Death Penalty and Eighth Amendment
Death Penalty and Eighth Amendment :
The expression AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH has taken on a whole new meaning. Lately, murderers have been getting a punishment equal to their crime, death. In 1967, executions in the United States were temporarily suspended to give the federal appellate courts time to decide whether or not the death penalty was unconstitutional. Then, in 1972, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Furman versus Georgia that the death penalty violated the Eight Amendments. According to the Eighth Amendment…. Excessive bail shall not be required, no excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted.
After the Supreme Court made this ruling, states reviewed their death penalty laws. In 1976, in the case of Gregg versus Georgia the Supreme Court ruled state death penalty laws were not unconstitutional. Presently in the United States the death penalty can only be used as punishment for intentional killing. Still, the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment and should be outlawed in the United States.
Currently in the United States there are five methods used for executing criminals…the electric chair, gas chamber, lethal injection, hanging and firing squad, each of them equally cruel and unusual in there own ways. When a person is sentenced to death by electrocution he strapped to a chair and electrodes are attached to his head and leg. The amount of voltage is raised and lowered a few times and death is supposed to occur within three minutes. Three whole minutes with electricity flowing through someone's body, while his flesh burns. Three minutes may not seem like a very long time, but to someone who is waiting for his body to die, three minutes can feel like an eternity.
Three minutes is the approximate time it takes for a person to die if everything goes right, but in some cases it takes longer for people to die. In 1990, Jesse Tafero, a prisoner in Florida, remained conscious for four minutes while witnesses watched ashes fall from his head. In Georgia in 1984, it took nearly twenty minutes for Alpha Otis Stephens to die. At 12:18 am on December 12, he was shocked with electricity for two minutes and his body still showed signs of life. The doctors had to wait six minutes to examine his body because it was too hot to touch.
Stephens was still alive, so he was electrocuted for another two minutes. Finally at 12:37 am doctors pronounced him dead. When a person is executed in the gas chamber he is strapped to a chair in an airtight room. A cyanide pellet is dropped in sulfuric acid which forms a lethal gas. The prisoner remains conscious for a few minutes while struggling to breathe. These gas chambers are similar to the ones used by the Nazi's in World War II concentration camps. Fifty years ago, America was quick to condemn the Germans for persecuting Jew's, but, today, in 1996 Americans execute their own people the exact same way.
Lethal injection is the newest form of execution in the United States. The person being executed is injected with a deadly dose of barbiturates through an intravenous tube in his arm. This method is considered the most humane and efficient way of execution, but a federal judge noted that a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation. Since 1985 there have been three botched injections in Texas alone. In one case it took 24 minutes to kill a criminal because the tube leaked and sprayed the chemicals towards the witnesses. In 1989, too weak a dosage of drugs caused Stephen McCoy to choke and heave for several minutes before he died.
Hanging used to be the most common way to execute a person, but now it is only used in Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington. Hanging is not a very useful way of execution, because if the drop is too short the person being executed dies through gradual strangulation and if the rope is too long the person's head is ripped off. There is no punishment more unusual then having your head ripped off, so the death penalty is in direct violation with the Constitution.
When someone is executed by a firing squad he is strapped to a chair and has a target attached to his chest. Then five marksmen aim for the target and fire. Having people being paid to shot at a target on someone's chest is not only cruel, but humiliating for the person being executed.
The death penalty by itself is a cruel and unusual punishment, but the treatment of prisoners before being executed is also cruel and unusual. In August 1995 Robert Breechen was scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma. He attempted to commit suicide, but authorities revived him, then executed him hours later. In Illinois last November, the state gave death row inmate John Del Vecchio two heart surgeries and then executed him in December. Richard Town's execution in Virginia was delayed for twenty two minutes while they looked for a vein to inject.
The death penalty is the ultimate form of punishment, because there is no way to reverse its effects. It will end up taking the lives of innocent victims as long as there is fault in the justice system. The death penalty contradicts the whole idea of human rights. Human rights are significant because some means may never be used to protect society because their use violates the values that make society worth protecting.
From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death....I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies. -- Justice Harry Blackmun
Supporters of the death penalty believe that the death penalty helps keep the crime and murder rate down, but that is not so. States with death penalty laws do not have lower crime or rates than states that with death penalty laws. Also, by incarcerating criminals for life, instead of executing them, it makes them think about what they did and forces them to live with the consequences of their actions. The death penalty violates our constitutional rights and should be made illegal. It directly contradicts the Eighth Amendment which forbids cruel and unusual punishment. If the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment then what is? Is there possibly anything more cruel then dying a slow death while breathing in lethal fumes or anything more unusual then watching people who are paid to shoot at the target on your chest? The Bill of Rights was established to protect the rights of the people and now Americans are taking away these rights from their own countrymen.
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The 8th Amendment Essay
The 8th Amendment
In the United States Constitution, the 8th Amendment prohibits the use and practices of cruel and unusual punishment. What exactly is considered to be cruel and unusual punishment? This question is a hot topic among America's many different current controversies. Many people are saying that the use of capital punishment (to be sentenced to death as a penalty in the eyes of the law [a capital crime]. An execution [capital punishment]) is a direct violation of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (Capital Punishment). They say there should be another way to deal with these criminals other than having them executed. The purpose of this paper is to give a brief history of the death penalty and state some alternative forms of punishment along with opposing viewpoints. As t which one is right, that's up to you to decide.
Capital punishment has been a part of our government since the seventeenth century (The Death Penalty in America). The criminal law that we had here was just a variation colony by colony, on the law of England. Although the capital law of the thirteen colonies differed from one another, many interesting and important details concerning the death penalty and various other things occurred during the century and a half of the colonial period. All of the colonies authorized public executions by hanging as the mandatory punishment for various crimes against the state, the person, and the property (The Death Penalty in America).
In the early nineteenth century, English criminal law imposed the death penalty for a wide range of crimes from murder, treason, rape, to such stupid things as petty theft. Of all of the nonhomocidal crimes particularly by death, rape was by far the most numerous. Some ten percent of all executions carried out between 1930 and 1977 were for rape.
Those who opted to keep the death penalty did so because they thought that it would act as a discouragement for would be criminals and to keep the community safe. In theory it seemed clear-cut, but does it work? America has had more violent crimes this century than in any other time in its history. The only real point that both sides can agree upon is that the death penalty stops the convicted murder from ever killing again. Some say that this reason is enough to keep the death penalty.
There are currently five different ways to carry out the death penalty in the United States. The first is death by firing squad. Death occurs because of massive damage to the body's vital organs, heart, central nervous system, or by a combination of these different effects with hemorrhage (The Execution Protocol). Probably the quickest way to execute a human being with a gun is to fire a single bullet from a piston at point blank range into the head. Yet in Idaho and Utah, the law specifies a five-man rifle squad.
Execution by firing squad has a long history in America. The first recorded execution by firing...
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