Thirty-five states permit by law, the taking of a person??™s life as punishment for a ruthless crime and hold that the death penalty respects the Eighth Amendment; however, much controversy exists over capital punishment around the world today. Cultural, political, religious, and social diversity in today??™s society shape views on the issue of the death penalty. While some individuals oppose capital punishment, many argue that certain crimes warrant the death penalty as a means of demanding justice for the victims and protecting the innocent. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, five percent of Americans voted undecided, 31% against, and 65% in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder. ???In addition to the majority of Americans who support the death penalty, 48 percent believe it is not imposed often enough??? (Gallup, Inc, 2008, para.2). Even though some believe capital punishment is immoral, capital punishment does not violate the Eight Amendment, and crime has dropped significantly in states that support the death penalty.
Whether one chooses to support or oppose the death penalty weighs heavily on family background, religion, political views, and social standings. Those who oppose capital punishment do so for moral or ethical reasons. Some argue that it is wrong to sentence a criminal to death as punishment for an immoral act he or she has committed. Some argue that capital punishment is also inhumane or cruel, which life should be of value no matter who the person is, and what he or she has done to deserve the punishment and capital punishment is costly for taxpayers. Those who support the death penalty do so for multiple reasons as well. Supporters may argue that the death penalty is only saving the lives of innocent people or brings justice to the families of the innocent lives taken by criminals. Some argue that it teaches a lesson to those who may attempt to commit future a crime or that those who commit a crime should not be worthy of life in prison with amenities that they do not deserve. Although views in opposition and those in favor of raise sensible arguments concerning the death penalty, it is clear the validity of arguments in favor of capital punishment far outweigh those in opposition.
The Eighth Amendment ensures ???excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted??? (Amendment VIII, para.9). Many have argued that the death penalty is a violation of the Eighth Amendment of The United States Constitution but the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty by itself does not violate the laws under the Eighth Amendment. Controversy over whether or not capital punishment is moral creates much debate among individuals. Those who oppose the death penalty argue that government should not take human life no matter what the reason is. Others argue that capital punishment devalues human life and dignity. Those who oppose the death penalty believe that government cannot do to criminals what they have done to their victims. The penalty for rape cannot be rape. The penalty for arson cannot be burning down the criminal??™s house and therefore cannot be punishable by death. Debate over whether capital punishment brings justice or is legal homicide lingers, but over the years, the United States Supreme Court continuously has revised laws to uphold the death penalty??™s constitutionality. Those who oppose the death penalty argue that the death penalty is unfair and morally unacceptable but the Supreme Court has also addressed the question of whether the death penalty is a ???cruel and unusual punishment??? many times. The Supreme Court has explicitly stated, ???The meaning of the Eight Amendment can and does evolve over time as societys norms and values change??? (ThisNation. 2006, para. 3).
On the other hand, the means of how an individual is convicted and when considering the death penalty as punishment for a crime is shaped by the Eighth Amendment. ???The Eighth Amendment analysis requires that courts consider the evolving standards of decency to determine if a particular punishment constitutes a cruel or unusual punishment??? (The Legal Information Institute. 2010, para. 2). The Supreme Court determines whether circumstances or acts violate the Eighth Amendment by establishing an examination. This examination includes asking the questions, ???Did the actions or conditions offend concepts of decency and human dignity and precepts of civilization which Americans profess to possess, Was it disproportionate to the offense, Did it violate fundamental standards of good conscience and fairness, Was the punishment unnecessarily cruel, and Did the punishment go beyond legitimate penal purposes??? (Library Index, 2010, para. 1). These evaluations also consist of the penalty must be relative to the crime, the jury must guide particular circumstances of the criminal, the court must have conducted an individualized sentencing process, and the manner of execution may not inflict unnecessary pain upon the criminal (The Legal Information Institute. 2010). Under the Eighth Amendment ruling, the ???Supreme Court has cited the Fifth Amendment which the Court believes strongly implies that the Framers did not intend to prevent the use of capital punishment. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no one shall be deprived of ???life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.??™ The clear implication is that depriving someone of his or her life is permissible under the Constitution??? (ThisNation, 2008, para 6). Over the years, the methods of execution have also change to comply with the ???cruel and unusual punishment??? law. Although lethal injection remains the most popular method of execution in most U.S. states, there were various methods of execution used from 1976 until 2010. The following chart illustrates this point.
