Essay, Research Paper: Capital Punishment

Legal Issues

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From the beginning of time, crime has been evident in human existence, and from
the first crime there has always been a punishment. “And it came to pass, when
they were in a field, that Cain rose up against his brother, Able, and slew
him” (Genesis 4:8). This for many people was seen as the first crime. This
crime did not go unpunished. Cain was then ostracized from his colony and sent
to wonder as a vagabond and a fugitive for his crime (Genesis 4:14). He was also
branded with the mark of a murderer. Therefore, the presence of crime in human
life is inevitable. Defined in Webster’s Dictionary, crime is, an act of
violation against society and its laws. Punishment is the consequence of the
crime. Crimes like fraud, burglary, assault, etc., are usually punished by
prison terms. Murder, manslaughter, and homicide maybe punished by prison terms
or death. Ways to be executed Electrocution-the three legged oak chair was
constructed in 1923 by inmates and is still used today. (ironic isn’t it?) The
electrocution cycle is two minutes or shorter in duration. Voltage and amperage
levels peak on three occasions. Maximum current is 2000 volts and 14 amps. The
executioner is an anonymous, private citizen who is paid $150 per execution. The
position of executioner was advertised in several Florida newspapers in 1978.
Lethal Injection-execution by lethal injection involves the continuous
intravenous injection of a lethal quantity of a short-acting barbiturate in
combination with a chemical paralytic agent. A number of doctors have pointed
out that drugs may not work effectively on diabetics or former drug users, whose
veins may be hard to reach. In some cases minor surgery may be required to cut
in to a deeper vein, according to medical testimony. More states use this form
of execution than all US states. Gas Chamber-prisoner is restrained in a
hermetically sealed steel chamber below which is a pan. Upon a signal, the
executioner opens a valve, flowing hydrochloric acid into the pan. On a second
signal, about 8 ounces of potassium cyanide crystals or tablets are dropped
mechanically into the acid, producing hydrocyanic gas, which destroys the
ability of blood hemoglobin to perform. Unconsciousness occurs within a few
seconds if the prisoner takes a deep breath, and longer if he or she holds their
breath. After pronouncement of death, the chamber is evacuated through carbon
and neutralizing filters. Gas-masked crews decontaminate the body with a bleach
solution and outgassed prior to release. An unwary undertaker could be killed if
this is not done. States using this method: Arizona, California, Maryland,
Mississippi and North Carolina. Hanging-prisoner is weighing prior to execution.
The “drop” is based on the prisoner's weight, to deliver 1260 foot-pounds of
force to the neck. Essentially, the prisoner's weight in pounds is divided into
1260 to arrive at a drop in feet. This is to assure almost instant death, a
minimum of bruising, and neither strangulation nor beheading. Properly done,
death is by dislocation of the third or fourth cervical vertebrae. The familiar
noose coil is placed behind the prisoner’s left ear, so as to snap the neck
upon dropping. States using this method: Delaware, Montana and Washington.
Firing Squad-there is reportedly no protocol for the procedure which according
to information involves a five man team, one of who will use a blank bullet so
that none of them knows who was the real executioner. Since the reinstatement of
the death penalty two prisoners have been executed by this method. Gary Gilmore
in 1977 and John Taylor in 1996. There are only two states who use this method.
