Friday, 31 January 2014

DEATH SENTENCING (Capital Punishment) IN THE USA

What's your thoughts on the death penalty? 


INTRODUCTION

Capital punishment is sometimes referred to as the death penalty in the US and it the lawful infliction of the death sentence. In the year 2003, the punishment was still in use in various states in the US as a mode of deterring offenders from committing serious offences. Perhaps this is the case because of the fact that in many jurisdictions and not only the US consider Capital punishment as an effective way of reducing the serious offences even though despite the numerous complaints that have been echoed in various quarters. The penalty may be achieved by use of numerous ways, different states use different ways to carry out these sentences and it depends on the laws of that state. Some of the methods that can be employed include hanging, the use of poisonous gas, through injections, by a firing team and electrocution.

THE LAW AND DEVELOPMENT OF DEATH PENALTY

The death punishment that can be passed must be prescribed by the law is governed by the Eighth Amendment which was made to the US constitution. By virtue of these changes to the Constitution, the punishment can only be inflicted to aggravated murderers and the accused should be of sound mind.

To understand the punishment, it is important to understand how it was first initiated in the US. The punishment was for many years the prescribed penalty imposed for felonies which are committed under the United Kingdom Common Law. During the verge of industrial revolution when the Europeans invaded America, the Common Law principles were introduced and the death penalty was introduced. In the US the first ever execution made under the colony was at Jamestown colony in the year 1608. Capital sentencing was also made common during times of revolution and it has been recorded that over 162 death penalties were entered in the 18th century.

After the completion of the revolutions and wars, most colonies drafted new legal framework and Constitutions. Some of them included capital punishment while others failed to include the punishment in their constitution. However, after sometimes all the colonies that had ignored to include the sentence had included it. When the Congress was first put in place in 1790, the house enacted laws that gave power to capital punishment in regards to violent crimes such as Robbery with violence, murder, rape, and public embezzling. Afterwards in the 19th century, there were increased death sentences which have been recorded in the 1391 executions. The punishment continued to be carried on for sometimes by many states; currently 32 states1 together with the military court systems carry out the sentence.

ARGUMENT AGAINST DEATH SENTENCE

The national moratorium was places on death as capital punishment in 1967. And in the same year the US Supreme Court indulged in the constitutionality of the penalty. In the case of Furman v Georgia2 it appeared as though an end to the operation of the death sentence would be made. In the case the judges held that certain capital punishments are not only unconstitutional but also cruel unjustifiable and that the juries were putting it to wrong use.

Many Abolitionists have continued to argue that the trial and execution of death sentence is very expensive and costly to the taxpayers and should be done away with. A mandatory state review costs approximately $70,000 and when the appeal proceeds to the federal status, the cost is approximately $275,000. They argue the punishment of life imprisonment is more effective and would help save taxpayers money.

In the cases that have been brought against the Supreme Court. The court has upheld the constitutionality of the sentence, but there has been division in the court. This shows that even though the court has stuck to its guns, not many are convinced on the effectiveness of the sentence. It is basing on this reason that many critics have been arguing that the penalty lacks the alleged deterrent effect and that it has been applied in a discriminating manner.

ARGUMENTS SUPPORTING DEATH SENTENCE

It seems that even after the case of Furman the idea of death sentence cannot be done way with easily. In the states of Texas, Georgia and Florida, the assemblies drafted new death penalty laws in 1976. The ruling in the case of Furman had little influence on these laws since the same Supreme Court upheld the legitimacy of the laws. Only two out of the nine bench judge had a dissenting opinion on capital sentencing. Since then death sentence its associated controversies managed to survive. Many states are still having the death penalty laws and this shows that the sentence is to stay for quite some time.

INFORMATION ON DEATH EXECUTION – KEY STATISTICS

Since the year 1976, 1,365 (including 2014) inmates have been executed in America. Texas3 (474) and Oklahoma are on the top of the list. California has the largest number of inmates in the US waiting on the death row. For the last 10 years the number of executed inmates is 474. Race and gender are also important. On gander, only 12 women have executed since 1976. On racial percentage many whites have been executed4. However, the execution rate in the population shows that more African-Americans are being executed. Lastly, many states prefer the use lethal injection as a mode of execution5.

CONCLUSION

It is no doubt that the issues of death sentencing is a controversial issue, many activists in the US and all over the world have been pressuring the government to abolish the sentence. There is also pressure from international bodies and rules such as the United Nation Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 provide freedom of life. Due to the emergence and expansion of human rights watch and activists it will be important to observe if the death execution laws will abolished.

1 Simpson, Ian (2 May 2013). “Maryland becomes the Latest US state to abolish death penalty” Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013
2 408 U.S. 238, 92 S. Ct. 2726, 33 L. Ed 2d 346
3 “The executing State”: Oklahoma Watch. 2013-02-21. Retrieved on 2014-01-29
4 53.3% are whites, 33.3% are African Americans while 8% are Latinos
5 86.3% of the execution have been carried out by this use (approximately 1093)
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