This paper will fallow the process of a capital trial from arrest to execution. It will discuss the aspects of federal and state law, trial, appeal, and executions.
It will go into further detail on arraignment and the trail details of defense and sentencing. The federal law on capital punishment begins with the constitution, which states in the eighth amendment of the bill of rights that, no person shall be subject to cruel or unusual punishment. Despite this and for the reason that it is the government that decides what is cruel and unusual, capital punishment is still federally legal. Under the United States code, title eighteen there are certain crimes that can be punished by death.
Section thirty-four of the said title and code says that any crime that results in the death of any person can be punished by death. Section 1512 deals with witnesses, victims, or informants. It states that anyone who kills or attempts to kill another person with the intent to prevent the attendance or testimony at trail may be punished by death. Section 2332 states that whoever kills a national of the United States while the national is outside the United States is subject to death if the killing is murder as it is defined.
Section 36 states that participants in any continuing criminal enterprise dealing with controlled substances may be punished by death. Section 1992 states that whoever willfully derails, disables, or wrecks any train used in interstate or foreign commerce can be punished by death. Finally section 831 states that anyone involved in prohibited transactions involving nuclear material can be subject to the death penalty. State laws in capital punishment defer from state to state and vary in a wide range of crimes for which it can be imposed.
This range usually contains one or more of the fallowing, murder of a law enforcement officer, vehicular homicide while under the influence, contract killings, felony murder, first degree murder, or any murder. No matter the laws of the state are certain states have and will always use their own discretion in handing down a death sentence. This means that for whatever reason, be it social make up, religious make up, or the simple fact that a death sentence may inhibit the prosecution, in that the jury may be hesitant to take a life no matter what the crime, the death sentence is not always used in all cases that it is allowed in. Add to this the differing state laws and the same crime may draw different sentences in different states. The first step once a murder has been reported is to get a suspect.
After a suspect is determined and probable cause has been established, a warrant will be issued for the individual?s arrest. Upon arrest the individual will be made clear of the crime of which he is being charged and his rights. He will then be taken into custody. Once in custody he will make an initial appearance in court, if the charges are not dropped the case will move on to a preliminary hearing.
At the preliminary if the charges are still not dropped bail or detention will be issued. Fallowing this a date will be set up for a grand jury indictment, if the prosecution successes in its indictment the individual will be arraigned. Supposing that the defendant gives a not guilty plea and the charges have not been dismissed, a trial date will be set. In the trial the defendant will be represented by a defense attorney and the people will be represented by the prosecution. Both sides will make their opening statements, will call witnesses, and will make their closing statements.
In these the prosecution will state its facts and attempt to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. The defense will present its defense. In a murder case the possible defenses are as fallows, mistaken identity, set up, self-defense or defense of others, defense of property, aiding a peace officer, or insanity. Since the laws concerning these defers from state to state they will be dealt with in a model form.
Mistaken identity is simple. The defendant is not the killer and was identified as such by mistaken witnesses or evidence. A set up means that someone who actually committed the crime or the police or law officers conspired to make the defendant seem at fault. Self-defense is only viable if the defendant felt that he was in danger of death, serious harm, rape, or kidnaping. Even then there are other stipulations. First off there had to have been no way to retreat with complete safety and their could not be any way to stop the opposing actions by surrendering a good or restraining from any certain action(s).
The only way the defendant would not have to retreat is if he was in his home or place of work, or a peace officer attempting an arrest or preventing an escape. If the defense is protecting others all the above still stands and both the defendant and the individual in danger must both believe in the danger. In defense of property there are only two times when it is valid. One If the defendant was being dispossessed of his dwelling and only immediate deadly force can prevent this, or two if a felony is being committed and there has been a threat of deadly force, or if inaction will result in serious injury to himself or others.
In aiding a police officer there must be a felony arrest, intent of the arrest must be made clear, there is no risk to the innocent, the crime must involve use of deadly force and if the suspect flees he will cause death or serious harm to others. A final option for the defense is the insanity defense. Three states do not have a defense for not guilty by reason of insanity, they only have guilty by reason of insanity. Three other states have abolished their insanity tests. Two states have no test.
The remaining states use the American Law Institute test, the M?Naghten rule, or both. The M?naghten rule is that: ?The party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, he did not know he was doing what was wrong. ? The ALI test is this: ?A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as the result of mental disease or defect he lacks he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or mold his conduct to the requirements of the law. ? These conditions are almost always associated with delusional disorders such as schizophrenia.
