The 27 amendments that exist in the U. S have the sole purpose of protecting our unalienable rights. By the 8th amendment, we the people are guaranteed the prohibition of extraordinarily big fines and the imposition of excessive bails and that there will be no cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. The purpose of this essay is to examine and argue whether the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Thirty states practice the death penalty and they punish crimes such as genocide, treason, espionage, first-degree murder, the murder of a foreign official, murder during a kidnapping, murder during a hostage crisis, murder for hire, murder related to aircraft hijacking, etc (41 federal). After they are convicted they are then going through an appeal process and spend years and years in prison counting the minutes until it is time to be executed. The resources that are used throughout this process are so costly that they could be used instead in education or medicine. The death penalty should be abolished because it isn’t serving as an effective crime deterrent, it is expensive and a violation of our rights.
(United Nations) United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is a list that includes our rights. One of the rights that are being violated by our government is our right to life. The crimes that are punished by the government are mainly all the crimes that have to do with the murder. A lot of people believe that since a person decides to deprive another person of his right to life isn’t entitled to the same right. When taking actions or decisions like whether to terminate the life of another human being we also act like murderers. We may not pull the trigger like in the firing squad but we are accessories from the moment we do not try to stop it. Not a single one of us has been given the authority to take the life of a human being. When we take similar actions we then become the same as the people we oppose. The society as a whole cannot stop at the level of a murderer. Additionally, if the government gets to violate our right to life where does it stop?
Capital punishment is practiced in five different ways here in the U.S. Those methods are lethal injection, hanging, firing squad, electrocution, and lethal gas (Methods of execution). Every state that practices capital punishment has lethal injection as its primary method, but it is possible for the convict to choose a different method if it is offered by the state he was convicted in.
Today all of the states use it as a primary method of execution. When the process of the execution begins, the inmate is placed on a gurney with several heart monitors. Afterward, there is a needle inserted to the prisoner’s usable vein. The first drug to be inserted to the convicted person is a harmless amount of saline solution. Then, they inject him with sodium thiopental which works as an anesthetic. The third step is to inject him with pavulon or pancuronium bromide and its purpose is to paralyze all of the muscles in the body and to stop the prisoner from breathing. The last step is the flow of potassium chloride that stops the heart. It is a procedure that needs to be done by specialized personnel or a doctor because the lack of medical experience leads to serious mistakes (Description of). Such as the drug is injected into a muscle instead of a vein or the needle becomes clogged. When something like that occurs extreme pain results.
The method of execution with electrocution begins by strapping the inmate on a wooden chair with belts surrounding his chest, legs and arms. Then a metal skullcap shaped electrode is placed all around the prisoner’s forehead. Underneath the electrode, there must always be a sponge that is moistened with saline. In the meantime, there is a second electrode placed on the inmates shaved a leg. When this procedure is over the prisoner is blindfolded. Later on, the execution team leaves the room and enters a second room. The warden will then signal the executioner. The executioner’s job is to pull the handles that connect the power supply and release a jolt of 500 to 2000 volts, That jolt will last for thirty seconds. When the time is up to the doctor after a few moments will go and check if the inmate is still alive. If yes then the same process is continued until death occurs. When the jolts are penetrating the inmate’s body the prisoners tend to grab the limbs of the chair and also shake violently. Actions like that usually lead to tissue swelling, dislocations, and fractures (Description of). There is also smoke rising from the body.
In the gas chamber the convict is strapped to a chair that is located in an airtight chamber. Underneath this chair, there is a pail of sulfuric acid. Placed on the prisoner is a stethoscope that is connected to the next room in order for a doctor to monitor the inmate and announce his death. From the moment that the chamber is cleared out of all personal and the prisoner is left alone the warden provides the signal for the executioner to begin the execution process. The executioner’s job is to flick a lever that will release crystals of sodium cyanide into the pail. That action will cause a chemical reaction that will produce and release hydrogen cyanide gas. When they have finally inhaled the gas they will not lose their consciousness right away. They will first start presenting their fear, pain and then their eyes will pop and their skin will turn purple (Description of). The inmate then dies from asphyxia and the cutting-off of oxygen in the brain. The inmate Caryl Chessman before he was executed by the gas chamber he informed the press that if he felt any pain he would nod his head. Witnesses claim that he kept nodding his head for several minutes. After the inmate is declared dead then a fan removes the gas from the chamber. Half an hour later the body of the prisoner is sprayed with ammonia so it can be clean from any traces of poison..
