"Capital punishment is a term which indicates muddled thinking." George Bernard Shaw The "muddled thinking" that Shaw speaks of is the thinking that perpetuates the controversy over capital punishment in the United States today. The impractical concurrence of a theoretical, moral argument and definite, legal application has left all sides in this controversy dissatisfied with the ultimate handling of the issue. There are legitimate ethical and empirical considerations that stand on both the side that favors and on the side that opposes the death penalty. The general incompatibility of these considerations renders them irreconcilable. It is within this condition of irreconcilability that the government must initiate and implement its policies regarding capital punishment. This fixed condition has led to the necessity for and creation of comprises between both sites of this debate, attempting to synthesize the considerations of the two. The contentious issue of the capital punishment was rekindled in the 1970s when, in 1976, the Supreme reinstated the practice after a four-year hiatus. The arguments that comprise much of the legal debate on the issue stem from the eighth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. The eighth reads, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." 1
The final clause of the first section of the fourteenth amendment explains, "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 2 The 1976 ruling of Gregg v....
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... sides, regardless of personal conviction. The inherent incompatibility of the arguments prevents any solution from meeting the expectations and satisfying the moral obligations of all parties. This paradox leads to the need for compromise, in place of reconciliation, in death penalty legislation. The status quo of the American legal system allows legislators to weigh the considerations of each side and come to some practical conclusion for the impractical clash of moral ideologies.
1 "Amendment VIII". Constitution of the United States.
2 "Amendment XIV". Constitution of the United States.
3 Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). United States Supreme Court. Pp. 168-187.
4 "Leviticus". The Soncino Chumash. Pp. 760.
5 "Capital Punishment 1996". Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. December 1997. Pp. 3.
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