If in the course of the trial or before the deliberations have been completed the defense may initiate a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a plea of guilty in exchange for concessions in the charges or in the sentencingMany things about the way we decide punishments and actually punish offenders have changed drastically with the times. For example In Coker vs. Georgia (1977), the Court declared that the death penalty was unconstitutionally excessive for rape of a woman and, by implication, for any crime where a death does not occur. The majority in Coker stated that “rape by definition does not include the death of or even the serious injury to another person. ” Now if a person commits an act of rape or sexual assault they are more likely to serve a prison sentence.
There are many problems with the punishment of prisoners. Many people argue that the fiscal cost is astronomical, it has been said that it costs an average of $30,000 per year to house, feed, clothe, and supervise a prisoner. Not including the costs of construction and other factors. When you punish an offender instead of trying to rehabilitate them I believe it causes more of a problem. They argue that punishment causes social disorientation, alienation, and also increases the risk of recidivism. When an offender is released from incarceration, they face social isolation, and economic and employment challenges.
What about the people who committed offense under the influence of drugs? They need rehabilitation vs. a ?pure punishment?. Drug courts could provide the offender the job skill training, family/group counseling, and many other life-skill enhancement services that they might need to be successful when integrating back into the community. Data consistently show that treatment, when completed is effective and cost effective.
On the other hand deterrence is one of the primary goals in the criminal justice system. Deterrence: the act or process of deterring: as a: the inhibition of criminal behavior by fear especially of punishment. The act of punishment has always been based on the idea that it will deter individuals from committing crime or repeating criminal acts. Incarceration has been the most common form of punishment, however research shows that recidivism amongst convicted felons after the release from prison is as high as 63%. This could prove that punishment through incarceration is only a temporary fix to crime.
Most rehabilitation programs are community programs that offer criminal offenders the chance to obtain a GED, learn a trade or obtain a college degree, go through counseling and find gainful employment and adequate housing. The types of counseling available often include drug counseling and psychological counseling. Drug counseling can be beneficial to criminal offenders who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Psychological counseling can be beneficial to criminal offenders who have had troublesome pasts consisting of issues such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment. Many rehabilitation programs will also offer programs such as anger management for criminal offenders who have committed violent acts or those who have anger issues. The main goal of rehabilitation is to improve a criminal offender?s life so that they no longer have the desire to commit criminal acts.
Rehabilitation also allows criminal offenders to be on probation where they are not in need of taxpayer money to fund their living like they would be if they were in jail or prison. 1,188 people were executed in the US from 1977 through 2009, primarily by means of lethal injection. Most death penalty cases involve the execution of murderers although capital punishment. Proponents of the death penalty say it is an important tool for preserving law and order, deters crime, and costs less than life imprisonment.
They argue that retribution or “an eye for an eye” honors the victim, helps console grieving families, and ensures that the perpetrators of heinous crimes never have an opportunity to cause future tragedy. Opponents of capital punishment say it has no deterrent effect on crime, wrongly gives governments the power to take human life, and perpetuates social injustices. They say lifetime jail sentences are a more severe and less expensive punishment than death an also be applied for treason, espionage, and other crimes. Almost 18 years ago an innocent wife and mother to two, named Sarah Bryne, received a call by her husband?s old college roommate. He explained to her that he and his wife were staying at a secluded motel near her work and were only staying for the weekend. She left work early to go and meet him and his wife.
When she arrived he was alone. Once she was inside and the door closed he raped her. After raping her he stuffed her inside a small trunk, put the trunk in the back seat of his car and drove away. She made a help me sign in red lipstick and slid it through the trunk. Many motorists saw this plea and called the police.
But before they could catch up he stopped on a secluded farm road, ripped her out of the trunk, strangled her with a necktie, broke her neck, and then finally finished the torture by stabbing her 14 times. He then put her mangled body back in the trunk and drove home to his wife and kids (1). There is only one offence in the state of Washington that you can receive the death penalty for and that is aggravated murder in the first degree. To receive this punishment one must plan out his act and in committing the crime commit an aggravating circumstance (3).
Stabbing + raping + breaking a neck + strangulation all add up to an aggravated circumstance. It?s for people like this that we have instituted the death penalty. The death penalty is a just punishment, but like any system it does have some flaws. Although the death penalty does not work too well as a general deterrent it does work as a specific deterrent. Specific deterrent means that the penalty is keeping the offender from re-offending (2).
