Relative to many European states, U.S. criminal procedure is characterized by the presence of an active death penalty. Although it has been frozen or abolished in most countries, there is an ongoing debate in America about its effectiveness. This can be explained by the fact that despite the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel punishment, the main law officially permits such a measure of justice. According to opponents of the death penalty, these methods are contrary to the principles of humanity and should be eradicated. It is necessary to find out what is the reason for the retention of the death penalty as an effective method under American law.
A Nation’s Attitude Toward the Death Penalty
First of all, it should be emphasized that not all, but many states can apply the death penalty without contradicting the law. The federal government can also impose capital punishment for especially serious crimes, the murder of a federal employee in the line of duty. There have been periods in the history of the state when the death penalty was prohibited as a court-ordered measure, but under President Clinton in 1994, Congress restored the “federal” death penalty (Kaufman 30). Gallup Poll found that most Americans interpret the death penalty as a guarantor of safety and the disappearance of new victims of various criminals (Kaufman 54). Nevertheless, the predominant majority of countries have stopped using such methods to control and ensure justice in their territories.
Arguments For and Against the Death Penalty
We must begin our analysis with the most common argument, namely, in terms of restoring justice according to the Talien principle. If someone killed a person, deliberately and brutally, especially a child, an old man, or a woman, then the punishment for that crime must be appropriate (Heyns et al. 76). Another argument is the prevention and elimination of a source of danger to society as a whole so that order is maintained (Heyns et al. 84). Nevertheless, opponents of the death penalty compare society to a murderer since the court makes the same decision about the murder as the criminal did at the time (Heyns et al. 85). These individuals are convinced that only war can be a justification for killing a person, and then only if the person is an enemy and a danger.
Opponents also often mention that investigative agencies are no strangers to making mistakes, which can lead to the murder of an innocent person, which is a shame. This is also one of the serious arguments of the opponents, but in recent years there have been no such mishaps in court practice. The United States has a very strong independent justice system. A person sentenced to capital punishment has a variety of options to appeal the court’s decision. One can appeal to a state supreme court and a federal court. DNA analysis now serves as a very important additional way to overturn a conviction (Ricciardelli 37).
Mistakes can happen in any court system, but in the United States these days, the possibility of a wrongful death sentence is incredibly slight. In addition, the time of execution has been increased, so if a person is sentenced, it may take, for example, five years to execute the contract.
The Legal Context of the Death Penalty
The conditions and laws for carrying out the death penalty vary greatly from state to state, but the number of territories with a permissible method is thirty-six. For example, in South Carolina, it is for felony murder in prison, and in Nevada, it is for any felony murder. If we analyze the Bureau of Justice, however, most states only use the measure in crimes resulting in a premeditated murder. In addition, several states also use the rape of a child as a legal basis for sentencing the offender.
It is necessary to analyze some of the most important and striking examples of the use of the death penalty, contributing to the manifestation and deduction of the logic of this method. Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Louisiana for the rape of his minor relative (U.S. Supreme Court 2008). Buford v. State held that Flan’s rape statute was unconstitutional, but upheld the defendant’s death sentence because the victim was also murdered (Florida Supreme Court 1981).
The statute was not overturned but appears unconstitutional, there were 25 executions in the U.S. in 2018. Tennessee came in second place, with Florida, Georgia, and Alabama in the next positions. The conditions by which a crime can entail the death penalty vary from state to state. For example, in South Carolina, it is for felony murder in prison, and in Nevada, it is for any felony murder. The death penalty may also be imposed for certain military crimes, such as desertion. It is not a question of abolishing the death penalty now, but of expanding its application.
In addition, the position of judges, legislators, and politicians is influenced by public opinion. It is important to emphasize that freedom of choice is not given to the death penalty, but its methods are set out in the law. The most common is the electric chair execution, in 17 states (Ricciardelli 31). Some states use gas chambers; in four, and for military crimes under federal law – hanging. Utah uses the firing squad and the rest use lethal injections.
Some states use more than one type of death penalty. For example, in Arkansas an offender may be shot, electrocuted, or given a lethal injection. In some states, criminals are allowed to choose the form of their death, and they can also be given injections of psychotropic drugs if they wish. Sentences imposed on civilians under federal law are carried out in the manner determined by the state where the execution is carried out.
Humanization of the Death Penalty
An important aspect to be emphasized is that modern society is being humanized and condemns harshness. This vector of development has not bypassed the death penalty, where faster and more painless methods are offered. The fact is that a criminal is also a person whose rights should be respected. For example, the introduction of injections that deprive life but do not cause suffering has been proposed. The practice has already been taken on a global scale but is not yet used universally. In addition, the investigation gives people the chance to escape this punishment if they can prove innocence or if they can show that there has been an error in the investigation (Kaufman 100). Thus, there is an acquittal verdict, which cancels all applicable measures and restores the reputation of the person in society.
Florida Supreme Court. (1981). Buford v. State. Web.
Heyns, Christof, Alston, Philip, Knuckey, Sarah, and Probert, Thomas. (Ed.). (2020). Alston and Heyns on Unlawful Killings: A Compendium of the Jurisprudence of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2004-2016. Pretoria University Law Press.
Kaufman, Sarah B. (2020). American Roulette. The Social Logic of Death Penalty Sentencing Trials. University of California Press.
Ricciardelli, Lauren A. (Ed.). (2020). Social Work, Criminal Justice, and the Death Penalty. Oxford University Press.
U.S. Supreme Court. (2008). Kennedy v, Louisiana, No. 07-343. Web.