Capital Punishment and the Death Penalty

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Capital Punishment and The Death Penalty

Capital punishment and the death penalty are very controversial issues concerning modern times. Many people have different opinions about how a criminal should be disciplined in the court of law, but there is no one right or correct answer. Although, 80% of Americans are for the death penalty. Presently, thirty-eight states have the death penalty, but is the concept of "a life for a life" the best way to castigate a criminal? Of the thirteen states that do not have the death penalty, is crime more likely to occur there than in states that have the death penalty? (The Economist, April 1, 1995, p. 19) Have there been criminals wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death row? Does the death penalty really scare criminals off and make them think twice about committing a crime? Is the death penalty fair to everyone, even the minorities and the poor? How does mental illness and retardation come into play?

When a person is sentenced to death by lethal injection in New Jersey, the provisions of N.J.S. 2C: 11-3 say that the "punishment shall be imposed by continuous, intravenous administration until the person is dead of a lethal quantity of an ultrashot acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent in a quantity sufficient to cause death." Prior to the lethal injection, the person shall be sedated by a licensed physician, registered nurse, or other qualified personnel, by either oral tablet or capsule or an intramuscular injection of a narcotic or barbiturate such as morphine, cocaine, or demerol. In the provisions of the N.J.S. 2C: 49-3, it says that the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections determines the substances and procedure to be used in execution. The Commissioner shall also designate persons who are qualified to administer injections and who are familiar with medical procedures, other than licensed physicians. Also, persons conducting the execution must be unknown to the person being executed. Under the N.J.S. 2C: 49-7, only certain people are allowed to be present at the execution. They include: the Commissioner, execution technicians, two licensed physicians, six adult citizens, no more than two clergymen not related to the person, two representatives from major news wire services, two television representatives, two newspaper representatives, and two radio representatives. No one related either by blood or by marriage to the person being executed or to the victim is permitted to be present during the execution. (New Jersey Statutes Annotated: Title 2C Code of Criminal Justice: 2C: 37 to 2C: End)

There are two very important Supreme Court cases dealing with capital punishment. In 1972, in the case of Furman vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that under then existing laws, "the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty...constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." Four years later, in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia, the Supreme Court shifted in the opposite direction, and ruled that "the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution." The Court ruled that these new statutes contained "objective standards to guide, regularize, and make rationally reviewable the process of imposing the sentence of death." (Bedau, Hugo Adam, American Civil Liberties Union, prodigy) There are many different reasons, pro and con, for the death penalty. The following are the most frequently cited arguments for the death penalty. Some believe that those who kill deserve to die. When someone takes another person's life, they forfeit or sacrifice their own right to live. Murder is one of the worst crimes a person can commit and it deserves the worst penalty. The death penalty is the greatest deterrent to murder. If people know that they will be punished by death, they will be less likely to commit crimes and kill. Statistics show that since 1976, fewer...
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