Publication details for Professor Thom BrooksBrooks, Thom (2011). Retribution and Capital Punishment. In Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy. White, Mark D. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 232-245.
- Publication type: Chapter in book
- ISSN/ISBN: 9780199752232
- DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199752232.001.0001
- Keywords: retributivism, punishment, justice, capital punishment, death penalty, execution, DNA, exoneration, forensic science
- Further publication details on publisher web site
Author(s) from Durham
This chapter argues that contrary to popular wisdom (and clear pronouncements by classic retributivists such as Kant), retributivists should oppose capital punishment for murderers. He concedes that murderers may deserve to be executed, and that this can be carried out fairly and humanely. Rather, his argument focuses on epistemic problems with ascertaining guilt, which have been made more prominent and visible by recent advances in forensic science (such as DNA testing). Even after guilt was found beyond a reasonable doubt during a fair trial, and confirmed in all subsequent appeals, these scientific advances have been able to clearly demonstrate the innocence of dozens of convicted murderers on death row.
This chapter rejects several other arguments against capital punishment offered as retributivist before outlining and defending his own against actual and potential criticisms.