Studies show that those who commit murder, if given the chance, re-offend. But some may wonder, isn?t life in prison keeping them from committing the crime again? The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation states that ?the leading cause of death among prison inmates is murder by other inmates. A murderer serving a life sentence has no reason at all to refrain from killing other inmates or guards, or from hiring other criminals outside of prison to kill those who helped convict them. ? But on the other hand the death penalty offers the opposite effect when it comes to general deterrence.
The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison (2). Criminologist William Bowers of Northeastern University, states that ?society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. ? (2) He later goes on to say that states in the U. S.
that do not have the death penalty have drastically lower murder rates than states that do have capital punishment. The same is also true when the U. S. is compared to countries similar to it that don?t have the death penalty. The U.
S. , with the death penalty, has a higher murder rate than Europe and Canada, which do not use the death penalty. But the United States is not Canada or Europe, in fact Canada has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and thus their murder rates are lower. There are also studies to show that William Bowers is wrong in his statement. Isaac Ehrlich, a criminologist, did many studies which produced results showing that for every inmate who was executed, 7 lives were spared because others were deterred from committing murder and the person who committed the murder was prevented from re-committing (2). Sentencing a convicted murder do the death penalty does save lives, but is it humane?The Webster?s dictionary states that humane is: Characterized by kindness, mercy, and or compassion.
How is it kind to have someone suffocate for up to 45 minutes (hanging method)? How is it mercy to stick someone in a chamber, an invention we stole from Hitler, and instructing them to breathe deeply for a less painful death as deathly gas filters in (gas chamber method)? How are we showing compassion by shocking someone for many 30 second intervals with 500 plus volts of electricity? Capital punishment is not humane, but should it be? Why should we show a convicted aggravated murder kindness, mercy or compassion when he has neglected to show that himself?Studies have always shown that those who commit the violent act of murder were abused sexually, mentally, of physically as children. When you are abused at a young age you are taught that it is ok to be violent. Those who commit murder do not need to be punishment so severely, but they need to be nurtured with rehabilitation. Serial killer Ted Bundy killed many people and he was abused as a child, he is also on record saying that he would kill again if he had the chance. Robert Nicholas was convicted of murder aver he killed his three children aged 2, 5 and 7. He then escaped and killed his wife.
He also was abused as a child. These are just two of many examples of murders who will kill again if they get the chance, using the excuse that they were abused does not justify their actions and allowing them to make this excuse will only prolong the already too long appeals process. One of the main arguments against Capital Punishment is the extremely high cost. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) the death penalty costs about 48% more that life imprison without the chance of parole (4). This high cost is because of the long appeals process.
Once convicted he/she gets an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court, if convicted they are sent to death row. While on death row they are allowed to appeal, as long as they have something to appeal and the court must accept it. The average stay on death row is 11. 5 years. In a trial there are questions of fact and questions of law.
Questions of fact are who, what, when, where, why, and how; they are answered by the jury and are not appealable. Questions of law are the objections made in the trial and they are answered by the judge; they are appealable. Are all the appeals needed though? Many people who support capital punishment believe that we should shorten the appeals process because it would save time and money. In a trial there are on average about thirty to forty five objections made by each side. To each objection the judge must answer with a sustained (agreed) or an overruled (disagree).
Each is grounds enough to make an appeal. If, in the appeal, it is found that the judge ruled wrong and the reverse outcome would have reversed the verdict then the person walks away a free man. Shortening the appeals process would not only keep murders from walking the streets but it would lower the cost and make the death penalty a general deterrent; because the more swift the punishment the better deterrent it is. ?Since 1973, at least 88 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged.
During the same period of time, over 650 people have been executed. Thus, for every seven people executed, we have found one person on death row who never should have been convicted. ? (2) This is happening with the current appeals process. If we were to shorten it then who knows how many innocent people we would be executing. The death penalty is too much of a financial burden to every state.
As you can see the death penalty is a very complex issue. Either you are for it or against it. There is really no middle ground. To make a decision you must ask yourself the following question: Is it worth the cost to humanely execute a convicted murder so that he/she cannot commit the same horrible act again? The death penalty offers 100% specific deterrence, no other punishment offers that, it is proven by the highest court in the land to be humane. Anti-death penalty advocates believe that death penalty is irreversible and may become a cause of irreversible mistakes.
Once a person has been sentenced to death and thus death penalty practiced, there is nothing that can be done to undo the punishment if the accused turns out to be innocent. I agree that death penalty is irreversible, but the chance of making a mistake in death penalty is extremely low. Death penalty is considered an extreme punishment and the judicial system takes a lot of care in finalizing the decision. There are several safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.
