Dealth Penalty Essay, Research Paper
The courts positions of the death penalty has changed over the years. For centuries societies have used death as the ultimate penalty for crime. In the 1960’s, the court ruled against the death penalty as a “cruel and unusual punishment”, which was forbidden by the eighth amendment of the Constitution. By the 1990’s the death penalty was again in wide use supported by the court and Congress, which continually expanded by legislation the crimes for which death would be an acceptable penalty.
Supreme Court cases that have felt the death penalty was unconstitutional include Roberts vs. Louisiana and Furman vs. Georgia. Roberts vs. Louisiana, (1976) was a case that tried Robert, who robbed a store in Louisiana. During the robbery, Robert shot and killed an on duty police officer. He was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. He appealed and his case went to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s decision was that it was unconstitutional for everyone convicted of murder to be sentenced to death.
The most important case that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional is Furman vs. Georgia, 1972. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a majority of five to four, ruled that the death penalty was “cruel and unusual” and thus violated the eighth amendment. Justice Brennen thought the death penalty was “cruel and unusual in all cases, a denial of the executed person’s humanity, and uniquely degrading to human dignity” (The American Heritage History of the Bill of Rights, p. 93.).
Historically speaking when the Eighth Amendment was written Capitol Punishment was a fact of American life and continued to be so. The Supreme Court handed down on July 2, 1976 in Gregg V. Georgia a landmark case clarifying the Eighth Amendment. ?In this case the Court approved a new Georgia statute that set out in detail various aggravating and mitigating circumstances that would justify the imposition of the Capitol Penalty. These circumstances included air craft highjacking; treason; murder for hire; murder of a judicial officer, policeman, or fireman in line of duty; and murder by a person with a previous record of violent crime. This decision made it clear that the justices did not consider the death penalty per say to be ?cruel and unusual punishment? in the sense intended by the constitution.? (Davis, 196-197). The justices reaffirmed what an unbiased historical and legal analysis would reveal every time that our forefathers were not against Capitol Punishment but against the misapplication of punishment bringing about injustice.
Philosophically speaking there is a strange twist in logic to call Capitol Punishment inhuman or cruel. The inhumanity and cruelty was the crime that called for capitol consequences. The inhuman act was performed by the criminal in murder not on the criminal through capitol punishment. It can be argued that if one were to mandate a life sentence for a murderer that it is cruel and inhumane to expose inmates, guards and counselors to a volatile criminal. In fact there are many cases of murderers killing innocent victims while incarcerated. Was it cruel and inhumane to sustain the life of such a criminal so that he was given further opportunity to carry out his evil ways?
? The worth of the individual is so great that the highest penalty should be attached to those who tamper with the life of even one man.? (Geisler, 248). Capitol Punishment has been practiced since the beginning of recorded history in the greatest cultures from Athens in Greece to Rome in Italy. Unfortunately the abuse of capitol punishment throughout history is also well documented. But abuse in any just and good approach does not justify eliminating the practice. Doctors make fatal mistakes and so do politicians but these mistakes do not argue for doing away with the practice of medicine or government. Capitol Punishment should not be performed on anyone who has not been given due process of law and whose guilt is not beyond all reasonable doubt. Therefore Capitol Punishment does not in any way violate the Eighth Amendment.
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The Eighth Amendment. GallinHouse Press, Inc. 1991.
Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
Geisler, Norman L. Ethics: Alternatives and Issues. Academy Books. 1971.
Kelogg, William O. American History: The Easy Way. Second Edition.
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