Final Paper Part 3
Final Paper Part 3
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Final Paper Part 3
Death penalty is also referred to as the capital punishment. Among all the developed Western nations, America is the only country that uses this penalty in certain cases that have egregious consequences. More than half of the country’s states, about twenty-nine, use the death penalty to date in certain cases. The culprits involved have usually been involved in crimes such as homicide, or rape in rare cases. Death penalty has its origin in the American Law since the emergence of the American colonies. With the growing trends against this punishment, it is gradually disappearing and the legislators are compelled to think of alternatives. Public support for the punishment has been declining since the last three decades due to the changing views about this punishment and the implications. Death penalty involves imposition of death on the accused who proves to be guilty. The method used in this penalty is usually an injection that turns out to be lethal. Many other methods to impose death on a person have become obsolete due to criticism and availability of better alternatives. Those outdated methods include imposing death on a person through extremely intense electric shorts applied to the skull, using certain lethal gases that makes the target suffocate to death, and many other methods. The brutality of these methods is obvious and, therefore, much criticism was made on these practices. The death penalty in the country is losing support of people, and the Supreme Court has also reduced the number of crime types that will be penalized with death. Among those cut-offs include the cases that involve criminals with mental instability and those who are juvenile at the time they commit the crime. Consequently, many of those awaiting their turn to be given death sentence will not be put to death in the long run.
This paper aims at exploring the issue of death penalty used in most states of the US, considering the supportive arguments as well as the criticism made on this penalty. The country’s policy of death penalty needs to be revised based on the changing views of people and critics. The study will explain the context of this penalty, analyze it from the perspective of the related crimes, and find out any constitutional amendments made in this respect. Finally, the work done in this research will propose some recommendations to improve the current policy by giving certain alternatives to this penalty.
Explanation of the Problem
The death penalty is a controversial issue and it needs thinking on it repeatedly to bring about positive changes in the constitution with essential amendments. Many states of the country are still using this penalty for cases of homicide and certain other crimes as well. These states include Georgia, Florida, Alabama, California, Arizona, and others, the total number being twenty-nine. This number suggests that the country is overall endorsing the death penalty while all other developed nations of the West are against this penalty. This worldwide situation forces the thinkers and legislators to rethink over the policy and align it with the current demands of international relations.
The convicts of death penalty include those involved in serious crimes such as drug trafficking on a large scale, murder, espionage, and treason. Attempts to murder a high-rank official can also lead to this punishment (Schabas, 2019). In 1976, the death penalty was suspended by the Supreme Court, by making void forty death penalties that had to be given to the convicts. This suspension was ended after ten months when Gary Gilmore was executed by a firing squad. This shows that the court has been trying to eliminate or at least reduce the number of death penalties in the past. However, due to certain cases with extremely severe consequences, the court could not get rid of this penalty and was bound to keep this policy actively working to date.
Different methods have been in use by the courts to punish convicts of death penalty. Many of these are now considered to be brutal and unfair. Those methods of executing the convicts also included hanging a person until death and this method of imposing death to a person was actively used by the states of New Hampshire and Delaware. New Hampshire is the only state in America that uses the method of hanging a person till death in present time. The use of electric chair was common in earlier times (Steiker & Steiker, 2015). It was a horrible method of giving death sentence to a person. The convicted was placed on a chair, while he or she was handcuffed so that they could not move and the executing committee sat in front of them. The head of the convicted was then fastened by a gripping frame that had electric wires to be placed on the skull. A very high voltage current was passed through the wires to kill the person. This method was extremely painful. The culprits were also executed by the use of lethal gases that were released in the room where the convicted had been isolated for death. An extremely painful method this was again. People have been executed by the authorities in the history of the country, and the methods used were mostly painful. It seems that the executors did not know better alternatives to these ways.
Currently, a relatively better alternative is in use by most of the states, that is, the use of lethal injection (Capital Punishment Law—Guide to Death Penalty Law—HG.org, n.d.). It takes almost seven minutes for a person to die of this lethal injection. Certain complications might arise in the application of this method. It happens mostly that the proper vein for injecting the chemical is not found easily. Certain reasons may be behind the difficulty in finding the suitable vein, such as the fearful mental condition of the convicted, or others. There had been a notorious case of Christopher Newton in 2007 when the suitable vein was not found easily and it took more than two hours to insert the injection.
