The Capital Punishment
The US is among the few countries globally that still uses the death penalty as the sole penance for some crimes. Given that the act is performed by the state, and after a proper legal trial, any executions carried out by parties not linked to the government are considered crimes. Among the crimes punishable by death, include murder, treason and rape among other types of varieties of fraud perpetrated by an individual. Over the years however, the number of people executed after trial in the US have reduced, even though about two thirds of the states still have capital punishment as a form of punishment (Knowlton n.p.).
The debate on death penalty has been an ongoing dialogue pitying each side of the divide against the other on whether to abolish the sentence or continue with it. Most of Europe has done away with the punishment, while in the US its use continues to rescind. Developments in the justice system have been key to the current scaling back in the number of executions performed on individuals for their crimes. Among these has been the problems related to the process of execution by lethal injections regarding convicted criminals with limited intellectual capacity (Knowlton n.p.). The debate has been whether it is proper to execute such criminal, given that their mental capacity did not allow them to think properly about the consequences of their actions.
Another one of the problems involved the administration of the deadly jab following failure of a drug meant to make the convict unconscious during the administration of the injection. Thus, while the drug was administered, it proved ineffective in rendering the man unconscious for a painless death (Knowlton n.p.), and therefore being in contravention to the Constitution. This is in relation to the sanction against “cruel and unusual punishments” established by the Eighth Amendment following the Gregg v. Georgia case, which had officially lifted the suspension on capital punishment as enforced by the 1972 ruling on the Furman v. Georgia case (Smith 287).
Among the cases that did prove instrumental in contributing to the debate on capital punishment were the two landmark cases (Furman v. Georgia and Gregg v. Georgia). In the Furman v. Georgia case, the judges had ruled over the unconstitutionality of capital punishment in its basic administration. The product of the ruling was suspension of the death penalty for years, only returning following the ruling of the Gregg v. Georgia case in 1976 (Knowlton n.p.). The case (Furman v. Georgia) became a landmark case as it poked holes in the very nature of the administration of the death penalty on arbitrariness and racial bias, especial skewed against the blacks.
The aftermath of the case was the four-year suspension on the death penalty and a rethinking, within Congress, on the administration of the sentence. Most states therefore had to reorganize provisions on capital offenses, giving an assurance of the administration of the death penalty in a fair and just manner, away from it initial capricious manner (Smith 287). Additionally, following the ruling, a number of crimes that qualified for capital punishment were struck down. The case also presented standards guiding judges’ discretion in the imposition of the penalty, as well as a fractured form of hearings and pronouncement of judgment in phases.
While the Furman v. Georgia case put a break on capital punishment, the Gregg v. Georgia case reintroduced the punishment. Part of the respondents’ argument was for the court to move beyond the hold put on the capital punishment following the 1972 ruling of Furman v. Georgia ruling on the unconstitutionality of capital punishment as it were, to total abolition of the punishment (Smith 290). In ending the de facto moratorium on capital punishment, the ruling indicated that while the court had declared unconstitutional, capital punishment, it had not rule its very nature unconstitutional.
The result of the case has been marked improvement in the US justice system concerning capital punishment. Among these, include the abolition of death penalty for the mentally ill and juvenile convicted of murder (Knowlton n.p.). Restrictions for the punishment have also been set for felony murders, while rape has been exempted from the penalty. Additionally, the case ruling effectively removed restrictions on the exhibition of mitigating evidence, while requiring accuracy in the designation of aggravating factors.
Premeditated crimes should meet the harshest of punishments, as the individual committing crimes such as rape and murder have no respect for dignity or life respectively. The very conception of the act of crime, especially for mentally sound criminals shows a lack of respect or remorse for the victims of the crime (Smith 290). In delivering a death sentence to such heinous crimes, it acts as a deterrent to other criminals perpetrating or potentially planning to perpetrate such acts. Thus, while others debate on the morality of whether or not humans have the mandate to take other people’s lives legally, does the same question not apply for the serial killers and premeditating murderers?
Knowlton, Brian. “U.S. Edges Closer to Europe in Attitude toward Capital Punishment, Experts Say.” The New York Times 2014, June 16. Web. 20 June 2014
Smith, Stephen F. “The Supreme Court and the Politics of Death”. Virginia Law Review 94 .2(2008): 283–383. Print