The Unconstitutionality of Capital Punishment

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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 th...

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...deterrence, it is incapacitation(Kaminer)

C. Human judgment is not infallible

1. The risk of executing the innocent is too high.

2. The death penalty is final-no way to reverse.

3. Death Penalty and Sentencing Information study.

D. Unconstitutionality

1. Violates the Eighth Amendment-"prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment(Litardo).

2. Violates the Fourteenth Amendment-"guarantees of equal protection of the laws and due process"(Litardo).

E. Discrimination

1. Gender discrimination(Bedau).

2. Racial discrimination(Bedau).

3. Socio-economic level discrimination(Bedau).

III. Conclusion

A. Capital punishment is not an effective way of approaching the crime problem.

1. Capital punishment has many different difficulties as an attempt to decrease and prevent crime

2. Capital punishment should be illegal throughout the nation.

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