Executions since 1976 by Method Used
Lethal Injection 1021
Gas Chamber 11
Firing Squad 2
Note. U.S Executions Since 1976. Copyright by the Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney 1998-2010)
The threat of capital punishment deters criminals from taking the lives of innocent people for many reasons for instance; people will fear death more than life in prison. Individuals make decisions based on the cost and benefits of each decision (Muhlhausen, 2007). If people know they will die, if they commit a crime, they will think twice about committing the crime. Those who oppose the death penalty argue that sentencing criminals to death is teaching children that the way to settle scores are with violence, to the point of taking one??™s life but putting murderers to death also ensures that convicted killers do not kill again. The death penalty ensures that certain crimes receive the severest punishment that laws allow. ???It is unjust when a criminal deliberately and wrongly inflicts greater losses on others than he or she has to bear??? (Andre, 2008, para.5). In states that allow the death penalty, there has been tremendous progress of deterring crime. With criminals no longer able to harm someone, the streets are slowly becoming ???a place where children can play outside without worry; parents can send their kids to school with peace of mind; people can turn to each other on any street corner, in any subway, at any hour, without casting a suspicious eye??? (Pataki, 2007, para 6). Unlike life in prison, capital punishment protects society. If the convicted escape, granted furlough, or pardoned, the criminal can endanger guards, other prisoners, or other innocent people without the death penalty to deter him or her. The death penalty sends a clear message to criminals that this nation??™s children, family, friends, and neighbors are valuable, and people will do by whatever means possible to make sure those important are safe. By tradition, murder has been the most grave of crimes, deserving the most severe punishment. ???Other crimes, such as theft, or even rape, leave the victim capable of recovering. Murder does not. It is final. So is the death penalty, which, therefore, traditionally has been thought fitting??? (Van Den Haag, 1998, para. 11).
Polls and statistics have proven that capital punishment deters crime specifically, from 1982 to 1999, 250 to 350 persons were annually sentenced to death but in the last three years, the number of death sentences has dropped dramatically (News Batch, 2009). According to Robert Tanner, with the Washington Post (2007), ???if the cost of something becomes too high, people will change their behavior??? (para.9). Every execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University (Tanner, 2007). Critics argue that there in no way to judge whether threatening the death penalty deters potential criminals from committing a crime punishable by the death penalty because the data is rough and incomplete. These critics claim that the only way to obtain solid proof is to conduct a social experiment but such experiments would be unethical. Arguments by supporters of the death penalty contend common sense is enough to prove that capital punishment is effective. People may support or oppose capital punishment for emotional reasons. For supporters it can be political or an issue of public safety. For opponents it can be a sense of justice for all. Critics make many worthy arguments against the capital punishment; but even so, the working benefits firmly outweigh its downfalls. The many studies and tests conducted to attain proof that the death penalty deters crime have shown that the numbers of convictions and death sentences over the years have shown that that violent crime in the United States has dropped significantly in states that support the death penalty. The following chart illustrates this point.
Year ???93 ???94 ???95 ???95 ???97 ???98 ???99 ???00 ???01 ???02 ???03 ???04 ???05 ???06 ???07 ???08 ???09
Sentences 295 328 326 323 281 306 284 235 167 169 154 140 138 122 119 111 106
Note. From Facts about the Death Penalty. Copyright 2009 by the Death Penalty Information Center
From 1993 to 2009 death sentences have dropped by more than 150. Those executed were for murder piracy, rape, rioting, kidnapping, spying, and espionage.
Many facts, statistics, and opinions focus on the issue of capital punishment. Opinions range from many degrees of supporting capital punishment to the many degrees of opposing it, but the facts speak for themselves. The polls and statistics confirm that capital punishment deters crime and by doing so saves innocent lives. Those who oppose the death penalty debate whether capital punishment is a deterrent because of the inability to judge the exact degree of crime prevention. Those who favor capital punishment argue that it can save lives and bring justice to the families who have lost loved at the hands of criminals. Why argue for the lives of the guilty, when the lives of the innocent can potentially be saved
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