Capital Punishment is the highest form of punishment wherein the law offender who was accused of committing grave offense will be convicted and faces death as a penalty of the crime. Many convicted felonies are on death row and just waiting for their sentence to be executed. The Capital Punishment is legal in some of the States and not being implemented country-wide. The capital punishment, also known as death penalty, has different execution method as well as crimes subject for each State, which have also been changed through the years. The capital punishment in The United States has some degree of limitations based on the Eighth Amendment under the United States Constitution.
Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
The 8th Amendment reads that excessive bail and excessive fines must not be imposed over a convicted law offender, nor unusual and cruel punishments inflicted. Having three provisions, The Eighth Amendment to United States Constitution was ratified in 1791 (thefreedictionary.com). It was stipulated in the 1791 Bill of Rights and served as an exact replica of the provisions included in English Bill of Rights that was created in 1689 (laws.com).
The Eighth Amendment was created based on the case of Titus Oates in England, who was convicted by the court for numerous perjury acts that resulted to the executions of lots of people after Oates made a wrong accusation of serious crimes. Oates’ succeeding punishments included ordinary penalties that were collectively imposed using excessive and brutal ways (laws.com). The succeeding punishments thereafter were brutally executed as the previous impositions were excessively done primarily.
In the Excessive Bail clause of the Eighth Amendment states that Bail is the amount of money that the accused of a crime will give to the court so he can leave the jail before the trial period starts. If the accused person will not show up for the trial, the money that was given to the court as a bail will be forfeited. However, if the accused person will show up on the trial date, the bail money will be given back to them (revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com). In some occasions, courts will require a very high bail, which cannot be afforded by the accused person to pay. In a case like this, a bail bondsman has the capability to lend the amount of bail to the accused person. There is also a fee involved in this process. It is the bondsman’s interest that the person attends the trial otherwise he will lose his money (revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com). The eighth amendment prevents this kind of scenario due to the fact that if the accused person will not be able to pay the bail, he will stay in the jail until his trial date. This would prevent them from preparing their defense sufficiently as it is harder to prepare a defense if a person is in jail. It is also unfair for the accused person to stay in jail while waiting for is trial because in the American justice system, a person is still innocent not until they are proven guilty under the rules of law.
Meanwhile, the excessive fines clause states that judges will be prevented from imposing too much fines. If a judge will abuse his discretion over the imposing of fines, the higher court can overturn the lower courts’ illogical, very high fines if it leads to excessive amount to a property deprivation in absence of due process of law. Nonetheless, it is very rare that fines are being reversed because of the conditions of The Eighth Amendment.
In the clause regarding unusual and cruel punishments, it states that the Eighth Amendment the punishment that will be given for crimes must be proportion to the crime committed. If the punishment being imposed over the crime committed is far greater than crime must demand, then the higher court has the power to reverse the initial court decision to provide punishment that is in accordance to the committed crime (revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com). As the rule also stipulates, a sentence that is inhuman or scandalous to the conscience of the society is considered unusual and cruel punishment based on the Eighth Amendment of The United States Constitution. In particular, the capital punishment that was being imposed on some cases received some analysis regarding the Eighth Amendment. As this punishment involves death towards convicted person, it is sometimes being regarded as inappropriate punishment as it constitutes unusual and cruel actions. However, others believe that death penalty is appropriate sentence in some cases.
States that Implements Death Penalty
Not all States are implementing death penalty as their capital punishment. There are total of thirty two States that have death penalty and eighteen States that do not have death penalty. States that have death penalty are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, California, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri and Montana. Also, States such as Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Virginia and Wyoming as well as the people of the United States Government and the United States Military (deathpenaltyinfo.org). However, there are differences between the State Government and Federal Government’s capital punishment standards.
The Capital Punishment and the Federal Law
The capital punishment was authorized by the first United States Congress on 25th June 1790. After the death penalty has been officially approved, there have been three hundred forty three executions made and most of them were women (deathpenalty.org). Almost two centuries later, the death penalty provisions were revised in 1988.
Like in some other States, the federal government also imposes death penalty to some federal offenses; offenses such as death resulted by kidnapping, murder having a government official as the victim, large-scale illegal drug activity as well treason (findlaw.com). Former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed a new law in 1994, which expands federal death penalty. It covered sixty crimes in which three of those have no involvement with murder (findlaw.com). Moreover, the former president signed another law as a response to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It was an Anti-Terrorism law that covers both federal and state felonies, restricts evaluation in federal courts by imposing stricter deadlines of filing (findlaw.com). In general, this law streamlines the speed up process of death penalty, hence reducing its costs. However, some argues that it will increase the risks of executions over innocent defendants.
Death Penalty Statistics
There are approximately 3,108 prisoners within thirty five States are on the death row (cnn.com). Based on the statistical data provided as of April 2013, these inmates came from different States and there are 731 inmates waiting for execution in California, 412 in Florida, 298 in Texas, 198 in Pennsylvania, 197 in Alabama, 161 in North Carolina, 147 in Ohio, 126 in Arizona, 95 in Georgia, and 88 in Louisiana. (deathpenaltyinfo.org)
There are also 84 inmates waiting for execution in Tennessee, 80 in Nevada, 58 in U.S. Government, 58 in Oklahoma, 52 in South Carolina, 48 in Missouri, 46 in Mississippi, 38 in Arkansas, 37 in Oregon, 34 in Kentucky, 18 in Delaware, 13 each for Idaho and Indiana, 11 each for Nebraska and Connecticut and 10 each for Virginia and Kansas. Moreover, there 9 in Utah, 8 in Washington, 5 each for U.S. Military and Maryland, 4 in Colorado, 3 in South Dakota, 2 each for Montana and New Mexico and 1 each for New Hampshire and Wyoming (deathpenaltyinfo.org). Within the total of 3,108 inmates on death row, 61 of them are women who came from 20 different States (deathpenaltyinfo.org).
Maryland, New Mexico and Connecticut abolished the death penalty or capital punishment. However, the abolition does not affect the existing prisoners on death row as it is not retroactive so they will be executed. Since 1976, when the capital punishment was reinstated by the United States Supreme Court until October 2013, there are total of 1,352 inmates who faced the death penalty execution (cnn.com).
As of October 2013, both The United States Government and the United States Military have around sixty three inmates waiting for the execution (cnn.com).
People who are Pro-Death Penalty
Many State Governors are still in favor of the capital punishment. From their point of view, imposing the death sentence within their State will lower the crime ratings if not be eliminated. One of the States that has the most number of executed prisoners is the Texas. Governor Perry said that he still supports death penalty because it is a constitutional punishment especially for the heinous crimes (prodpquotes.info).
American lawyer and politician Edward Koch, who also served as a US congressman from 1969 to 1977 is also in favor of capital punishment. The former New York City Mayor said that death penalty is a deterrence factor against murderers, thus a reason that many innocent human lives will be saved because of the capital punishment (prodpquotes.info). Koch, as also a former judge of The People’s Court believes that having a death penalty will make murderers think twice before committing a crime. In addition, he does not believe that innocent people are being executed as these people have been exonerated prior carrying out of the sentence. He added that people may be convicted after the trial, but sentence can be reversed as the convicted person may have an appeal thereafter.
The 70th Governor of Massachusetts, William Mitt Romney is also in favor of death penalty as he sponsored a bill stating that death penalty can be imposed as long as the evidence will link the defendant to the murder weapon, crime scene or even the victim’s body. His bill also wants to ensure that only the guilty will be executed along with extensive scientific evidence to prove one’s guilt (prodpquotes.info). He also added that the death penalty will prevent most heinous crimes.
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