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Death Penalty negitive view point

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Social Issues

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Death Penalty - negitive view point

Today, in modern law, the death penalty is corporal punishment. It is irreversible. It ends the lives of those punished, instead of temporarily imprisoning them. Although capital punishment is not intended to inflict physical pain, execution is the only corporal punishment still applied to adults. The usual alternative to the death penalty is life-long imprisonment. The media commonly report that the American public overwhelmingly supports the death penalty. More careful analysis of public attitudes, however, reveals that most Americans would oppose the death penalty if convicted murderers were sentenced to life without parole and were required to make some form of financial restitution. ?In California, for example, a Field Institute survey showed that in 1990,82 percent approved in principle of the death penalty. But when asked to choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment plus restitution, only a small minority, 26 percent, continued to favor executions.

The earliest historical records contain written evidence of capital punishment. Used from ancient times in most societies, it has been used as punishment for crimes ranging from petty theft to murder. The bible called for the penalty of death for more than thirty different crimes. In England, during the reigns of King Canute and William the Conqueror, the death penalty was not used, although the results of interrogation and torture were often fatal. In the years to follow, the death penalty in the American colonies before the Revolution was commonly authorized for a wide variety of crimes. Blacks were threatened with death for many crimes that were punished less severely when committed by whites.

Not until the end of the 18th century were efforts made to abolish the death penalty. Quakers led this movement in England and America. Encouraged by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, England repealed all but a few of its capital statutes during the 19th century. Many states in the United States, led by Michigan in 1847, abolished the death penalty entirely. However, since complete abolition could never be achieved, reformers concentrated on limiting the scope of capital punishment. In 1794, Pennsylvania adopted a law to distinguish the degrees of murder and only used the death penalty for premeditated first-degree murder. Another reform took place in 1846 in Louisiana. This state abolished the mandatory death penalty and authorized the option of sentencing a capital offender to life imprisonment rather than to death. After the 1830s, public executions ceased to be demonstrated but did not completely stop until after 1936.

Thirty-seven states now have laws authorizing the death penalty, as does the military. A dozen states in the Middle West and Northeast have abolished capital punishment, two in the last century (Michigan in 1847,Minnesota in 1853). Alaska and Hawaii have never had the death penalty. Most executions have taken place in the states of the Deep South. More than 2,000 people are on death row today. Most of all of the people are poor, a significant number are mentally retarded or mentally disabled, more than 40 percent are African American, and a disproportionate number are Native American, Latino and Asian.

The methods of execution have changed over the ages. The death penalty been inflicted in many ways now regarded today as barbaric and forbidden by law almost everywhere. Some ways it was inflicted in the past was crucifixion, boiling in oil, drawing and quartering, impalement, beheading, burning alive, crushing, tearing, stoning, and drowning. These types of punishment today are considered cruel and unusual punishment. In the United States, the death penalty is currently authorized in one of five ways: hanging, electrocution, the gas chamber, firing squad, or lethal injection. These methods of execution compared to those of the past are not meant for torture, they are meant for punishment for heinous crime.

The traditional mode of execution, still available in a few states, is hanging. If the drop is too short, there will be a slow and agonizing death by strangulation. If the drop is too long, the head will be torn off. Two states, Idaho and Utah, still authorize the firing squad. The prisoner is strapped into a chair, and hooded. A target is pinned to the chest. Five marksmen, one with blanks, take aim and fire. Electrocution has been the most widely used form of execution in this country in this century. The condemned prisoner is led'or dragged'into the death chamber, strapped into the chair, and electrodes are fastened to head and legs. When the switch is thrown the body strains, jolting as the voltage is raised and lowered. Often smoke rises from the head. There is the awful odor of burning flesh.

No one knows how long electrocuted individuals retain consciousness. An attempt to improve on electrocution was the gas chamber. The prisoner is strapped into a chair, a container of sulfuric acid underneath. The chamber is sealed, and cyanide is dropped into the acid to form lethal gas. The latest mode of inflicting the death penalty, enacted into law by nearly twenty-four states, is lethal injection, first used in Texas in 1982. There is no way of knowing that it is really painless. As the U.S. Court of Appeals observed, there is 'substantial and uncontroversial evidence ? that execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel, protracted death?. Even 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.? However, the execution sometime never proceeds smoothly as planned. In 1985, 'the authorities repeatedly jabbed needles into ? Stephen Morin, when they had trouble finding a usable vein because he had been a drug abuser. In 1988, during the execution of Raymond Landry, ?a tube attached to a needle inside the inmate's right arm began leaking, sending the lethal mixture shooting across the death chamber toward witnesses.?

According to a study conducted, an execution costs North Carolina $2 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of life imprisonment. Each year the death penalty costs California $90 million over and above the ordinary costs of the justice system; $76 million of this amount is spent at trial. In Los Angeles County alone, the death penalty costs over $635,000 more per defendant than life imprisonment without parole. In Texas, a death penalty case costs about $2.3 million on an average to prosecute and execute each capital case as compared with $400,000 for life imprisonment. Florida has found that it is almost six times as expensive to try a capital defendant than to imprison the person for the rest of his or her life. In Maryland, a comparison of capital trial costs with and without the death penalty for the years 1979-1984 concluded that a death penalty case costs approximately 42 percent more than a case resulting in a non-death sentence, according to the GAO.

This is a huge amount of taxpayer's money but the ...

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