In the firing squad the prisoner is placed on a chair and strapped. Then a doctor after he has located the inmate’s heart draws a circle where he places a white cloth as an aiming target. Around the chair where the inmate is sitting, there are some sandbags in order to absorb the blood. Twenty feet away from the chair there are five shooters that are carrying 0.30 caliber rifles. They all have single rounds except the one that has blank rounds. They all aim for the white cloth although sometimes they miss the shot. If they do not miss the shot then the inmate dies from blood loss that was caused by a rupture in his heart or because of the tearing of his lungs (Description of). The person shot most of the time will lose consciousness because of the shock or lack of blood supply to the brain. If someone misses the shot then the prisoners usually bleed slowly until death occurs.
In hanging first step is to measure the weight of the inmate from the day before. Then they must rehearse with a sand bug that has the exact same weight as the prisoner. The purpose of this drill is to determine how long the rope must be in order to have a quick death. Since if the rope is too long then the prisoner could be decapitated and if it is too short the inmate could then suffer from strangulation for around forty-five minutes. The knot must always be properly waxed or soaped in order to have a smooth slide. Before the execution, the prisoner is secured when it comes to his hands and feet and then he is being blindfolded. The knot is placed on his head and the knot is behind his ear. When the trap door is opened underneath the prisoner’s legs the prisoner falls through. Since his weight has been measured there should be a rapid fracture-dislocation of the neck. Instant death though is something rare. In cases where the inmate has strong neck muscles or if the drop is too short or the noose has been wrongly placed then the fracture-dislocation isn’t rapid and dies from slow asphyxiation (Description of). When something similar to this takes place then the face becomes engorged, the tongue protrudes, their eyes pop, the body defecates and there are violent movements of the limbs.
There have been more than one thousand executions under the death penalty laws. 1310 lethal injection execution, 160 electrocution executions, 11 gas chamber execution, 3 hanging executions, and 3 firing squad executions a total number of 1487 executions (methods of execution). This means that 1487 people have been viciously murdered. Not to mention that a big percent of the people executed was proven that they were innocent or possible innocent.
The reason why the death penalty exists is that there is this certain ideology that even the existence of the death penalty reduces crime rates. Since the fear of death makes criminals rethink if they are going to break the law and commit such a crime. Now a lot of people would argue that even if just a handful of people choose to stay in the right pathway and not violate the law would be an accomplishment on behalf of the death penalty. Since that means that some people didn’t lose their lives and can continue being with their families. A case I am going to present to you that supports this counterargument is the case where a police officer is still alive. James Reams is an attorney that he was once informed of a criminal’s actions against a police officer. The criminal had the chance to take the life of a police officer but he didn’t under his own will. What stopped him was the existence of the death penalty and that he knew that this was the punishment he would face (Liptak Adam).
Something that also shows how the death penalty is reducing crime is the results of a research made by the criminologist Raymond Teske and sociologists Kenneth Land. Where they discovered that after every execution murder rates would drop by 2.5% during the next month in the state that capital punishment occurred.People who are convicted to die though spend a lot of time in prison before being executed. In fact, the average time that a person is going to spend in prison is fifteen and a half years. That means that the 2.5% drop in murder rates is very rare to see (Facts about).In the meantime the resources that have been wasted on the death row prisoners are numerous. It has been discovered that more than 2.3 million per case are wasted. if we multiply that number with all 1487 the we have ultimately spended 3420100000 dollars. Those 3 billion dollars could be distributed and used to fight diseases improve the educational system and even create and help improve the programs that can decrease murder rates. Instead they spend more than 15 years waiting to die.
Capital punishment isn’t practiced to all states of America. Most of the states that have denied this kind of punishment are located in the north. Those states always had fewer murder rates than the southern states that actually practice the death penalty. In the years from 1990 to 2015 the percentage of murder rate in death penalty and non death penalty states has became more than 46% according to the DPIC (facts about). As an outcome the death penalty is not a crime deterrent.
We do not live in a utopia. It is also a fact that there are a lot of horrors in this world. Those horrors are always observed and witnessed by the people who work at law enforcement. They are the first line of defense. Their job is to protect us. A great responsibility like this demands a lot of personal sacrifices. So it is extremely important the fact that not even law enforcement believes in the death penalty. In 2009 there was a research that showed how police chiefs feel about the death penalty. When they were asked to present a list that includes factors that interfere with effective law enforcement their top factor was “lack of law enforcement resources” and at the very bottom of their nine-item list was “insufficient use of death penalty”. Not to mention that from the five hundred police chiefs that were asked only 2% supported the use of the death penalty (Facts about).
