Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dominic Bailey

Second Advisor

Chris Heathwood

Third Advisor

Janet Donavan


Experiencing ubiquitous contention, the correlation between execution as a form of legal punishment and morality pervades in the modern era to form a central concern for examination. Competing accounts of moral theories have provided dichotomous vindications for capital punishment, indicating a substantial strife in criminal justice morality. This thesis will examine these rival philosophies in order to assess the gravity of moral theories in Supreme Court decisions. In particular, both consequentialist and retributivist theories are analyzed with respect to their conceptualizations of punishment. After examining the death penalty’s legal history and the components of morality inherent in Supreme Court decisions, I assess that both consequentialist and retributive moral theories cannot account for the justification of the death penalty. Overall, an inherent association between morality and legal decisions is revealed that affirms that philosophy calls for the abolishment of capital punishment.