In my opinion, one of the most controversial topics in the Supreme Court is the idea of capital punishment. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom from cruel and unusual punishment but the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in today’s society. Thirty-eight states and the federal government authorize capital punishment and the number of people on death row has risen to more than 3,500 (Clear and Cole). Of the yearly 22,000 arrests, each year for murder only about 300 will receive the death penalty (Clear and Cole). There are several different views on the death penalty that some people accept or reject based on their political or moral views. In the 1930s, there were about 150 executions per year but then it was on a steady decline until the case of Furman v. Georgia in 1972.
This case ruled that the death penalty was constituted as cruel and unusual punishment. So the death penalty was banned until 1976 in the case of Gregg v. Georgia in which the court decided to have two different trials: 1-to prove if the defendant was guilty or innocent, 2- to decide what the punishment should be. This second trial takes into concern the criminal’s prior record, youthfulness, mental issues, or the lack of a criminal record. “The purpose of the two-stage decision-making process is to ensure thorough deliberation before someone is given the ultimate punishment (Clear and Cole).” So after this case, the number of executions have increased but since this case, the most amount of executions was 74 in 1997(ACLU). Today 38 states use the death penalty in several different ways: lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, or a firing squad.
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There are many people that oppose the death penalty and even states like Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and District of Columbia (Cleveland State Law Review 5). People say state their rejection of the death penalty by saying “ We simply do not believe that premeditated, state-sanctioned killing is justifiable under any circumstances. The death penalty brutalizes us. It is an indication of how little our government values human life (Christian Science Monitor).” Opponents of the death penalty argue that it is not applied consistently, it discriminates against minorities and the poor, and the people who were executed could have been innocent. In 1999, eight people were freed and declared innocent of the crime that they committed (Christian Science Monitor). Another fact was in 1997, when Pedro Medina’s head caught on fire when he was being electrocuted in Florida and also in Florida, in 1999, when Allen Davis started to bleed from his nose and when the machine was off he was still breathing.
This just shows the cruel punishment and unconsistentence it renders. It is also unfair to minorities especially the black population. Blacks make up for 12% of the U.S. population but account for 35% of those who are on death row. And for the poor who cannot even afford a lawyer and so they get appointed a very inexperienced lawyer. Like in the case of Strickland v. Washington in 1984, when David Washington’s attorney did not call any witnesses, did not seek a presentence report, or did not cross-examine medical experts. But Washington has rejected this claim. It is not proven that states with the death penalty help decrease their homicide rate: New York had no death penalty law until recently but had a high rate of homicide. Similarly, although California has a death penalty law, it also has a high homicide rate. Likewise, Maine has no death penalty law and has a low homicide rate while New Hampshire has the death penalty and also has a low homicide rate (Cleveland Law Review 13).
Another factor in banning the death penalty is the cost that the death penalty brings with it. California could save them 90 million if the death penalty would be abolished and it will cost New York 118 million each year since they reinstated the death penalty (Clear and Cole). But for the proponents of the death penalty, which is about 70-75% of the United States population, are in favor of keeping the death penalty (Clear and Cole). The death penalty can be used as retribution or as a deterrent. The death penalty serves as retribution to the victim’s families. Anyone that takes the life of someone else should have theirs took (known as an eye for an eye). The death penalty prevents murders from doing further harm to anyone else. Even stated in the Jewish Torah: If a man strikes another man with an iron instrument and causes his death, he is a murderer and shall be put to death. If a man strikes another with a death-dealing stone in his hand and causes his death, he is a murderer and shall be put to death.
If a man strikes another with a death-dealing club in his hand and causes his death, he is a murderer and shall be put to death (Cleveland Law Review 8). Also in the Islamic Koran uses the phrase an eye for an eye. In my opinion, the death penalty definitely is a deterrent because if someone knew they would be put to death for committing murder then they might have second thoughts. The opponents say most crimes are in the heat of passion or under the influence of drugs or alcohol but by executing murders society is putting a high value placed on life. It is also cheaper to give someone the death penalty than keep them in prison for life. Those are the main reasons for keeping the death penalty. In my opinion, I fully support the death penalty for several different reasons. I believe that if you kill someone your life should be also taken for the retribution factor. I feel that if you take someone else’s why should you go on living your life.
I do take in the opponent’s factors like attorneys and cruel punishment. But if you are guilty then you should die and if you are poor and can’t afford a big-time lawyer, I do feel for them but they should have thought before they killed someone. The two men that were executed in Florida that caught on fire and started bleeding were just a little nitch in the execution. But I feel that the people being executed should feel a little bit of pain because they caused the victim’s families a lot of pain and nothing they do can bring their family members back. If about 75% of the United States population favor the death penalty, then it should not be controversial because ¾ of the population wants it. I just feel really strongly that the pros for the death penalty outweigh the cons by an over walloping amount.