Proponents of the death penalty argue that it deters other criminals to carry out killings. This argument has been widely opposed by many critics and the public as well. The advocates of death penalty also provide references from the Testaments in support of this penalty. However, various researches conducted on this policy suggest otherwise. A study concluded that no research to date determines the deterring effects of death penalty (Council et al., 2012). The study evaluates many research papers write earlier and proposes a dire need for further research in this regard to explore the actual effects of this policy. Hence, it can be said with clarity that the argument in favor of death penalty is not based on solid grounds of extensive research. Instead, another study found entirely opposite results to the above-said argument posited in favor of the death penalty. This article presented evidence that says the death penalty has no deterring effects on the homicides. It claims that the rate of homicides increase with the use of death penalty (Forst, 1983). This statement provides a completely different view about the perceived implications of death penalty. The death penalty is not the ultimate solution to control homicides, the study emphasizes.
The financial considerations of giving death penalty suggest that it is not at all a good alternative to punishing the convicted. As it is widely known that the procedure of giving death penalty is very long and time-taking, it takes about fifteen to twenty years for a person to be sentenced to death in many cases (Garrett et al., 2017). The formalities of this penalty are plenty in number and the costs incurred to complete all those formalities are extremely high. One can imagine how much it would cost to keep a person for twenty years in prison so that the related formalities of the case could be completed to eventually giving the death penalty. Therefore, many states have started rethinking over their policy in this regard not for the sake of humanity and higher moral values but because of the financial costs occurring in these cases.
The policy of death penalty has to be discussed and considered for making the necessary changes to it. The states and legislations have already started pondering over this issue and the most promising solution they reach is to find alternative options to the death penalty. Prior to discussing the alternatives, it seems necessary to understand the current policy in more depth. The criticism against this policy is based on the fear people have regarding the possibility of unfair decisions that will lead to giving punishment to some innocent persons. (Dieter, 2016) It is largely argued by the opponents of the death policy that the possibility of an innocent person to get trapped in such a case is high and if this happens it would be the failure of the justice system. It is quite possible that certain evidence may be found against an innocent person, based on the DNA recovered on the site of crime. This is because many people pass by a place and the results, therefore, may become complicated (Barry, 2016). Hence, the fear of people is justifiable, and the death penalty loses its support by public opinion.
The policy of death punishment is against the nature of the democratic system implemented in the country. The death penalty crushes away the dignity of a human whereas the spirit of the democratic system is completely different from it (Bedau, 1973). People are given human dignity, integrity, and respect in the democratic system. The death penalty has, therefore, egregiously devastating effects on a society where the democratic system is working for centuries. People in a democratic system will consider it always as an excruciating rejection of the universally accepted human rights. These evidence suggest an immediate abolition of death penalty from the legal system of the country.
The nature of debates on death penalty has been changing with the changing trends in thoughts and views. During the last twenty-five years, ideas and views of people have shown drastic changes regarding the death penalty. The changing nature of arguments made during these decades include discussion related to incapacitation, vengeance, deterrence, bias, financial costs, and innocence (Radelet & Borg, 2000). The arguments vary increasingly and the nature of discussions as well. It seems that the overall mentality of people is shifting from supportive to opposing in respect of the issue of death penalty. People of America do not want this penalty to be used anymore. Therefore, the need for discussing alternatives is inevitable.
The death penalty can be substituted by certain alternatives that can prove more effective as well as advantageous for the system and the society. First, the convicted can be sentenced to imprisonment for life. This way they will remain behind the bars, isolated form the society, and will not be able to harm anyone again. They will not be released from the jail the whole life. The life-time sentence will further be of two types: a life-time sentence that would be imposed without parole, and the other will be a lifetime sentence to be given with parole. These options are also harsh and difficult in themselves. However, these can be considered as alternatives to the death penalty.
Parole refers to the permission to the families of the convicted to come and visit him or her. This keeps the door open for the children or close relatives of the convicted to have a mutual meeting and the life remains a bit comfortable for the person behind the bars. This is a reasonable alternative to the death penalty. It balances the severity of punishment and the basic human rights of individuals. From one perspective, the culprit is getting enough punishment that he or she will no more be able to enjoy the freedom of a normal civilian life. On the other hand, a passage to life will be kept open for the culprit by allowing his or her close relatives to pay occasional visits.
The imprisonment for life without parole is an extremely tough and painful punishment as an alternative to the death sentence. A life without parole closes all doors to life for the convicted. To many thinkers, it is same as the death sentence, differing only in the sense that the person convicted of crime lives on. They argue that life has no meaning if one is not allowed to see his or her children or the close relatives. Hence, the support behind this option is also not significant. However, it is an option and it can be considered in cases that involve crimes of extreme nature.
