The Death Penalty

Topics: Death Penalty, Gregg v. Georgia, Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution Pages: 10 (3745 words) Published: April 10, 2013
Preceding initial research of the death penalty, the umbrella of crimes of which it covered seemed larger than it realistically was. Between murder, adult rape, and child rape, the death penalty could be widely applicable if deemed constitutional. Prior to any study, the death penalty surely seemed to be acceptable from a constitutional aspect, as such morally heinous crimes deserved to be severely punished accordingly. Upon subsequent research, many intricacies of the law were noticed or understood that were not previously. From an uneducated view, much of it seemed black and white. Dependent on the set of morals an individual holds, the death penalty was either acceptable and permissible, or it was cruel and unusual. The latter would therefore violate the Constitution and an individual’s rights. What a more sufficient analysis allowed was a broader look at the different situations and possibilities pertaining to crimes and capital punishment implementation. Capital punishment arguably conflicts with two amendments of the United States’ Constitution. The Eighth Amendment states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The Fourteenth Amendment Section I states, “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Referring to the Eighth Amendment, some perceive the death penalty to be classified as cruel and unusual. In reference to the Fourteenth Amendment, some believe there is a racial and/or financial bias accompanied with the death penalty, mistreating the non-wealthy and racial minorities. Originally, the thesis of this paper strayed towards a more general interpretation of the death penalty, believing it was allowable for more crimes than just murder. In cases such as child and adult rape, the thesis blanketed all circumstances, meaning each crime would be viewed the same regardless of individual facts. This negligence quickly subsided with each case studied. Examining these cases allotted for a new, enhanced thesis to be developed. After a more thorough understanding was gained, the parameters and purposes of the death penalty were more apparent. The death penalty shall not be limited to those convicted of murder, but shall not be totally acceptable for any individual crime either. Although this disagrees with the court majority in several cases, it agrees with a minority of judges who dissented. This paper will display how many of these cases were decided by a single vote, allowing significant room for repudiation. Those cases being decided by one vote will serve as the most primary sources of information. With reading dissents and opinions, it provides for the most comprehensive interpretation of each ruling to be made. HISTORY OF THE DEATH PENALTY

The death penalty on American soil has been occurring for centuries. The first documented execution in the American colonies resulted after Captain George Kendall was found guilty of espionage (“Part I” 1). As history dates further and further back, more crimes permitted the death penalty. It may have been these extreme measures that commenced the Abolitionist Movement in the late 1700s. The first major attempt of the United States to secede itself from these harsh guidelines came when Thomas Jefferson tried, to no avail, to decrease the number of punishable crimes (“Part I” 1). Not only were these executions plentiful, they were occurring in public for civilians to witness. Pennsylvania would be the leading state to change this. Come 1834, they relocated these killings from mid-town to private correctional facilities (“Part I” 2). Although this seemed to be the most prominent legislation passed which dealt with the death penalty, Michigan would soon follow with even tighter restrictions. Just twelve years later in 1836, they eliminated the capital punishment for all...
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