The Death Penalty: Federal or State Issue?

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The national and state governments work together to keep America’s federal government running smoothly, but the two often are in conflict over who has the final authority to decide policy in various areas. One example is which government should have the final say in whether or not a crime is severe enough to use capital punishment, also called the death penalty, which is the execution of a convicted criminal by the state as punishment for crimes known as capital crimes or capital offences (Cochran n.p.). The decision to use capital punishment should be left up to the state governments unless a federal offense is committed. The first type of government in America was based primarily on state government. Following the Revolutionary War, the thirteen colonies, although they had formed a league of friendship under the Articles of Confederation, basically governed themselves. They feared a strong central government like the one they lived with under England's rule. However, it was soon discovered that this weak form of state government could not survive and so the Constitution was drafted. This time, it was decided that a government system based on federalism would be established. In other words, power is shared between the national and state governments (“National versus State Government.” n.p.). Sharing power between the national government and state governments allows American citizens to enjoy the benefits of diversity and unity. On the other hand, issues such as the death penalty have been left up to the individual states. The decision whether or not to have a death penalty depends on that state's history, needs, and philosophies (“National versus State Government” n.p.). In addition to the death penalty laws in many states, the federal government has also employed capital punishment for certain federal offenses, such as terrorism, murder of a government official, kidnapping resulting in death, running a large-scale drug enterprise, and treason (“The...
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