After someone has been convicted to the death penalty there is a certain process he can follow in order to achieve a different sentence than the death penalty, like life in prison. Something like that is not guaranteed though, since the time that takes for the appeal to be processed it is drawn out. The time of process varies from state to state and there are appeals that can be filed at the state and federal level. For example. Just like the picture represents in page 6 shows how much time people usually spend in death row until their execution. The amount of time that they will spend it is quite often affected by the time of the appeal process. Although when an inmate is waiting for more than fifteen years to be executed the threat of execution becomes diminished. Since it has been noticed that the outcome of all the waiting leads people to suicide so they live in their own terms and the punishment isn’t affected or they die due to natural causes. Even the supporters of the death penalty believe that there is something wrong going on with the time prisoners spend waiting for their execution. An example of this case is Richard Ramirez. he has been on death row since 1989 for thirty years and experts believe that he is only halfway through with his appeals. So he will probably continue being on death row for another 30 years (Lind, Dara).
The death penalty is something permanent. Evidence can appear, technology evolves and keeps evolving at a tremendous pace. Technology has changed in such a rapid speed that there are always new ways and new techniques to prove something. Still, people are convicted when there are ways to prove innocence. What plays a key role in a court is witness testimony. They rely so much on them that they forget they are just humans. They forget that through time testimonials shouldn’t be as trustworthy as now since the human memory fades or because a witness can be biased. So we can’t just rely on testimony in order to decide whether a person’s life deserves and must be terminated.
Besides witness testimonies, the ability to use other methods to prove the innocence of a person is the use of DNA evidence. Since DNA is the most important evidence of all. Each and every single human being has a unique DNA just like unique fingerprints. It can be gathered from our saliva, hair, bones, fingernails, blood and from a lot of other sources. So just by using and comparing DNA, it is easy to determine if the person is innocent. That is why every single death row should go through DNA testing. Using evidence in the proper way can exonerate someone but also convict someone else. The death penalty is permanent so we should give it to someone after a lot of consideration. So everyone has the right to use them in their defense. It has been found out that at least 266 people that were sentenced to the death penalty have been exonerated because of DNA testing (Parks, Peggy). John Grisham once said “Death row is a nightmare to a serial killer and ax murderers. For an innocent man, it’s a life of mental torture that the human spirit is not equipped to survive”.
In addition errors in the court, systems are the way we deal with mentally ill people. Those people can’t understand and process information, communicate, learn from their mistakes, have logical thinking and to control their impulses. So they can’t be eligible for their actions. That is why in the case of Ford v Wainwright in 1986 they ruled that the execution of an insane prisoner in unconstitutional. Unfortunately, they haven’t made clear who is considered mentally ill. So there are cases where people with other serious mental disorders have been convicted to the death penalty. So criminals that are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disease or other serious illnesses aren’t included. An example of this error is Frank Spisak who after diagnosed with the bipolar disease after he was convicted for murder, his attorneys claimed that the reason behind of his actions is not because of hatred but because of his disease (Parks, Peggy).
Everyone that has been convicted to death argues through the appeals process that the 8th amendment is being violated. That kind of case has always been a controversial topic and there were always different opinions about it. It is through the Supreme Court’s job to decide whether it is unconstitutional or not. The supreme though still continues to believe that the death penalty isn’t a violation of the 8th amendment and so it is ruling in favor of the death penalty.
- “Descriptions of Execution Methods.” Descriptions of Execution Methods | Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty Information Center, deathpenaltyinfo.org/descriptions-execution-methods?scid=8&;did=479.
- “Facts about Deterrence and the Death Penalty.” Facts about Deterrence and the Death Penalty |Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty Information Center, deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-about-deterrence-and-death-penalty
- “41 Federal Capital Offenses.” Should the Death Penalty Be Allowed?, deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004927.
- Fleming, Grace. “4 Death Penalty Research Sources.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 13 Mar. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/death-penalty-research-finding-sources-1857302.
- Liptak, Adam. “Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/us/18deter.html
- Lind, Dara. “The Death Penalty in America: Expensive, Racially Skewed, and Still Popular.” Vox, Vox, 28 May 2015, www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8681099/death-penalty-charts.
- “Methods of Execution.” Methods of Execution | Death Penalty Information Center, deathpenaltyinfo.org/methods-execution.
- Parks, Peggy J. Current Issues: The Death Penalty. Current Issues: The Death Penalty, 2012. SIRS Issues Researcher, https://sks-sirs-com.proxy141.nclive.org.
- The reason that this is my primary source is because the information in that website are objective and cover multiple areas.
- “The Case Against the Death Penalty.” American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclu.org/other/case-against-death-penalty.
- “United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Summary: Youth For Human Rights” Youth for Human Rights, United Nations, www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/articles-1-15.html.