Pros and Cons of Capital Punishment

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1. Morality
PRO: "The crimes of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, larceny, and perjury pivot on a moral code that escapes apodictic [indisputably true] proof by expert testimony or otherwise. But communities would plunge into anarchy if they could not act on moral assumptions less certain than that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact. The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense." Bruce Fein, JD 

Constitutional Lawyer and General Counsel to the Center for Law and Accountability "Individual Rights and Responsibility - The Death Penalty, But Sparingly," www.aba.org June 17, 2008
CON: "Ultimately, the moral question surrounding capital punishment in America has less to do with whether those convicted of violent crime deserve to die than with whether state and federal governments deserve to kill those whom it has imprisoned. The legacy of racial apartheid, racial bias, and ethnic discrimination is unavoidably evident in the administration of capital punishment in America. Death sentences are imposed in a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent. This is an immoral condition that makes rejecting the death penalty on moral grounds not only defensible but necessary for those who refuse to accept unequal or unjust administration of punishment." Bryan Stevenson, JD 

Professor of Law at New York University School of Law
"Close to Death: Reflections on Race and Capital Punishment in America," from Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case 2004

2. Constitutionality
PRO: "Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' [quoting the opinion of the Court from Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U. S. 825, 842, 846 (1994)] that qualifies as cruel and unusual... Kentucky has adopted a method of execution believed to be the most humane available, one it shares with 35 other States... Kentucky's decision to adhere to its protocol cannot be viewed as probative of the wanton infliction of pain under the Eighth Amendment... Throughout our history, whenever a method of execution has been challenged in this Court as cruel and unusual, the Court has rejected the challenge. Our society has nonetheless steadily moved to more humane methods of carrying out capital punishment."  Baze v. Rees 

US Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Apr. 16, 2008
CON: "Death is... an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity... The fatal constitutional infirmity in the punishment of death is that it treats 'members of the human race as nonhumans, as objects to be toyed with and discarded. [It is] thus inconsistent with the fundamental premise of the Clause that even the vilest criminal remains a human being possessed of common human dignity.' [quoting himself fromFurman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 257 (1972)] As such it is a penalty that 'subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed by the [Clause].' [quoting C.J. Warren from Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958)] I therefore would hold, on that ground alone, that death is today a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Clause... I would set aside the death sentences imposed... as violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments."  William J. Brennan, JD 

Justice of the US Supreme Court
Dissenting opinion in Gregg v. Georgia 
July 2, 1976...
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