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Retribution and Capital Punishment

Brooks, Thom



Mark D. White


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.


Brooks, T. (2011). Retribution and Capital Punishment. In M. D. White (Ed.), Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy (232-245). Oxford University Press.

Publication Date 2011-05
Deposit Date Nov 16, 2012
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages 232-245
Book Title Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy
Chapter Number 12
Keywords retributivism, punishment, justice, capital punishment, death penalty, execution, DNA, exoneration, forensic science
Publisher URL

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