Several considerations are necessary while sentencing a person for life. The proceedings of the trial and related formalities have to be reviewed to upgrade the system. An analysis of the trial standards is essential so that everything proceeds on fair basis. The imprisonment conditions that would be applied to the imprisoned should also be checked to ensure that human values are not exploited at any point. Since many prisons in the country have been reported to lack fair treatment with the prisoners, the legislative bodies must focus on improving the situation by making necessary amendments and policies.
The law should support basic human rights as do the democratic system of the country. The legislative decrees must match the spirit of democracy and the trending views of people. This is because the system and the law should give value to the opinions and preferences of people in a democratic country. The death penalty has lost support of public opinion and therefore the courts should pass new orders to eliminate this penalty.
The death penalty can be replaced by available alternatives including the life-time imprisonment with parole and the life-time imprisonment without parole. The second alternative is further to be used rarely because it is almost equivalent to the death sentence (The abolition of the death penalty and its alternative sanction, n.d.). However, the first alternative is a positive solution to the issue, and it assumes at least the basic human rights of a person. These alternatives can be implemented considering the contexts and natures of the cases to keep a balance of justice and fairness. A life time imprisonment will make the convicted deprived of all possibilities of social and economic growth, leaving only the possibilities of acquiring basic human needs and wants.
The surviving members of the family of the victim need attention and care (Sentencing Alternatives, n.d.). Their financial support becomes a necessity if they are deprived of the source of income as a result of the demise of victim. The responsibility of the state government is evident to support the family of victim and make necessary arrangement to facilitate them in every aspect. Further, among the available alternatives, it is important that prevention programs should be carried out to change the mentality of potential criminals (Alternatives to the Death Penalty | Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, n.d.). Domestic violence should be eliminated through effective planning and control. The law and order have to be upgraded to stop occurrence of any such crimes. Prevention should be at that level that eliminates the need of cure.
Death penalty is an important issue in present time because it has serious implications and effects. It disturbs the dominant number of people in the country due to its contradictory nature and harsh realities. People have stopped supporting the death penalty policy and, therefore, it is being suggested by reformers that the courts must eliminate this sentence from the system. America is the only developed Western country that is still using the death penalty for the convicted of certain crimes like homicide, treason, espionage, rape, etc. The changing views regarding this policy are based on different arguments ranging from financial considerations to incapacitation, innocence, and others. People are living in the atmosphere of democracy and the policies regarding penalties must match with this mentality of people. Possible alternatives to death penalties include a life sentence without parole and a life sentence with parole. The state governments can consider alternatives to death penalties by making necessary amendments in the constitution as well as changes to legislation. No true changes can take place in the system until the government and other authorities stand firm on the principle of democracy and understand the changing views of people precisely.
Alternatives to the Death Penalty | Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2020, from https://oadp.org/facts/alternatives-death-penalty
Barry, K. (2016). The Death Penalty & the Dignity Clauses. Iowa L. Rev., 102, 383.
Bedau, H. A. (1973). The case against the death penalty. American Civil Liberties Union.
Capital Punishment Law—Guide to Death Penalty Law—HG.org. (n.d.). Retrieved January 24, 2020, from https://www.hg.org/death-penalty.html
Council, N. R., Nagin, D. S., & Pepper, J. V. (2012). Deterrence and the death penalty. National Academies Press Washington, DC.
Dieter, R. C. (2016). A Crisis of Confidence: Americans’ Doubts about the Death Penalty. In Against the Death Penalty (pp. 207–224). Routledge.
Forst, B. (1983). Capital punishment and deterrence: Conflicting evidence. J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 74, 927.
Garrett, B. L., Jakubow, A., & Desai, A. (2017). The American death penalty decline. J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 107, 561.
Radelet, M. L., & Borg, M. J. (2000). The changing nature of death penalty debates. Annual Review of Sociology, 26(1), 43–61.
Schabas, W. A. (2019). International law and the abolition of the death penalty. In Comparative Capital Punishment. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Sentencing Alternatives. (n.d.). Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved January 24, 2020, from https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/policy-issues/sentencing-alternatives
Steiker, C. S., & Steiker, J. M. (2015). The American death penalty and the (in) visibility of race. The University of Chicago Law Review, 243–294.
The abolition of the death penalty and its alternative sanction. (n.d.). Penal Reform International. Retrieved January 24, 2020, from https://www.penalreform.org/resource/abolition-death-penalty-alternative-sanction-east-africa-kenya/
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