Rhetorical Analysis – Capital Punishment: A Society’s Self Defense | Executive Protection Bodyguard Course

by Brian K. Allen

     One of the most interesting topics spanning the last few decades has been the topic of capital punishment. There are many articles and papers written on the topic, however one of the most interesting pieces is only 4 pages long.  “Capital Punishment: Society’s Self Defense by Amber Young” is written in a manner that the overwhelming majority of society will be interested in.  The author’s purpose is to provide support for society’s use of Capital Punishment.  She does this by presenting rhetorical arguments from a logical (logos) & emotional (pathos) standpoint and does so in a credible (ethos) manner.

The first strategy the author uses is ‘logos’ – which appeals to a reader’s logic. At the very beginning of the paper, the author writes about Georgeann Hawkins.  Georgeann was viciously murdered by the infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy.  She then writes about the numerous other murders carried out in at least five different states. Bundy’s murders are addressed during two periods – those before his first being captured and those after his second escape from a Colorado jail. The murders following his second escape provide enough evidence to support the author’s support of capital punishment. The author writes, “The criminal justice system and jails in Utah and Colorado did not keep Margaret Bowman, Lisa Levy, Karen Chandler, Kathy Kleiner, Cheryl Thomas, Leslie Ann Parmenter, or little Kimberly Leach safe from Ted Bundy. The State of Florida, however, with its death penalty, has made every other young woman safe from Ted Bundy forever. ”

The author points out that there is a good amount of opposition to capital punishment by people who support an ‘absolute value-of-life’ philosophy.  She points out how they call for the abolition of capital punishment due to the fact that an innocent person may be killed.  She then shows that their position is a hypocritical one because they’re not calling for the abolition of motor vehicles, even though many more people die from car accidents every year. The author reminds the reader that even if the criminal is sentenced to life in prison without parole, they still may escape – just as Bundy did. She acknowledges both sides of the issue and explains that “most controversies are, in fact, balancing acts, and capital punishment is no exception.”

The second strategy the author uses is ‘pathos’ – which appeals to the readers emotions.  The author writes, “Capital punishment is society’s means of self-defense. Just as a person is justified in using deadly force in defending herself or himself against a would-be  killer, so society has a right to use deadly force to defend itself and its citizens from those who exhibit a strong propensity to kill whenever the opportunity and the urge arise.” When acknowledging Hendrick Hertzberg’s argument, the author disagrees with how he paints a picture of how modern execution methods such as lethal injection are cruel & unusual.  She reminds the reader that, “A needle prick in the arm hardly conjures up images of excruciating pain so great as to be cruel and unusual. Thousands of good people with cancer and other diseases or injuries endure much greater pain every day until death.” The author writes about two of the murder victims that were killed after Bundy’s escape.  One was a Junior High student and the other a 12 year old girl.  These cases are especially frightening to parents of young children.  One of the strongest elements of the paper is when the author reminds the reader that the United States Constitution has the overriding concern of safety & self-defense for the citizens. She writes, “The chance of a future court ruling, a release or parole, a pardon, a commutation of sentence, or an escape—any of which could turn the murderer loose to prey again on society – creates a risk that society should not have to bear.”

The third strategy the author uses is ‘ethos’ – which demonstrates her own credibility as a writer. As the reader works through the paper, they’ll notice that the author has a very professional tone.  Her tone is serious but not aggressive. She acknowledges both sides of the issue and cites her sources.  She states her argument in a very clear manner that is focused on keeping the safety of good people a priority over any convicted murderer. Using the Constitution and our government’s responsibility to ensure the murderers are permanently removed from society really strengthens her position.

As a persuasive essay, the authors’ paper does an excellent job of making a case to a very wide variety of people.  This is important because the general public votes on law and policies at the local level.  They also sit on juries and make decisions that determine the safety of victims.  One of the author’s great reminders is this, “There is no perfect solution; rather, the best answer lies on the side with the greatest advantages. It comes down to choosing, and choosing has a price. DeathPenaltyInfo.org lists 10 people were executed that were possibly innocent.  143 people were exonerated of the crimes that had them placed on death row since 1976. Tragic yes, but these numbers don’t come even close to the nearly 50,000 people killed every year in car accidents. So it stands, capital punishment carries with it the slight risk that an innocent person will be executed; however, it is more important to protect innocent, would – be victims of already convicted murderers.”   In conclusion, Capital Punishment: Society’s Self Defense does an excellent job of persuading the majority of readers to support capital punishment.  By presenting rhetorical arguments from a logical (logos) & emotional (pathos) standpoint and doing so in a credible (ethos) manner, the paper reinforces the beliefs of long time supporters as well as changing the minds of many people who were previously ‘sitting on the fence’ about this issues.

Works Cited

Amber Young. “Capital Punishment: Society’s Self Defense” Date Unlisted. Print.

“Innocence and Death Penalty” DeathPeanaltyInfo.org 06 Nov 2013 Web 17 Nov 2013


Rhetorical Analysis – Capital Punishment: A Society’s Self Defense | Executive Protection Bodyguard Course — 1 Comment

  1. Your analysis seems to be well thought out and an intelligent/educated interpretation. With today’s forensics and DNA evidence, the majority of cases (baring celebrity, media and wealth intervention) are based on scientific evidence. Circumstantial evidence is rarely the case for the death penalty today, or am I mistaken? I feel her use of the Bundy case, may have been a poor representation for current and future cases (I don’t know the year of her article). He was obviously and arrogantly guilty. Mockingly so.

    The stance for all society is where each individual may reside in personal experience. The perspective of each of us stands where our life’s circumstances influence and may change with age, maturity, religion, education, awareness, party affiliation, personal upbringing, personal experience with violence and so on…. A person who is an outsider, looking in, may have an opinion, yet, it may change if they are an unfortunate victim or close relation to someone killed, maimed or violently murdered. A person who believes all life is of value, will most likely kill in self-defense, defense by oath, or to defend the life of another.

    Let us not forget, we are of the animal kingdom. I wonder, is Amber outraged when the Killer Whale at Sea World kills a trainer (or three) and is put to death? If the Pit Bull Terrier who has been bread and trained to kill, escapes and kills a child, is put to death? Do we look at nurture and nature or do we only look at current behavior? Who is to blame in those circumstances? Can we also hold those accountable for making the “monster”? What about those who saw the signs, yet, said nothing? Are they accomplices? What shall their punishment be? Should there be punishment?

    What of study of the psychopath? Bundy and his arrogance would have, given the right motivation, shared his criminal genius with authorities to save society from escapees, uncaught serial killers, social manipulators and all he had intimate knowledge of. Was his death actually a loss to our psychological and criminal systems? Could keeping him alive, yet, guarded in the most sterile of manners, helped save hundreds of lives from future killers? Perhaps, in his narcissistic and sociopathic mind, handled properly, giving his ego what it craved, acknowledgement and power, knowing he controlled all would be killers of society,I think his grant of life by society, may have given value to those he killed, in a very convoluted way.Those who are, without a doubt guilty and of no use to study, they are not worth the enormous expense to keep alive. It’s a thought to ponder.

    I, personally, have had a close family member murdered, yet, we never had the advantage of having the option to address their punishment. I would love to know who violently killed him and be left alone in a room with him/them. As I sit now, I will never know if I would want them dead instantly, if I would want to or try to kill them myself with my own hands, or if I thought my loved ones death could save lives, by using his killer to gain knowledge of killers. Everything is situational. I will never be able to say whether I am for or against, unless I am unfortunate to be intimate with the circumstances.

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