Essay, Research Paper: Capital Punishment

Legal Issues

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What is capital punishment? Capital punishment is the maximum penalty of a
conviction. More than 4, 400 people have been executed since 1930. There is no
way of knowing how many people have been executed in U.S. history because they
used to be local affairs with nobody to record them. On the edge of the 21st
century, Capital punishment is still one of the two most debated issues in the
U.S., the other is abortion. This paper will attempt to show the effects of
capital punishment and how it is used. Capital punishment has been a very
attention grabbing incident over the years. For example, in 1936, about 20,000
people gathered in Owensboro, Kentucky, on the morning of August 14 to see the
hanging of a 22 year old black man, Rainey Bethea. Many people have also died
wrongfully. Sacco and Vangetti were two Italian immigrants that were accused of
payroll robbery. Although they had alibis of there whereabouts, they were still
convicted of the crime and sentenced to death by the electric chair. Nearly
every culture throughout history has practiced capital punishment. Quartering
was a popular method in Europe. Quartering is being torn apart by horses. In
India, executions were sometimes carried out by having an elephant crush the
condemned’s head. In modern times, societies have sought to make executions
more “humane.” Such was the goal of the guillotine, which severed the
condemned’s head with a heavy blade, and the electric chair which kills with a
massive dose of electrical current. The Constitution of the United States
guarantees to every citizen certain fundamental rights. The First Amendment, for
example guarantees freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
The Second Amendment promises that “the right of the people to keep and bear
arms shall not be infringed.” The amendment most relevant to the issue of the
death penalty is the Eighth Amendment. It reads: “Excessive bail shall not be
required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment
inflicted.” However simple and straightforward these words may sound, its not
always clear what they mean. That is because the words cruel and unusual are
subjective. One person may think, for instance, that capital punishment is cruel
and unusual, while another person may not. In 1972, the Supreme Court declared
the death penalty cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional. It was soon
reactivated in 1976 by 35 states. People have tried to influence decisions on
the death penalty. For example, the Pope has played a role in the decision of
the death penalty. The Pope pleaded for a criminal’s life and the criminal was
sentenced to life in jail instead of the electric chair. Many people that are
innocent have been sentenced to death. Harry Blackman, a death penalty opponent,
stated “Innocent persons have been executed and will continue to be
executed,” explaining why he could no longer support the death penalty.
Isidore Zimmerman, came within 2 hours of execution for a murder he did not
commit. Citing instances like this, death penalty opponents claim that the
danger of a terrible and irrevocable mistake capital punishment intolerable.
Cost often comes up when the death penalty is mentioned. Those in favor of the
death penalty say the government shouldn’t waste its money on guarding,
feeding, and housing a depraved criminal for the rest of his or her life. The
truth is, however, that it costs much more to put a prisoner to death than to
keep a prisoner in jail. It cost about 2 million to 3 million dollars to
sentence someone to death and keep them on death row for 8 years. The same it
costs to keep 3 prisoners in a maximum security prison for 40 years. Opponents
use this as a contradiction. Race is a big issue in death sentencing although
not admitted. There is still a lot of hard decision making when it comes to
ethnic’s being punished. A comprehensive examination of capital murder cases
in Georgia, a black convicted of murdering a white has a 22 percent chance of
being sentenced to die, whereas a white convicted of murdering a black has only
a 3 percent chance. This has been a big thing in the civil issues in America.
When the death penalty is actually brought out to the society, basically
everything has an a effect on it. Religion, race, cost, and morals, but it is
still used in America today. Many democratic countries have outlawed the death
penalty and the U. S. probably should too. The Pope of the Catholic Church once
said, “Only God has the Power to give and take life from someone.” This
being true to most people, but the government and the American society have to
decide whether or not to keep capital punishment.
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