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Death penalty Methods & the Eighth Amendment: An Introduction
The American Congress or any state legislature may lay down the death penalty for a convict, as a result of murder and other heinous offenses. The US Supreme Court noted that the capital punishment is not a breach of the US Eighth Amendment; however, it outlined some practical features concerning when a judge might apply the capital penalty and how it must be performed. Due to the Fourteenth Amendment's Clause, the Eighth Amendment is pertinent against the US states, and the federal government.
Eighth Amendment evaluation stipulates that the courts take into consideration the growing standards of decorum to establish if a specific punishment represents a brutal or atypical punishment. Hence, given the evolving norms of decorum, the American courts both seek independent aspects to demonstrate a change in the society norms and also make impassionate assessments regarding whether the law is rational.
The US Supreme Court has established that a penalty must be corresponding to the offenses; if not, the punishment infringes the Eighth Amendment's proscription against brutal and atypical sentences. In order to perform its proportionality investigation, the US Supreme Court considers the following three vital factors: a deliberation of the crime's seriousness and the severity of the penalty; a deliberation of how the authority penalizes other offenders; and a concern of how other jurisdictions penalize the same crime (See Scheb and Sharma, 2012).
Principle of Individualized Sentencing
With the purpose to enforce a capital punishment, the judge must be directed by the specific situations of the offender, and the court must have carried out an individual sentencing procedure. In the 2002 Ring v. Arizona judgment, the US Supreme Court gave the ruling that a jury must establish an exasperating factor to exist for court cases in which those aspects motivate a judge's option to enforce the death penalty rather than a minor punishment. A complex feature is any information or situation that enhances the guilt for a criminal act.
The US Supreme Court further explained the need of "a finding of aggravating factors" in Brown v. Sanders. For the court cases an appellate court gives the judgment a sentencing invalid. Moreover, the Court noted that the sentence enforced becomes unlawful unless the jury found some other irritating aspect that deals with the same particulars and situations as the null factor.
The 2006 case, Kansas v. Marsh, presented yet another explanation to the principle of individual sentencing authority. Following the Kansas v. Marsh case, the states may enforce the capital punishment for circumstances in which the judges find the aggravating and justifying aspects to evenly balance, without infringing the principle of individual sentence.
Methods of Execution
A state or Federal legislature may lay down the manner of sentencing, though the manner may not impose needless or unjustifiable pain upon the criminals. The courts impose an "impartially intolerable" analysis when establishing if the method of execution infringes the Eighth Amendment's proscription on brutal and abnormal penalization.
The State courts as well as lower federal courts have rejected to remove hanging and electrocution as impermissible methods of capital punishment; nevertheless, the US Supreme Court did not consider a method of capital punishment case for 117 years till the 2008 case of Baze v. Rees. In this case the US Supreme Court considered that lethal injection did not comprise a brutal and abnormal punishment. The case solved a contentious issue considering new data that a lethal injection's 3-drug arrangement is unsuccessful to lessen pain and stop the offender from pointing out such pain due to paralysis stimulus.
Individuals Not Eligible for the Death Penalty
Of late, the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court established that carrying out capital punishment for mentally handicapped criminals infringes the proscription on "cruel and unusual punishments" since their mental troubles reduces the gravity of the offense and consequently makes the extraordinary capital punishment as excessively brutal. Nevertheless, in Bobby v. Bies, the US Court considered that the US states may carry out trials to reassess the mental capability of death row prisoners who were termed mentally handicapped prior to the Court ruled Atkins v. Virginia case, since before this case, the US states had little reason to forcefully examine retardation arguments.
In Roper v. Simmons, in 2005, the US Supreme Court annulled the capital punishment for all juvenile criminals. The majority of judges stated that the youths’ lack of maturity and liability, greater susceptibility to detrimental effects, and deficient character growth. The US Court noted that juvenile criminals presumed reduced guilt for their offenses.
Death row & Mental illness
Mental illness is termed as an event that is a significant theme of the whole body of the American criminal justice system. It impacts the whole mechanism of the criminal law and defies its most respected presumptions regarding freedom, decisional capability as well as culpability. Irrespective of whether or not the life hinges in balance the structural changes created by mental illness became exaggerated, and the denials can lead to legal complexities.
Mental illness amongst the convicts is pervasive. The inmates who are fanatical become aggravate on the death row. They seem rather well upon arrival on the row however yielded to depression added with horror when the capital punishment date is fixed and then postponed and then fixed again.
The majority of death row inmates experience some kinds of mental illness, which consist of delusional psychoses, critical mental retardation as well as depression, and, in some cases, organic brain injuries so severe that the courts are urged to see the MRI reports.