For example, “Capital punishment may be imposed only when guilt is determined by clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts”, “Anyone sentenced to death shall receive the right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction”, etc. (Capital Punishment: Life or Death, Internet). There are several other privileges provided to the convicted that assure that death penalty is given to the rightly accused person. According to Haag, “Trials are more likely to be fair when life is at stake – the death penalty is probably less often unjustly inflicted than others” (192). Statistics reveal that there is far less number of death sentences than life imprisonment sentences without parole given out every year.
According to Federal Justice Statistics, in 1998, there were approximately 5000 criminals sentenced to life imprisonment as opposed to 74 criminals sentenced to death (Internet). This shows that judicial system itself is very careful with death sentences. Even if we assume that there are chances that an innocent person is executed, it is the problem with the trial, not the punishment. “It is not the penalty – whether death or prison – which is unjust when inflicted on the innocent, but its imposition on the innocent”, writes Haag (192). When an innocent person is sentenced to death, it is not the fault of the punishment itself, but the trial that led to this punishment.
There have been cases in which a person has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, and then after several years, it was revealed that the person was innocent. No court or compensation in this world can return the horrifying years spent in the prison by that innocent person. If we stop giving life imprisonment sentences to criminals on this ground, then probably most of the criminals would be walking around free on the streets within ten to fifteen years. The fear and trust that the society has in the judicial system would be lost.
The judicial system has minimized the chances of mistakes. It is almost impossible to sentence a wrongly accused person. Then, why cause death of several innocent victims just on the bleak assumption that some day we might make a mistake? Incapacitating a person is “depriving s/he of the physical or intellectual power of natural il/legal qualifications” (Webster, 574). Death penalty is not advocated for all criminals. Those criminals, who commit murders during self-defense or during times of passion, do not deserve death penalty. However, those people who just do not seem to learn the lesson the first time, or those who kill for fun, definitely deserve death penalty.
Defendants (murderers) are allowed to shield themselves from justice by pleading insanity. Insanity means a failure to respond to the usual sort of incentives in the usual ways. If insane people are completely unresponsive to incentives, then their profits serve no social purpose, thus leading to another beneficial factor of the death penalty. People who have no social purpose do not benefit society, culture of mankind, or the basic rules of humanity. For example: This drug related brain-damaged killer barely knew his own identity when he murdered a mother and her daughter in front of a 3 year old boy.
When he was finished raping the females and performed their deaths, he move on to sexually molest the boy in which he then left him to die. The retarded man then pled insanity, got to stay in jail for 22 years, eating three square meals a day, sleeping on a mattress with a blanket in air conditioned comfort and having a roof over his head (Shapiro, 61). Where do we draw the line between mentally incapable and criminally insane? When are they going to learn to resume the responsibility for their actions? I am not saying that all mentally disabled people should be subject to death penalty because they are no good to the society. However, some people pose a great fatal danger to the society in such a cruel way as seen in the above example. In such cases, death penalty becomes crucial for the benefit of the society.
I believe every criminal, no matter how cruel he is, should be given at least one chance to change himself/herself. Thus, I do not advocate death penalty for people who have performed only one murder. However, there have been cases in which people have committed several murders (e. g. , serial killers), or have committed crime even after imprisonment.
For such people, I advocate death penalty. There needs to be a limit to which society should put up to. If somebody does not understand that going around killing people is wrong, then I believe, that letting such people live is not only a great threat to the society, but also a great burden. Advocate of anti-death penalty, Adam Bedau, wrote, “Prevention by means of incapacitation occurs only if the executed criminal would have committed other crimes if he or she had not been executed and had been punished only in some less incapacitative way (e. g. , by imprisonment)” (Capital Punishment and Social Defense, 301).
If people commit a crime while facing an imprisonment sentence, then their sentence should be changed to death sentence, since it is evident that they are just habitual to committing crimes and are a constant threat to the society, including the other inmates. Some people might think that death penalty is inhuman and barbarous, but ask those people who have lost their beloved or whose lives have been tied to a hospital bed because of some barbarous person. I am sure they would be very unhappy to see the person who ruined their lives just getting a few years of imprisonment or mere rehabilitation. Consider the example of the rapist and killer given above. Now, suppose the woman raped was your wife, sister, or daughter.
How would you feel knowing that the person who ruined your family is calmly enjoying the benefits of an asylum and an air-conditioned room? Anti-death penalty supporters believe that death penalty is barbarous. Well! So is murder. Death penalty is not revenge. Rather, it is a matter of putting an end to a life that has no value for other human lives. Sentencing a murderer to death is in fact a favor to the society.
