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The Unconstitutionality Of Capital Punishment Essay

2383 words - 10 pages

The Unconstitutionality of Capital Punishment


Capital punishment is one of the most popularly debated topics in the nation today. Since colonial times, more than 13,000 people have been legally executed. A large percentage of these executions occurred during the early 1900's. In the 1930's, as many as 150 people were being legally executed every year. However, the number of executions started to decrease as public outrage became apparent. In 1996, thirty-seven states, including New Jersey, legalized the death penalty. Of the other thirteen states, Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1847, Minnesota in 1853, and Alaska and Hawaii never had the death penalty. Today, there are over 2,000 people on "death row." Almost all are very poor, and a significant number of them are mentally retarded or disabled (ACLU 1). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dictates that, "In all circumstances, the death penalty is unconstitutional under the Eight Amendment, and that its discriminatory application violates the Fourteenth Amendment" (1), and therefore, capital punishment violates the Constitution. Capital punishment should be illegal throughout the nation for many reasons.

Capital punishment has many supporters. One of the major arguments that these supporters express is that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime. They argue that if the death penalty is legalized and practiced, it will discourage others from committing a crime. However, by comparing the data of the states with the death penalty and the states without the death penalty, one can easily see that the death penalty has no effect in deterring crime. According to the National Research Council in 1976, "the available studies provide no useful evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment" (Bedau 141-42). The states that use the death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates than the states without such laws. Furthermore, the states that establish death penalty laws do not reap any significant benefits in reducing crime or murder rates. Research shows that a large percentage of the murderers do what they do because of passion, malevolence, and/or because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs(Bedau 170). This demonstrates the fact that the murderer gives little thought to the consequences he/she might have to face later on for the crime. A second criminal profile includes those who plan their crimes beforehand, such as professional executioners. According to Bedau, murderers are not influenced by the death penalty as a punishment, since they carefully plan their murders thinking that they will not get caught (171). Therefore, they do not think about the consequences they will face if they are captured.

Another argument made by death penalty supporters is that the death penalty will eliminate the chances of a criminal committing a second crime. Certainty, the death penalty will completely destroy the chances of a criminal committing another crime....

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