Understanding the true occurrence of death row mental illness few important issues creep into consideration. How to deal with this situation? If the mentally ill convict should not be executed, then what should be the correct standard for assessing the capital punishment competency; what types of mental illness is significant? Moreover, who should decide whether a specific convict is normal enough to get the capital punishment?
The contemporary legal jurisprudence is based in the Eighth Amendments’s proscription on “cruel and unusual” sentence, instead of the Fourteenth Amendment assurance of “due process of law.”
Almost every death sentence in the US states excused the currently mentally insane from the capital punishment. This legislative accord led to the argument that the USA as a whole arrived at an agreement that killing the mentally ill person breached a legal clause of the constitution, as the US Supreme Court stated that the developing norms of decency mark the growth of a mature society. However, this legislative accord was rather a vague argument. The authority against capital punishment for the mentally ill convict was given the governor and not the courts, to decide whether a specific death row inmate was too fanatic to be executed. Florida law banned the capital punishment for the mentally sick, however, it permitted the governor complete authority in deciding who was or wasn’t insane. It is argued that, whilst the national accord identified a legal right not to be killed while insane, the courts were duty-bound to ensure that the procedure to determine the capital punishment ability be just and trustworthy.
The claim that the American Constitution bans killing the insane seemed simple, though it is all problem-free. The Eighth Amendment of the American constitution proscribes “cruel and unusual” sentence. Nevertheless, was it not less brutal to kill those individuals who had fallen into a world of fantasies? Those with no idea where they were or that they were about to be killed would be free of the terror of waiting for it. Was it not crueler to execute the sane, as they would understand the great terror of what was going to occur to them?
As well, there was the complexity of what to do with those people who had been noted to be too insane to be killed. Is there possibility that state psychiatrists just deal with those people till they were sensible enough to be put to death? This may distort health ethics; however such distortion perhaps would not affront the US Constitution.
Curing to Kill: Medicine’s Predicament
The following discussion of the Nollie Martin case implies that insane convicts can create awful ethical problems for their attorneys. Moreover, the mental illness also deals with members of the health professionals with difficult ethical issues.
Claude Matunana Case Study
Claude Matunana was awarded death sentence for murder. In accordance to Nina Rivkind and Steven Shatz’s 2001 casebook, Matunana was later found to be a schizophrenic patient and insane to be put to death. Matunana considered himself as an agent of the international police and spoke often in numbers and initials codes whose actual meaning was only known to him. He was examined by Dr. Jerry Dennis, the chief medical officer of Arizona State Hospital.
Dennis frequently monitored the health condition of Matunana and treated him with several drugs which helped in maintaining his poise; however, he could not improve his mental condition. The improvement of Matunana would have led him competent to be put to death. Dennis thought that treating a patient in such a manner would make him appropriate to be killed. He could have treated him more assertively to realize a point where Matunana thought that he was going to be killed for the offense, however, Dennis declined by citing his moral obligations to his profession and to his patient.
Subsequently, the prosecutors directed Dennis to deal with Matunana till he was well enough to be put to death. Dennis refused to comply. The prosecutors warned the doctor with the contempt of court. Yet the doctor refused to obey. The Arizona Hospital administrators then sought the services of other doctor for a replacement for Dennis and made calls to various professionals in other death penalty states. But no health practitioner in Arizona was ready to take on the case. Nevertheless, Hospital was able to get the services of a psychiatrist from Georgia. He found Matunana rational enough for capital punishment. In 2002 Matunana did die, during surgery.
Martin Long lethal-injection Case Study
The 1999 execution through lethal injection of Martin Long, a man needing oxygen and constant medical care was remarkable in its strangeness. According to article by Jim Yardley in the New York Times, in 1999, two days before his planned execution, the 46-year old Martin Long was seen unconscious in his jail cell by death row guards. Martin had in fact ingested an overdose of anti-psychotic medicines. The doctors treating Martin placed him on life support in ICU on a ventilator.
One day prior to Martin’s scheduled execution through the lethal injection, he was taken off the ventilator and promoted from grave to severe medical condition. Martin continued to stay in ICU, where he was expected to stay for another couple of days was it not for his planned execution. Martin was asked by the state to sign an official declaration stating he could be safely moved to Huntsville for the planned execution, a request the doctor refused. Nevertheless, the doctor signed an affidavit stating that Martin’s health condition had improved. He experienced no more seizures, and was able to respond to questions, though transporting him could be dangerous without suitable medical treatment. However, Martin was transported on oxygen and constant medical treatment by a plane from Galveston to Houston, where he was executed.
Healers’ Participation in Executions
The conflict between health ethics and the mechanism of death stated above are indirect. Physicians and other mental health staff who “cure to kill” can justify that their contribution in the capital punishment is demarcated by time and place from the actual killings.
