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Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life

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In Edward I. Koch’s essay, “Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life”, readers view the opinions Koch has toward the death penalty in today’s world. Koch reviews a variety of excuses to abolish the death penalty. He argues the importance of the death penalty, as well as, argues excuses of the death penalty opponents. He argues the ethics and politics towards the importance and support of the death penalty. In the following essay readers will see an evaluation of Koch’s essay. The evaluation will: contain a brief overview of Koch’s essay, state whether or not Koch’s arguments were strong and persuasive, and state whether the essay was successful in what it was trying to say.

The essay, “Death and Justice”, contains several of Koch’s arguments toward the death penalty. He begins his arguments by analyzing the statement, “The death penalty is ‘barbaric'” (Koch, 715). That alone comes off very strong to readers and he continues to use strong words, such as horrify. He then goes on to compare the death penalty to finding a cure for cancer in order to convince readers that the death penalty is needed in order to tolerate injustice, it was very persuasive and passionate. Moving on to his second argument, Koch goes into talking about how the United States is one of few other countries that even has a death penalty. He goes into using statistics in this argument in order to try to prove his point to readers.

This argument was not as strong and passionate as the last one and it wasn’t very convincing because all it contained were studies and numbers, which can make the reader become less interested in what the author is trying to say. In Koch’s third argument he starts off by saying that, “An innocent person might lie executed by mistake”(Koch, 716). This comes off very strong and persuasive, but then Koch goes into talking about how “Human life deserves special protection, and one of the best ways to guarantee that protection is to assure that convicted murderers do not kill again”(Koch, 716), which is the total opposite of what his first sentence stated. This seems to confuse readers and make them unsure of his arguments.

The next argument that Koch has with the death penalty is that he talks about the value of human life. Koch comes off very strong in this argument because of his belief that “by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life”(Koch, 717). In Koch’s fifth argument readers it seems like it wasn’t very necessary to have in the essay because even he says that “This factor no longer seems to be the problem it once was”(Koch, 717). This right away throws readers off because why would it be in the essay if it isn’t even a problem anymore. As readers continue they come to an argument that has to do with the Bible.

The Bible is always a very convincing topic. This argument is not very convincing because Koch tries to base his argument on the fact that one of the commandments state that “Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder”, but this is easily thrown away because another of the commandments are “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Giving someone the death penalty is doing the same thing as what that person did to get there. Finally, in Koch’s last argument he states the state has rights. He comes off very strong in this argument and tries to convince readers by telling them the story of Kitty Genovese. Though some of Koch’s arguments were strong and persuasive was his essay successful?

Edward Koch, the former mayor of New York City, wrote this essay in order to convince people that the death penalty should be allowed because it gets rid of murderers and it gives murderers what they deserve. Koch was able to divide his essay into seven arguments that discuss his views on the death penalty in different aspects of life. First of all, it seemed like Koch tried to prove his points too much, he seemed to use too many statistics and people to back up his points. This made me think that if he needs this many sources to back his arguments then maybe he is just trying to intimidate people into believing that his statements are true. The fact that he was mayor of New York City was convincing enough for me and I’m sure it was for most readers.

Personally, I didn’t find the essay very convincing. One of the lines that helped me make this decision was when Koch stated that “If government functioned only when the possibility of error didn’t exist, government wouldn’t function at all”(716). This line seemed to make that whole argument be false. Koch was trying to say that if a person commits murder they deserve to die, but instead he loses readers because he compares innocent people going to the death penalty to the government making mistakes, which I must say was not a very good comparison for a former mayor. Overall, I found Koch’s essay to be unsuccessful in getting it’s point across. I think that if Koch chose his arguments more wisely then he would have had a more successful essay.

Though Edward I. Koch was a former mayor his views toward the death penalty cannot be totally supported by his essay “Death and Justice: How Capital Punishment Affirms Life”. Overall, I felt that the essay was just based on Hammurabi’s Code, which states “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. Koch should look into what his arguments are next time instead of just trying to find support for what he is trying to say.

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