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U.S Death Penalty

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Some argues that death penalty remains to be the most effective punishment method for murderers and other serious criminals, while others argues that it is not (Brennan, 2007). They argue that capital punishment not only stops criminals from committing crimes but it also deters those intending to commit the same. On the other hand there are those who feel that capital punishment is a cruel and harsh way of punishing criminals as it violates the 8th and the 14th constitutional amendments. They argue that if applied in an unfair or unjust manner, then it is the worst form of punishment. This is because once the victim dies, he or she never get a chance to proof his or her innocence.

According to Latzer and McCord (2010) the 1972 Supreme Court ruling on Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, the imposition of death penalty constituted to unusual punishment and violated the American constitution. This was supported by Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, 329 U.S. 459 and Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660 which ruled against capital punishment terming it as a cruel and unusual punishment method. And as Pojman and Reiman (1998) states, the punishment never attains the valid social objectives. In their book, they noted that long-term imprisonment is a sufficient punishment for serious criminals and murderers. The Supreme Court ruling of 1972 enabled United States to join other nations like Venezuela and Uruguay which their constitutions forbidden death penalty. It was argued that capital punishment continues to deny people the due process of law. The punishment is irrevocable and therefore deprives victims the opportunity to benefit from the new evidences and developments of the law. The punishment also violates the constitutional right which guarantees equal protection of citizens. It was argued that death penalty is randomly applied to some victims making it unconstitutional (Bakken, 2010).

Between 1972 and 1976 capital punishment remained unlawful and unconstitutional. Alternative punishment methods such as life imprisonment were used in order to stop crime and deter others from committing the same. Capital punishment is also considered as a resource wasting technique as it wastes the attorneys, counsel and juries’ time and resources. If a society respects life and the rule of law, then it should not undertake a deliberate killing of the same life that it protects. Execution is a violent way of dealing with violent criminals and should be avoided at all cost. The most effective way of deterring crimes is to consistently and promptly administer punishment to the subjects (Radelet, 1990).

The Furman v. Georgia case resulted to the Supreme Court decision that un-constitutionalized death penalty terming it as a cruel and unusual way of punishing the law breakers. The critics also argued that death penalty followed some discriminatory process which favored some people due to their color or race. Death penalty prohibition was also emphasized in the Woodson v. North Carolina and Roberts v. Luciana of 1976 (Megivern, 1997). This mode of punishment is considered irrational and extremely severe form of punishment. As the victims never have a second chance to prove their innocence. Abandonment of the punishment was however seen between 1972 and 1976 after which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the punishment. As it was noted in the case between Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment to those guilty of murder and other serious offences (Kommers, Finn & Jacobsohn, 2004). The ruling however did not cater for the mentally retarded criminals as the court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia case of 2002. Punishment of such people was still considered to be cruel and unusual and hence unconstitutional. This was later supported by Penry v. Lynaugh and Bigby v. Dretke cases where the Supreme Court ruled that before deciding on capital punishment, the mental health of the victim ought to be significantly considered. Mental health amounted to necessary mitigating factors which are acceptable.

Similarly, the Supreme Court also abolished capital punishment on the underage person, a case which was settled in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 in the year 2005.apart from those two exceptions, murder and treason were named as one of the capital offenses punishable through death penalty. And the effectiveness of the ruling was made in the various states including California, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington. Although the rule continues to support executions on capital offenses, various adjustments continued to be done on the same. For instance, it was decided in Kennedy v. Louisiana’s case of 2008 that death penalty for child rapists was unjustified as it did not amount to crimes against humanity or treason (Meyer & Weaver, 2006).  

Since 1976 there are so many developments on how capital punishment is been carried out. And the convicted individual was entitled to challenge the state’s execution method and judgments. The case of Baze v. Rees of 1983 approved the use of lethal injections since it did not inflict pain and suffering to the victim. This amendment was after the state followed its accustomed practices such as burning, crushing, hanging and beheading.

The statistics shows that since 1976, when capital punishment was reinstated, quite a number of inmates are already executed while others are still serving their sentence awaiting death row. Texas is the highest with 476 executions and 321 inmates pending the same. Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida are also among the top States where death penalty has been exercised more. The statistics for this being 109, 96 and 70 executions and 11, 77 and 398 inmates pending the same for the respective states. This therefore shows that the American states continue to execute inmates despite of the many controversies revolving the punishment method (Garland, 2010).        

In conclusion i oppose the death penalty, the U.S is the only western nation on the planet that uses the death penalty and does not prevent crime and therefore serves no purpose in the American criminal justice. Controversies concerning capital punishment still continue with Amnesty international and religious organization greatly opposing it on the moral grounds. It is not an effective way of deterring crime since it is barbaric in nature and puts the government on the same level with the murderers. The criminal justice system therefore should look for an alternative and effective punishment method such as life imprisonment to replace capital punishment.

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