In a May 2007 Professor Deborah Denno in his paper, The Lethal Injection Quandary, has shown that such involvement takes place more often than one might presume. Denno stated:
‘On 14th February 2006, a federal district court gave a verdict that would alter the country’s viewpoints of the death sentence. For California to perform the lethal injection execution of Michael Morales, the state had to decide one of the two court’s directive were 1) to offer trained medical staff who would make certain Morales was insensible throughout the procedure, or 2) change the execution procedure with the aim only one kind of drug would be offered, rather than the normal series of three dissimilar drugs. The data implied that, of the eleven prisoners lethally injected in California, six might have been tortured by the three-drug procedure, possibly generating “needless danger of illegal pain or suffering” in violation of the US Eighth Amendment’s Punishments Clause. In a remarkable legal moment, the state decided to have medical professionals present at Morales’ killing, arranging the stage for a clash between law and the medical profession.
Soon after, the medical professionals criticized the Morales court’s suggestion and the moral problems it generated. Three notable groups namely the AMA, the ASA, and the CMA were united in their stand against the doctors joining the executioner. Moreover, bigger surprises from Morales were imminent. It simply took a day for prison officials to find two anesthesiologists ready to take part in Morales’ execution, assured they would remain anonymous. It soon became clear, however, that these doctors had not been fully informed of their roles. In a stunning blow to the Morales court’s directive, both anesthesiologists resigned just few hours before the scheduled execution time. Because of their ethical responsibilities, they could not accept the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ interpretation that they personally would intervene and provide medication or medical assistance if the inmate appeared conscious or in pain. The doctors’ reasons for refusing to participate spotlights a crucial predicament states face in the administration of lethal injection.
The Morales case unearthed a constant paradox. The people who were considered most knowledgeable about the process of lethal injection namely doctors, anesthesiologists are normally unwilling to give their insights and skills. This quandary led Judge Jeremy Fogel, who presided over Morales’ trial, to presume first-time engagement in a field that had been managed mostly by parliament and department of corrections staff. As a reaction to the doctor refusal and the problems about lethal injection’s practicality, Judge Fogel prepared the longest and most systematic evidentiary investigation ever carried out on any capital punishment method (Denno, 2007).
The standard for Execution competency
The above cases led the Supreme Court to the decisive issue of whether the US Eighth Amendment allows the execution of convicts who, as a result of mental illness, do not know that they are actually being awarded capital punishment for their offenses. The US Court noted that it does not, stating that “[t]he principles laid out in are jeopardized by a convention that considers illusions pertinent only relating to the state’s stated reason for a sentence or the fact of a capital punishment, in contrary to the real concerns the state aim to justify.” It stated: Significant illusions arising from a critical mental syndrome may put a responsiveness relationship between an offense and its sentence in a framework until now eliminated from reality that the punishment can serve no purposes. It is thus a mistake to derive from the case, and the essential standards for incompetency its opinions generally identify a stringent test for proficiency that deals with delusional thinking as immaterial when the convict is responsive the state has recognized the relationship between his offense and the penalty to be meted out.
The court used an inappropriately restraining test when it deliberated upon petitioner’s claim of incompetency on the values. The court’s incompetency standard was too restraining to offer a convict Eighth Amendment safeguards. The legal experts in the district court noted that, thought he claimed to understand that the state wanted to put him to death for killing, his mental syndrome had caused the delusion that the declared motive is a pretense, and that the state in fact wanted to kill him to prevent him from preaching. The court had beliefs, based on its past decisions, that such delusions were just not pertinent to whether a convict can be put to death as long as the criminal is responsive that the state has recognized the link between the crime and the punishment to be imposed. This test disregarded the prospects that although such responsiveness exists, major delusions arising from a critical mental syndrome may put that consciousness in a situation so far eliminated from the truth that the punishment could serve no purpose.
The US Constitution places a restriction on the State’s authority to kill an insane prisoner, since such an execution serves no proper purpose. Hence, it might be stated that the execution is carried out since it has the prospects to make the criminal understand at least the severity of the offense and to allow the whole community, consisting of the victim’s existing family and friends, to establish its own opinion that the convict’s guilt is so critical that the definitive penalty must be required and enforced.
Denno, Deborah. The Lethal Injection Quandary: How Medicine Has Dismantled the Death Penalty, Fordham Legal Studies Research Paper No. 983732, 2007. Print.
Rivkind, Nina and Shatz, Steven. Cases and Materials on the Death Penalty, 3d American Casebook. West; 3rd Edition. 2009. Print.
Scheb, John M. and Sharma, Hemant. An Introduction to the American Legal System. Aspen Publ. 2012. Print.
Yardley, Jim. Texan Who Took Overdose Is Executed. New York Times. 1999. Print.