Monday, 12 January 2015

Capital Punishment: should it be legal in Canada?

Capital punishment, otherwise known as "the death penalty" is a hot topic for today's media with new developments coming from all across the globe because of its nature being a large moral debate. Although the death penalty was abolished in 1976 there have been talks recently about bringing it out of "retirement" for extreme crimes. Hearing of this I decided to look into capital punishment for myself and came to the conclusion that the death penalty is far too absolute for the fallible court system of north america. Here is proof:

At first glance you notice that this is set in a court room and is about the death penalty, as shown by the coffin and the book on the judge's stand. The next thing I noticed is the name "Larry Griffin" written on the coffin, I had to look him up and I assume that most of you will too so I will save you the trouble: Larry Griffin was a 19-year old African American who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1995 but was later found innocent when the case was re-opened in 2005. The cartoon is sarcastically poking fun at the situation with the words "the good news is you've got a new trial..." as (to be blatantly obvious) he is dead and it does not matter. In the background there is a book on the stand with the title "death penalty" as it is the only book on the stand it gives the message that the court is too quick to give the death penalty. The main idea of the photo is that the man was proven innocent after the case, the author used a coffin to portray him to highlight the fact that he is dead. This brings up the point that if he was given a prison sentence that the case could be overturned, however since he is dead this is irrelevant. Showing that the death penalty is too absolute for our court systems.

This next photo is a much more graphic and much more literal depiction of the "one small problem with the death penalty. The image shows a sloppy looking overweight man with an over sized axe who has been labeled "the state" trying to kill a man on a chopping block labeled the guilty, but instead ends up killing the innocent then shrugging it off as a mistake. This cartoon is very obviously saying that the death penalty is too often killing innocent people. Strangely enough there are no exact numbers to how many innocent people have been killed by capital punishment, and looking online I have found statistics anywhere from 79% of executed people being innocent to 4% being innocent. Believe whichever statistic you want but the cartoon still raises the valid point that it is not just criminals being killed by the death penalty. The other interesting theme worth noting is the colors of the characters. Usually in cartoons the darker a character is made to be, the more evil he is depicted as in the cartoon. In this cartoon the executioner is almost the exact color if not darker, and more evil than the guilty. The next thing in the cartoon is the body language of the characters. The guilty man doesn't seem to have much going on, almost seeming accepting of the whole thing. The state has his head turned over his shoulder but is made not to seem at all concerned or apologetic towards  the innocent as he is still in position to kill the guilty and not paying much attention. The innocent is the most important, the look on his face and in his body is shock, he is surprised to find out that he is the one being killed, and the cartoonist uses this to show how the innocent thought the execution was to protect them but is instead killing them. This cartoon does a great job using texts, shading, and the positions of the characters to depict that the death penalty is too absolute of a punishment for our fallible court system.

This image is possibly my favorite image with a blunt delivery and easily understandable slogan that is effective in what is was set out to do. The center of the image is of a mans neck that appears to be stitched back on and just below that is in bold letters "Death has no appeal". The image then talks about how "almost 70 states worldwide still apply the death penalty. The European Union is fighting to put an end to this practice. This simple yet powerful theme is an exaggeration meaning that "you can release an innocent man from prison, but you can't bring an innocent man back from the dead" or in this case stitch his head back on. This idea is backed up by the words "death has no appeal" and for those of you who don't know an appeal is when a convicted criminal requests a higher court of law to reverse the decision made by a lower court. This phrase is a reinforcement of the idea of not being able to raise the dead after the death penalty has been administered. This image reinforces the thesis I came up with by saying that courts sometimes convict the wrong person, and when this happens it can be solved through an appeal, but with the death penalty it is irreversible. Showing once again that the death penalty is too absolute of a punishment for our fallible court system.

This image is the most powerful one I could find, it may not make sense without the headline so here it is:

New York man wrongfully convicted of murder freed after 29 years in prison

This man is David McCallum this is a photograph of the liberating moment of which he was reunited with his wife for the first time in 29 years. This image is a prime example of how the justice system can be fallible. It will never be 100% correct and there will always be human error and bias. This photo uses the happiness and joy shown in the people to portray the fault in the death penalty. If this man was sentenced to death there would be no reunion. The main idea of this photo is that although the justice system makes mistakes, they can be corrected, but the death penalty cannot be overturned through appeal or withdrawn like the life sentence Mr. McCallum received. Thus proving that the death penalty is too absolute of a punishment for our fallible court system.

All of these images share the common theme that sometimes the wrong people get convicted, and they point out the flaws in the court system. Three of these images show that the innocent man often gets killed and blatantly point out through coffins and stitches that these people are gone and cannot be brought back, however one image goes about this in a different way by showing the happiness and joy that comes when a man is finally given what he deserves and is able to resume his life once again. The fourth story is the story that could have happened in the case of Larry griffin and many others who "couldn't appeal from death". Finally proving that the death sentence is too absolute of a punishment for our fallible court system and should never be brought back into Canada.


"Political Cartoon." Political Cartoon. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.
Yaniv, Oren. "Innocent Brooklyn Man Finally Free after 29 Years." NY Daily News. New York Daily News, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
"EU Marks European and World Day Against the Death Penalty – 10 October 2011." EU@UN -. European Union, 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
Death Penalty - ESL Resources - Humour - Lesson Plans - Webquests - Interactive Quizzes - Glossary." Death Penalty - ESL Resources - Humour - Lesson Plans - Webquests - Interactive Quizzes - Glossary. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.


  1. This is a powerful post, and you touch on the reasons why capital punishment should not be a legitimate form of punishment in "civilized" society. I think one of the strongest reasons against such barbarity is the fact that justice systems are fallible...we never know for 100% certainty that someone is guilty of the crime. In fact, even a person confessing to a crime isn't 100% proof that they did in fact commit said crime, due to sketchy interrogation techniques.

  2. I agree with your point of view on the topic of the death penalty, but I can see the other as well. In Canada, we don't apply the Death Penalty, but can sometimes label someone as a dangerous offender depending on their charge. Do you believe that making someone live out the rest of their years alone in a jail cell is humane?

    1. Last spring in Oklahoma during a man's execution the executioners missed the man's vain and the poison was injected into his tissue instead and "as [the man] writhed and grimaced, the executioners closed the curtains... and he eventually died of a heart attack"(Crair paragraph 4). the article goes on to tell about 5 more cases like this. Keep in mind that lethal injection is the "most humane execution". If this is the alternative to making someone live out the rest of their lives in prison then yes, I believe prison is humane.

    2. here is the link to the article