Title: Point: Capital Punishment Should Be Abolished. By: Ballaro, Beverly, Cushman, C. Ames, Points of View: Death Penalty, 2009 Database: Points of View Reference Center
Thesis: Capital punishment is useless as a deterrent, morally indefensible, discriminatory in practice, and prone to errors that may have led to the execution of wrongfully convicted people. Its continuing legality in the United States is critically undermining American moral stature around the world. The Supreme Court should bring the United States in line with the rest of the civilized world and hold that death is a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Summary: The death penalty process consumes tremendous amounts of money and resources and fails to deter criminal activity. It is not uniformly applied geographically, and where it is allowed, it is used in an often arbitrary and racist manner. As a result, states have been curtailing the use of the death penalty, the Supreme Court has limited its application, and both death sentences and executions are down sharply. This is at odds with the recent efforts of some states to expand the range of capital crimes, and with national polls which still reflect a clear majority of Americans favor capital punishment. Meanwhile, momentum has been accelerating in the international community to abolish the death penalty, and the United States is increasingly criticized for failing to keep in step with other civilized nations in this area. Capital Punishment in the United States Since the 1977 resumption of capital punishment in the United States, nearly 1,100 convicted prisoners have been put to death in the thirty-eight US states where the practice remains legal. As of the beginning of 2007, approximately 3,350 people remain on death row in American prisons. In recent years, the evidence has shown that the death penalty process consumes tremendous amounts of money and resources and fails to deter criminals. FBI Uniform Crime Report data show no statistical difference in crime rates based on the existence or frequency of use of the death penalty in a particular state. It is applied in an often arbitrary and racist manner and may have led to the execution of innocent people. As a result, momentum has been accelerating in the international community to abolish the death penalty. In the United States, despite a national trend toward scaling back the use of capital punishment, it remains largely popular with the American people, and several states have recently attempted to broaden its scope. A 2008 ruling by the Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Louisiana, however, overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of raping a child, effectively holding that states may only impose the death penalty in murder cases. Still, Virginia is poised to make accomplices to murder, as well as killers of judges and court witnesses, eligible for the death penalty. Missouri may pass a mandatory death penalty for the
murder of law enforcement officers. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit a judge to impose the death sentence, which currently requires a unanimous vote of jurors, if only nine of twelve jurors on a case are in favor of it. The effort in some states to expand the range of death-penalty-eligible crimes raises questions that are deeply troubling for both pragmatic and moral reasons, and demonstrates the regionalism that has accompanied treatment of capital punishment in recent years. With states like New Jersey abolishing the death penalty completely and others like Illinois, where executions have been halted by executive order, perhaps the most important factor in whether a killer will face the death penalty is not the heinousness of the crime, but where it was committed. From a legal perspective, the abolition of capital punishment in the United States would most likely and effectively come in the form of a decision by the Supreme Court that executions constitute cruel...
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