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Death Penalty Essay, Research Paper

In 1972, The Supreme Court declared that under then existing laws ?the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty?constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.? But within four years, due to hole in the system, the Court stated ?the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution.? They ruled that the new death penalty laws contained ?objective standards to guide, regularize, and make rationally reviewable the process for imposing the sentence of death.? Executions resumed in 1977 and as of May 1999, over 3,200 men and women were under a death sentence and more than 360 had been executed. Not only are executions a way of cruel and unusual punishment, it goes against our beliefs as a human race. A life for a life is not how punishment should be seen as. The death penalty should be abolished due to many reasons, not just because of its cruel behavior, but also it wastes resources.

The primary reason why capital punishment should be opposed is because it is cruel and unusual. It is cruel because it is a reminder of the days of slavery, branding, and other bodily punishments were common. Like those barbaric practices, executions have no place in a civilized society. It is unusual because only the United States, out of all of the western industrialized nations, engages in the death penalty. The true cruelty is the methods of execution. Any one of five methods executes prisoners in the United States; in some places the prisoner is allowed to choose. The traditional method of execution, hanging, is an option still available in New Hampshire, Delaware, and Washington. Death on the gallows is easily goofed; if the drop is short, there will be a slow and agonizing death by strangulation or 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 with a target pinned to his chest. Five marksmen, one with blanks, take aim and fire. Throughout the 20th century, electrocution has been the most widely used form of execution in this country and is still used in eleven states. The prisoner is led into the death chamber, strapped in the chair, and electrodes are fastened to the head and legs. When the switch is thrown, the body jolts as the voltage is raised and lowered. With the awful smell of burning flesh in the air, the prisoner dies, and not always quickly, sometimes it may take many tries. The introduction of the gas chamber was an attempt to improve on electrocution. In this method of execution, the prisoner is strapped into a chair with a container of sulfuric acid underneath. The chamber is sealed and cyanide is dropped into the acid to form a lethal gas. The prisoner breathes in the gas and dies. The latest mode of the death penalty, which is used in more than thirty states, is lethal injection. One cannot know whether or not lethal injection is really painless. As the U.S. Court of Appeals observed, ?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.? With many executions where death was not immediately, the prisoner has to endure seconds or maybe even minutes of excruciating pain, when it is supposed to be a quick punishment.

Another reason for abolishing the death penalty is that is costs more than incarceration. It is sometimes suggested that abolishing capital punishment is unfair to the taxpayer, but in reality it isn?t. The death penalty is not now, or has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life imprisonment. A study showed that if the death penalty were to be reintroduced in New York, the cost of the capital trial would more than double the cost of a life term in prison. Florida, with one of the nation?s most crowded death rows, has estimated that the cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or six times the cost of life-imprisonment sentence. Any savings in dollars would be at the cost of justice, which means less court time on the case. Of course, money should not be a main reason if someone should die or not, but it is also part of the equation.

Opposing the death penalty does not mean sympathy with convicted murders. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is disgusting and authorized killing is immoral. In most murder cases, the murdered did not suffer as much as the murderer did if executed. Killing a human by execution, no matter by what method is unethical and should not be tolerated in society today.

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