87.3 (Sept 2006): 739(15).
Dennis, Christopher, Marshall H. Medoff, and Michelle N. Gagnier., “The impact of racially disproportionate outcomes on public policy: the U.S. Senate and the death penalty. ” The Social Science Journal., 35.n2 (April 1998): 169(13).
Murray, Gregg R. “Raising considerations: public opinion and the fair application of the death penalty *. ” Social Science Quarterly., 84.4 (Dec 2003): 753(18).
Radelet, Michael L., and Ronald L. Akers., “Deterrence and the death penalty: the views of the experts.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology., 87.n1 (Fall 1996): 1-16.