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Capital Punishment Is Not Only Unusual, But Cruel

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Capital Punishment is Not Only Unusual, But Cruel

The most widely known aspect of the eighth amendment is the fact that

it prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Cruel and unusual punishment is

perceived as punishment that causes "an unnecessary and wanton infliction of

pain" (Bailey). Is capital punishment cruel and unusual? It is one of the most

controversial topics in America today. In effect since the 1600s, the US

Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual" in 1972

but reversed this decision when a "cleaner" way to bring about death was

found in 1976 (Encarta). This "cleaner" way is death by lethal injection,

which is quick and painless if administered correctly. Capital punishment is

used for many different reasons and has been enforced in many different

methods through the years, for "when crime mounts in the US, the demand

for punishment also increases" (Rottenberg 569). Is it right for us to be able

to kill another human being who breaks the law? Why don't we just use life

imprisonment instead? There are so many moral issues surrounding capital

punishment and whether or not it is a cruel and unusual form of punishment.

Few of these generalizations remain very clear, no matter what the situation.

I personally believe the death penalty should be considered cruel and unusual

based on three reasons, current racial issues and report findings, personal

opinions on punishment standards, and my religious beliefs.

Since capital punishment has been reinstituted, the issue has been a

major discussion in the media and among the American public. Along with

the discussions, questions have arisen on whether the death penalty is a racist

punishment. A 1990 report released by the federal government's General

Accounting Office found a "pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in

the charging, sentencing and imposition of the death penalty" (Bailey). After

reviewing over 2,500 homicide cases and sentencing patterns in Georgia in

the 1970s, the report concluded that a person accused of killing a white was

4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a person accused of

killing a black. The Stanford Law Review published a study that found

similar patterns of racial despair

, based on the race of the victim, in Arkansas,

Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and

Virginia. For example, in Arkansas findings showed that defendants in a case

involving a white victim are three-and-a-half times more likely to be

sentenced to death; in Illinois, four times; in North Carolina, 4.4 times, and in

Mississippi five times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants

convicted of murdering blacks (Bailey).

Secondly, I believe the execution methods the death penalty utilizes

make it cruel. In the US, there are five methods of execution currently in

use. These methods are: electrocution, lethal injection, the gas chamber, the

firing squad (used only in Utah), and hanging (Bailey). Problems with capital

punishment methods stem as far back as the ritual itself. The eighth

amendment, which is supposed to protect its citizens from torturous treatment

and punishment at the hand of law enforcers, lets the enforcers inflict these

methods which are cruel, slow and painful upon the person being executed.

"Everyone who commits a crime is not committing a compulsive act"

(Wasserstrom 573) and therefore, we should not act impulsively towards

them. The punishment should not be grossly out of proportion to the severity

of the crime charged, nor should it violate the convicted individual's dignity.

Lastly, there is the aspect of my religion (Catholic) playing a factor in

the capital punishment debate. Many people point to the passage in




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