Capital Punishment Term Paper

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What is capital punishment? Capital punishment is the maximum penalty of a conviction. More than 4, 400 people have been executed since 1930. There is no way of knowing how many people have been executed in U.S. history because they used to be local affairs with nobody to record them. On the edge of the 21st century, Capital punishment is still one of the two most debated issues in the U.S., the other is abortion.

This paper will attempt to show the effects of capital punishment and how it is used.

Capital punishment has been a very attention grabbing incident over the years. For example, in 1936, about 20,000 people gathered in Owensboro, Kentucky, on the morning of August 14 to see the hanging of a 22 year old black man, Rainey Bethea. Many people have also died wrongfully. Sacco and Vangetti were two Italian immigrants that were accused of payroll robbery. Although they had alibis of there whereabouts, they were still convicted of the crime and sentenced to death by the electric chair.

Nearly every culture throughout history has practiced capital punishment. Quartering was a popular method in Europe. Quartering is being torn apart by horses. In India, executions were sometimes carried out by having an elephant crush the condemned’s head. In modern times, societies have sought to make executions more “humane.” Such was the goal of the guillotine, which severed the condemned’s head with a heavy blade, and the electric chair which kills with a massive dose of electrical current.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees to every citizen certain fundamental rights. The First Amendment, for example guarantees freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. The Second Amendment promises that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The amendment most relevant to the issue of the death penalty is the Eighth Amendment. It reads: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.” However simple and straightforward these words may sound, its not always clear what they mean. That is because the words cruel and unusual are subjective. One person may think, for instance, that capital punishment is cruel and unusual, while another person may not. In 1972, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty cruel and unusual, and therefore unconstitutional. It was soon reactivated in 1976 by 35 states.

People have tried to influence decisions on the death penalty. For example, the Pope has played a role in the decision of the death penalty. The Pope pleaded for a criminal’s life and the criminal was sentenced to life in jail instead of the electric chair. Many people that are innocent have been sentenced to death. Harry Blackman, a death penalty opponent, stated “Innocent persons have been executed and will continue to be executed,” explaining why he could no longer support the death penalty. Isidore Zimmerman, came within 2 hours of execution for a murder he did not commit. Citing instances like this, death penalty opponents claim that the danger of a terrible and irrevocable mistake capital punishment intolerable.

Cost often comes up when the death penalty is mentioned. Those in favor of the death penalty say the government shouldn’t waste its money on guarding, feeding, and housing a depraved criminal for the rest of his or her life. The truth is, however, that it costs much more to put a prisoner to death than to keep a prisoner in jail. It cost about 2 million to 3 million dollars to sentence someone to death and keep them on death row for 8 years. The same it costs to keep 3 prisoners in a maximum security prison for 40 years. Opponents use this as a contradiction.

Race is a big issue in death sentencing although not admitted. There is still a lot of hard decision making when it comes to ethnic’s being punished. A comprehensive examination of capital murder cases in Georgia, a black convicted of murdering a white has a 22 percent chance of being sentenced to die, whereas a white convicted of murdering a black has only a 3 percent chance. This has been a big thing in the civil issues in America.

When the death penalty is actually brought out to the society, basically everything has an a effect on it. Religion, race, cost, and morals, but it is still used in America today. Many democratic countries have outlawed the death penalty and the U. S. probably should too. The Pope of the Catholic Church once said, “Only God has the Power to give and take life from someone.” This being true to most people, but the government and the American society have to decide whether or not to keep capital punishment.

Word Count: 793

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