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The Death Penalty

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Essay title: The Death Penalty

“The Death Penalty”

Capital Punishment in this country is a very controversial issue, and has been for quite some time. The history of the death penalty in America dates all the ways back to 1622, where Daniel Frank was executed in the Colony of Virginia for the crime of theft. (UAA) Many more unrecorded executions occurred until the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics began keeping track in 1930. During that time, there was an average of about 150 executions per year. That number rose until about 1938 then began to decline until 1967, when executions in the U.S. came to a halt. There was no law or court ruling that resulted in this, it was more of a self-induced moratorium on the state level. The legal and moral questions seemed to be coming into play. Then a ruling in 1972 by the U.S. Supreme Court stated that the death penalty under current statutes is “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Furman v. Georgia) That ruling was reached on a vote of five to four, clearly showing how even the U.S. Supreme Court Justices, the highest authority of the law, were torn on the issue. This ruling essentially made Capital Punishment illegal in the United States. This lasted about four years, until another case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court (Gregg v. Georgia 1976) that reinstated the death penalty. It stated that it must be administered with guided discretion, meaning it must be applied fairly and uniformly. Two additional cases brought before the Supreme Court this year (Jurek v. Texas) and ( Proffit v. Florida) upheld the original ruling, that the death penalty is Constitutional. All of these court rulings deal with only the legality and constitutionality on Capital Punishment. However, there are many more fractions to be examined to truly evaluate the effectiveness of the death penalty. The question of morality enters into the equation. Is state sanctioned Capital Punishment moral? Deterrence is also another large factor. Does the death penalty deter capital crimes? Any problems within the justice system have to be reviewed, such as defense for lower income individuals, judges discretion, and discrimination. Public opinion on the subject is a fairly important issue, as the laws in this country should reflect the public interest. The economic cost of the death penalty is of course an important factor, as it is with all government functions funded with tax payers dollars. Perhaps the most important fraction is Justice served and retribution. That is after all a primary purpose of the justice system. After reviewing this broad spectrum of fractions, capital punishment is the most effective method of justice for punishing convicted murderers.

Despite the dozens of rulings upholding the legality and constitutionality of Capital Punishment, many still argue against it on the grounds that if it is unconstitutional. The Eighth Amendment to the constitution states “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” (Bill of Rights) It does not define what is considered cruel and punishment, therefore leaving it up to the interpretation of the reader. Often people include the death penalty as one of the cruel and unusual punishments, however Capital Punishment was never meant to be considered cruel or unusual. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states “…nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” This amendment was passed at the exact same time as the Eighth Amendment. “This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the ‘cruel and unusual punishments’” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. (Scalia, 3) Justice Scalia’s explanation for why people argue against Capital Punishments legality and constitutionality is that those people are very passionate about their feelings. He says “Convictions is oppositions to the death penalty and are often passionate and deeply held. That would be no excuse for reading them into a constitution that does not contain them.” There is clearly nothing contained in the Constitution, or any Amendment to the constitution, that prohibits the death penalty. Justice Scalia concludes that “if the people conclude that such more brutal death may be referred by Capital Punishment; indeed, if they merely conclude that justice requires such brutal deaths to be avenged by Capital Punishment; the creation of false untextual and unhistorical contradictions with in ’The courts Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence’ should not prevent them.” The death penalty is clearly permitted under the laws of the United States of America.

The morality of the death penalty is probably the most controversial topic surrounding capital punishment. A favorite

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