Despite the moral argument concerning the inhumane treatment of the criminal, we return to the “nature” of the crime committed. Can society place an unequal weight on the tragically lost lives of murder victims and the criminal? This is not an exam question in a college philosophy course but a moral conundrum at the core of perhaps the most intriguing issue facing the U. S. Supreme Court today. Punishment is meted out because of the nature of the crime, devoid of any reference to the social identity of the victim. In “The Death Penalty in America”, Adam Bedau wrote, “even in the tragedy of human death there are degrees, and that it is much more tragic for the innocent to lose his life than for the State to take the life of a criminal convicted of a capital offense” (308).
I believe that if one cannot value the life of another human being, then one’s own life has no value. Some of the strengths of the death penalty are that it does not allow violent murders back onto the streets, it deters crimes from would be murders, and it gives comfort to families of murdered victims. By using capital punishment on violent murders it prevents them from reentering society and having a chance to commit a violent act again. If capital punishment was handed down as a punishment then other criminals would think again about committing murder. The death penalty also gives comfort to the families of murdered victim?s by not allowing them (criminals) back onto the streets free to commit another murder. Other strengths of capital punishment are that it does not allow violent murders back into society in fear that they could possible harm again.
There are many weaknesses the concern the death penalty. These weaknesses are appeals, mentally handicap, and that some people who commit murder are too young. When filing for an appeal there is a long process that takes place and takes up a lot of time and years. When filing for an appeal you could be sitting on death row for years. When dealing with a handicap person you need to know if that person was in the right mind set to have committed the murder.
If an adult with an IQ of a child commits murder then in the eyes of the judicial system that person is mentally incapable of standing trial and helping in his or her own defense. Some people feel that if you a minor (18 years or younger) you should not be able to be sentenced to death. Although a 16 year old is old enough to know that he or she has violently committed murder should have to pay for his or her own actions, wither they are considered a minor or not. There have been many arguments for the death penalty.
In November of 2001 Steven Stewart, prosecutor in Indiana stated ?that it cheapens the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again. He also argues that the value of the death penalty in our current system of justice is a limited one and should not be overstated. The death sentence is so rarely carried out that it is lessened in years of appeals and due process. Stewart also stated that life without parole does not eliminate the risk that the prisoner will murder a guard, a visitor, or another inmate, and we should not take that risk. Life imprisonment across the country actually serves on the average less than eight years in prison; it is a good bet that life without parole will not have the meaning as it did years ago.
In December of 1997 Henry J. Hyde, chairman House of Representatives judiciary committee, stated that his view on the death penalty was if imposed fairly and without undue delay, can serve a deterrent purpose in our criminal justice system. Mr. Hyde also stated that society has a right to impose whatever punishment it collectively determines befits the violation of its laws. That denying society the ability to impose the death penalty on those convicted of murder devalues the lives of its citizens.
On January 31, 1988 Newt Gingrich stated that the state should use the death penalty on certain crimes such as murder and treason. Gingrich stated people much be held accountable for the crimes that commit. He stated that there were over a thousand prisoners on death row; many of them have been there since the early 1970?s because of the current criminal justice system. Death penalty is good and serves a definite purpose of reducing crime as well as bringing justice to the criminals and innocent. In order to serve its purpose, it must be adjusted and made more effective and efficient. The justice system has changed dramatically in the past thirty years in order to make sure that the rightly accused is brought to justice.
I believe that death penalty should not be abolished, as it ensures the safety of the society, brings justice to those who have suffered and most importantly helps in reducing crime and criminals in our society. Death penalty is important to keep the brightness of justice and public safety shining brightly on our society. Works Cited Budau, Hugo Adam. “Capital Punishment and Social Defense. ” Reserved reading for Philosophy 203.
Bedau, Hugo Adam. ” The Death Penalty in America. ” New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Browning, Tonya. “Capital Punishment: Life or Death.
” Computer Writing and Research Lab, University of Texas. Online. Internet. 27 April 2000. Haag, Ernest van den. “On Deterrence and the Death Penalty.
” Reserved reading for Philosophy 203. Shapiro, Walter. “What say should victims have?” AskJeeves. com.
Online. Internet. 29 April 2000. Slambrouck, Paul Van.
“US Prisons – Under Pressure – Show Increase in Violence. ” The Christian Science Monitor Online. 6 August 1998. Internet.
“Incapacitation.” “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary.” 1981.Rein, Mei Ling Capital Punishment Cruel and Unusual? 2202 Edition 2002 Gale Group Inc Formington Hills, Michigan 48331-3535