Furthermore, while the Supreme Court has recently been proactive about protecting groups that have historically been especially vulnerable to the death penalty, such as the mentally retarded and the mentally ill, there is no reason to believe that the Court has any interest in outlawing the death penalty. Even the 1970s moratorium on the death penalty spoke to how it was implemented and never questioned the basic constitutional soundness of capital punishment. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that, absent a constitutional amendment banning the death penalty, the Court will ever completely outlaw the death penalty.
The arguments in opposition to the death penalty touch on a variety of moral issues. First, capital punishment costs much more than life imprisonment, and the necessary appeals clog the court system. This means that fewer financial resources are available for other areas of need, and it also reduces the right of others to access the courts; allocation of resources is a significant moral issue. Second, capital punishment does not deter murders; if a punishment does not deter crime some would argue that it is inappropriate to use that punishment if other punishments can serve the same purpose. In fact, the U.S. is the only western nation to still use capital punishment and it has the highest murder rate among those nations. Capital punishment seems to condone murder, which some people believe is an essentially immoral stance. Capital punishment also creates some public sympathy for murderers, which may increase pain for victim families. In addition, it is not only the prisoner who suffers from capital punishment; his friends and family, who have been convicted of no crime, also suffer from the punishment. (Messerli, 2009).
The arguments in favor of the death penalty also discuss a number of moral issues. First, the death penalty gives closure to victim's families in a way that cannot be accomplished by a lesser sentence. The death penalty fulfills Old Testament promises of justice. The death penalty can serve as a deterrent for specific groups of prisoners; those already serving life sentences...
Furthermore, while death penalty advocates acknowledge the possibility of erroneous convictions, they also point out that modern science makes it possible to definitively convict someone, which eliminates the risk of erroneous convictions. (Messerli, 2009). However, the arguments in favor of the death penalty often reveal a deterministic mindset. For example, when discussing the proposed terrorist death penalty act, one of its proponents in the House of Representatives dismissed death penalty concerns by stating that:
Some death penalty opponents have, in some cases, used some disinformation or even deceptive information on occasion to suggest that the death penalty in our country is not accurate. Yet no credible evidence has been provided, known to me, to suggest that a single innocent person has been executed since the Supreme Court imposed the heightened protections in 1976. (U.S. House of Representatives, 2005).
The problem with such a statement is that it ignores the fact that most death penalty opponents do not base their arguments on the likelihood that an innocent person may be executed, but on the fact that the death penalty is imposed in a discriminatory manner or on an argument that the death penalty is immoral. In addition, it depends upon the Representative's definition of credible. There are credible accounts suggesting that factually innocent people have been executed, but the fact that they have been executed means that they will never have the opportunity to have that factual innocence declared in a manner that would satisfy many death penalty advocates.
The above arguments have only briefly touched on religious issues, which is surprising given that morality and religion are so intertwined. In general, advocates of the death penalty believe that it serves out traditional Judeo-Christian ideas of vengeance. Opponents of the death penalty emphasis the role of mercy in modern religions, most particularly Christianity, and suggest that it is God's divine right to exact vengeance, not man's right. However, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who has worked extensively in opposition to the death penalty, looks at the issue a little differently. Prejean poses the question, "would Jesus pull the switch"? (Prejean, 1997). Looking at the issue of capital punishment, especially as
Moreover, it is not necessarily even clear that capital punishment through humane means is worse than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The many prisoners who choose not to appeal their capital sentences and (especially) those who purposely commit capital offences while incarcerated for the express purpose of qualifying for capital punishment provide evidence that life imprisonment may be comparable in "harshness" to the death penalty. With respect to the
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that people convicted of crimes should not be subject to excessive bail or fines, and that authorities may not inflict 'cruel and unusual punishments' (Eighth Pp). Ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, this amendment has been cited as an argument against capital punishment (Eighth Pp). In the 1972 United States Supreme Court case 'Furman vs. Georgia, three
Death Penalty All indications are that capital offenses are on the rise and the response to this phenomenon has been a cry to impose capital punishment as retribution. Certainly the issue is one of the most hotly debated in the world today; both for consideration of its humaneness as well as efficacy as a deterrent. For the purposes of this assignment we will examine the issue from both sides with the
The death penalty may exact a high cost but so does remaining behind bars for life imprisonment (Haag 1986). But righting wrongs in a society has a higher option than entailing the costs. Penalties are also acts of social retribution to restrain personal or private vengeance aimed at vindicating the law and social order, which has been injured or violated by a crime. Proponents or advocates of the death penalty
However, on the contradicting side, the question is "Can death penalty really deter criminals?." Several studies show it does not. An online source indicates the following evidences. From 1976 to 1996, the number of executions per year in the United States has increased from 0 to just under 60. The homicide rate per 100,000 population has remained constant at just under 10. Criminologists who belong to the American Society of Criminology,
The debate over the death penalty remains and the Supreme Court will most likely be asked decide such cases for years to come. Summary and Conclusion The purpose of this discussion was to examine several landmark Supreme Court cases and explain the evolution of capital punishment jurisprudence from 1972 to the present. The research focused on the cases of Furman v Georgia, Woodson v. North Carolina, Gregg v Georgia, McCleskey v