: English for Law Students. 2 year. Part 2 - ( ..)


: 1775

Unit 7 capital punishment


A1. Do you agree with these statements?

As long as you have capital punishment there is no guarantee that innocent

people won't be put to death.

Paul Simon I dont think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I dont think thats right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other peoples lives.

George W. Bush, presidential debate, Oct. 17, 2000


B1. Scan the text and discuss the issue.

Capital punishment

In legal terms, putting a convicted, or guilty, criminal to death is

known as capital punishment. Throughout history, many nations have sanctioned the use of capital punishment. It was once given out for a large number of crimes. In 18th century England, for example, death was the punishment for hundreds of crimes. However, it was during the same period that several people argued the case for reform. There also arose several humanitarian movements for the same cause. The number and type of crimes for which criminals were put to death began to be limited.

By the early 21st century 75 countries had abolished the death sentence, imposing life sentences instead. The death penalty is imposed in 38 states in the United States and in 23 other countries around the world. China carries out by far the greatest number of executions: Amnesty International has confirmed at least 470 during 2007, but the true figure has been estimated at up to 6,000. Outside China, at least 800 people were put to death in 23 countries during 2007, with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq and the USA the main contributors. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen executed people for crimes committed when they were juveniles, in contravention of international law.

Several countries around the world execute offenders for drugrelated crimes. Human rights activists have heavily criticized this. Many consider executions for drug offenses a gross violation of Human Rights. Several countries retain the death penalty for murder, but not for drugs offences. Methods of execution include electrocution, the firing squad or

other sorts of shooting, stoning in Islamic countries, the gas chamber, hanging, and lethal injection.

Capital punishment is often the subject of controversy. Opponents of the death penalty argue that errors of justice sometimes lead to the killing of innocent people, that life imprisonment is an effective and less expensive substitute. They say that it discriminates against minorities and the poor, who cannot afford lawyers or appeals.

People who support capital punishment say that the fear of this severe punishment discourages persons from committing crime. Supporters believe that the penalty is justified for murderers by the principle of retribution, that life imprisonment is not an equally effective deterrent, and that the death penalty affirms the right to life by punishing those who violate it. Life imprisonment also puts the prison staff and fellow prisoners at the risk of living with dangerous criminals. This risk later extends to the public, as such people may escape or be allowed to leave.


C1. In pairs discuss the questions below. While discussing, work out a list of arguments FOR and AGAINST the capital punishment. Compare your arguments with those of your group mates.

STUDENT As QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student B)

1. What is the difference between capital punishment and corporal punishment?

2. Do you agree with capital punishment?

3. What is the history of capital punishment in your country?

4. What does the government do about people wrongly executed?

5. Is the death penalty a deterrent to violent crime?

6. What different methods are there of applying the death penalty?

7. What do you think of the argument an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?

8. Do you think victims families get a sense of closure knowing a killer has been executed?

9. Should the death penalty be applied to mentally disabled people?

10. What do you think the executioner feels?

STUDENT Bs QUESTIONS (Do not show to Student A)

1. Do you think capital punishment is murder?

2. Which is worse, life imprisonment or the death penalty?

3. Why do many Christian countries have the death penalty when the

Bible says, Thou shalt not kill?

4. What do you think is the most humane way to put someone to death?

5. Do you think the victims family should be able to choose the

method of execution?

6. If execution is unacceptable, what is the alternative?

7. Why does the capital mean in capital punishment?

8. Should the general public be allowed to look at executions?

9. In Britain you can receive the death penalty for killing the Queen but not your neighbor. What do you think about it?

10. Do you think the death penalty can be applied to thieves?

C2. Read these texts in group and discuss the questions below each one.

The Timothy McVeigh Case

More than 1000 survivors of the Oklahoma City Bombing in the United

States were asked if they wanted to witness the execution of Timothy McVeigh by lethal injection at Terre Haute Federal Prison, Indiana. The death chamber at the prison has onle eight seats for witnesses, but over 200 of his victims and their families watched his execution by live video link.

Do you feel it is right that the survivors of a terrorist act should be invited to watch the convicted terrorist being executed?

Do you think an execution like this should be televised then anyone who wanted to watch it would have the opportunity?

The Saudi Situation

Amnesty International said it knew of more than 1,100 people executed in

Saudi Arabia in the past 20 years, with the current average standing at two public beheadings every week. A sword is used and as many as three blows may be required to cut the head off.

Do you think some methods of execution are more acceptable than others? If so, which?

Blood money

Some countries give relatives of the victim a choice of what should happen to the murderer: they can agree to the murderer being executed, or they can ask

for blood money from the murderer as compensation for the loss of their loved one, and the murderer goes to prison. For example, in Japanese culture

it is common to give Blood money or mimaikin to a victim's family. Such was the case with Lucie Blackman's father who accepted 450,000 pounds as Blood money for the murder of his daughter.

What do you think about this?


D1. WORD FORMATION. Use the words in brackets to form a word that fits in the space.


The chief goal of criminal punishment in China is reform. Secondary goals

are specific 1 crime) and general 2

(deter), i.e. deterring the offender from repeating his

(deter) i.e. deterring other would-be criminals.

The thoughts of citizens are not their own affair; the government has the right and the duty to see to it that all members of society become new men. The

3 (commit) of a criminal act is, in a sense, evidence that the offender is

in particular need of reform and hence 4

(justification) the use of

particularly coercive measures. The notion that an offender incurs a debt to

society that can be paid merely by 5

(service) a prison term is alien to

Chinese 6

(penal). The state is keenly 7_

(interest) in changes in the

offender's thinking during 8

(prison). Thus, reform through labor and

political study generally accompanies punishment for criminal offenses.

The 9

(prime) of reform over deterrence is intimately connected with

Chinese theories on the causes of crime. Chinese criminology holds that

crime can be 10 education, and the 11

(reduction) and eventually eliminated through reform, (perfect) of socialist society. Criminal punishment

is seen as merely a 12

_(supplement) means to this end. According to

this view, when the thought of all members of a society has been reformed, there will be no more crime.

D2. Complete the text below with the words that best fit the space.

Harold Spears returned home a free man yesterday. He was lucky to be alive.

He had been (1)

of murder in 1998 and sentenced to be (2) by

lethal injection. Before the sentence could be carried out, the US state he

lived in passed a new law (3)

was therefore reduced to life (5)

the death penalty. Mr Spears (4)

. Two months later new evidence


and Mr Spears was found to be innocent! He was freed on appeal

and will receive $250,000 in (6) .

D3. Match the words to their definitions:

prison, impeach, jail, jail sentence/term, penitentiary, prison sentence, accusation, be inside/do time, cell, indict


a statement saying that someone has done something bad


to be in prison for a period of time as a punishment for a crime


a small room in a prison or police station, where someone is kept as a



to officially accuse an important public official or politician of a crime

when they are in a position of authority


to officially accuse someone of a crime, so that they will be judged in a

court of law


a prison, or similar smaller building where prisoners who are waiting

for a trial are kept


how long someone has to spend in jail


a large prison for people who are guilty of serious crimes


a large building where people are kept as a punishment for a crime


how long someone has to spend in prison


E1. Write an essay on capital punishment providing your view on the issue. Support your opinion with the arguments for/against the death penalty. Choose one of the following headings:

 There is no room for capital punishment in a civilized society

 In defence of capital punishment

 Is capital punishment just?

 Capital punishment: right or wrong?

 A look into capital punishment

 The death penalty as a form of justice

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