They include Utah and Idaho. Who’s in Federal Prison? statistics found in 1991
5% of prisoners were women 65% of prisoners belonged to racial or ethnic
minorities 68% of prisoners were under age 35 96% of prison inmates were US
citizens 59% of prison inmates has high school diplomas or its equivalent less
than half of the inmates were sentenced for a violent crime (assault, murder,
rape), a fourth were sentenced for a property crime (burglary, vandalism), about
a fifth were sentenced for a drug crime (self explanatory) Who’s in State
Prison? statistics found in 1996 10% of prisoners were women (statistics show
that prisoners were sexually or physically abused before admission) 63% of
prisoners belonged to racial or ethnic minorities 24% of prisoners were between
the ages of 35 and 44 (therefore 54% of inmates were under the age of 35) about
8% of inmates were not US citizens 54% of inmates have a high school diploma or
its equivalent a fourth were held for violent crime, a fourth for property
crime, and a fifth were held for drug crime a quarter of jail inmates report
having been treated at some time for an emotional or mental problem Comparison
of Federal to State prisons (1991) women (8% vs. 5%) Hispanic (28% vs. 17%) age
45 or older (22% vs. 10%) with some college education (28% vs. 12%) noncitizens
(18% vs. 4%) employed prior to their arrest (74% vs. 67%) serving for a drug
offense (58% vs. 21%) serving for a violent offense (17% vs. 47%) Likelihood of
going to a State or Federal prison 1 out of every 20 persons will serve time in
a prison during their lifetime men have a higher likelihood of going to prison
than women (9% to 1.1%) blacks have a likelihood of 16.2%, Hispanics 9.4%, and
whites 2.5% based on current rates of incarceration, an estimated 28% of black
males will enter prison during their lifetime, compared 16% of Hispanic males,
and 4.4% of white males Length of felony sentences imposed by State courts most
serious conviction offense total prison jail probation all offenses 49 months 71
months 6 months 40 months violent offenses 93 months 118 months 6 months 45
months property offenses 39 months 57 months 6 months 42 months drug offenses 40
months 61 months 6 months 38 months weapons offenses 31 months 47 months 5
months 32 months other offenses 26 months 41 months 5 months 36 months excludes
life and death sentences Life in Prison Death row inmates eat in their cells at
5a.m., 10:30a.m., and 4p.m.-4:30p.m. Runners, which are inmates in
administrative confinement, distribute meals to cells. They exercise four hours
per week, which is twice a week for two hours each. The yard has basketball,
volleyball and weights. The inmates are counted at least once an hour to make
sure that no one is missing. Visitors are allowed every weekend from 9a.m. to
3p.m. All visitors must be approved by the prison before being placed on the
inmate’s visitor list. Callers who travel over 200 miles, can visit both
Saturday and Sunday. The media can request death row inmate interviews through
the Office of Information Services. Inmates get a shower every other day. When
it comes to security, inmates are kept under astringent watch. They wear
handcuffs everywhere except in their cells, the exercise yard, and the shower.
They are in their cells at all times except for medical reasons or legal or
media interviews, or social visits. A warrant must be signed before the prisoner
is allowed a legal or social call. They may receive mail and magazines everyday
except holidays and weekends. Cigarettes and snacks, radios and black and white
televisions are allowed. Cable is not allowed, however, they can tune into
church services on closed circuit television. They have an Inmate Welfare Trust
Fund which provides the televisions. In order to identify death row inmates from
other prisoners, they are distinguished by their orange T-shirts. Since the
reinstatement of execution in 1977, there has been a total of 432 executions.
Texas leads the way by far with the most executed-143. There are currently 38
out of 50 states which allow the death penalty in law. Law now states that no
one under the age of 18 can be executed. Only 1% of those on death row are
women. Also note that executions took place predominately in the South. In
Florida: there are 371 inmates on Florida’s death row. of the 365 men on death
row there are 130 Black, 217 white, 18 other. there are six women on death row.
4 are white, 1 is Black and 1 is other. Judy Goodyear Buenoano has had her death
warrant signed and is currently scheduled for execution March 30, 1998, at
7:00a.m. 10.48 yrs. is the average length of stay on death row prior to
execution. 29.8 yrs. is the average age at the time of offense. 38.2 yrs. is the
average age of inmates in death row. 41.69 yrs. is the average age of execution.
Executions each year since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 1979 1
1986 3 1991 2 1996 2 1982-80 0 1987 1 1992 2 1997 1 1983 1 1988 2 1993 3 1998 2
1984 8 1989 2 1994 1 1985 3 1990 4 1995 3 Total 41 Currently, there are no
juveniles on death row. Inmates younger than 16 at the time of their offense
were pronounced as adults in court proceedings. The two eldest death row inmates
are 78 and 81 yrs. of age. The two youngest males are 20 yrs. of age. The
youngest female on death row is 31. The eldest inmate executed was 72 yrs. of
age. The youngest executed died before International Human Rights prohibited
that anyone under 18 to be executed. They were both 16 yrs. of age. The reason
the death penalty was abolished in the US, was because arguments about the
absolute need for the death penalty, and the cruelty involved in executions. It
was reinstated in 1976, although executions did not take place until 1977. A
rise in gruesome crimes summoned for capital punishment to be reaffirmed.
Debates still continue concerning the merits of capital punishment. The
defendants stress the points that death is the fitting punishment for murder,
and that executions maximize public safety through deterrence and fear.
Opponents argue that there is no evidence that the murder rate fluctuates
according to the frequency with which the death penalty is used. They also
object to the law of retaliation, or “a life for a life”. They consider this
not to be a sound principle of criminal justice. Also, the big question of
whether Blacks who murder whites are more likely to get the death penalty
because of racial bias and socioeconomic bias. The issue of crime will always be
evident in society; therefore, punishment and consequences will always be an
issue. The focus of the US is to ‘make the punishment fit the crime’. This
is no easy task. As more social and economic change results, one can only hope
that tactics and thinking will make the justice system more efficient and
accredited.
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