The expression an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth has taken on a whole newmeaning.
Lately, murderers have been getting a punishment equal to their crime,death. In 1967, executions in the United States were temporarily suspended togive the federal appellate courts time to decide whether or not the deathpenalty was unconstitutional. Then, in 1972, the United States Supreme Courtruled in the case of Furman versus Georgia that the death penalty violatedthe Eight Amendments. According to the Eighth Amendment, Excessive bail shallnot be required, no excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishmentsinflicted.
After the Supreme Court made this ruling, states reviewed theirdeath penalty laws. In 1976, in the case of Gregg versus Georgia the SupremeCourt ruled state death penalty laws were not unconstitutional. Presently inthe United States the death penalty can only be used as punishment forintentional killing. Still, the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment andshould be outlawed in the United States. Currently in the United States there are five methods used for executingcriminals: the electric chair, gas chamber, lethal injection, hanging, andfiring squad, each of them equally cruel and unusual in there own ways. When a person is sentenced to death by electrocution he strapped to achair and electrodes are attached to his head and leg.
The amount of voltage israised and lowered a few times and death is supposed to occur within threeminutes. Three whole minutes with electricity flowing through someone’s body,while his flesh burns. Three minutes may not seem like a very long time, but tosomeone who is waiting for his body to die, three minutes can feel like aneternity. Three minutes is the approximate time it takes for a person to die ifeverything goes right, but in some cases it takes longer for people to die. In1990, Jesse Tafero, a prisoner in Florida, remained conscious for four minuteswhile witnesses watched ashes fall from his head. In Georgia in 1984, it tooknearly twenty minutes for Alpha Otis Stephens to die.
At 12:18 am on December12, he was shocked with electricity for two minutes, and his body still showedsigns of life. The doctors had to wait six minutes to examine his body becauseit was too hot to touch. Stephens was still alive, so he was electrocuted foranother two minutes. Finally at 12:37 am doctors pronounced him dead. When a person is executed in the gas chamber he is strapped to a chairin an airtight room. A cyanide pellet is dropped in sulfuric acid, which formsa lethal gas.
The prisoner remains conscious for a few minutes while strugglingto breath. These gas chambers are similar to the ones used by the Nazi’s inWorld War II concentration camps. Fifty years ago, America was quick to condemnthe Germans for persecuting Jew’s, but, today, in 1996 Americans execute theirown people the exact same way. Lethal injection is the newest form of execution in the United States.
The person being executed is injected with a deadly dose of barbiturates throughan intravenous tube in his arm. This method is considered the most humane andefficient way of execution, but a federal judge noted that a slight error indosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed whiledying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation. Since 1985 therehave been three botched injections in Texas alone. In one case it took 24minutes to kill a criminal because the tube leaked and sprayed the chemicalstowards the witnesses. In 1989, too weak a dosage of drugs caused Stephen McCoyto choke and heave for several minutes before he died.
Hanging used to be the most common way to execute a person, but now itis only used in Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington. Hanging isnot a very useful way of execution, because if the drop is too short the personbeing executed dies through gradual strangulation and if the rope is too longthe person’s head is ripped off. There is no punishment more unusual thenhaving your head ripped off, so the death penalty is in direct violation withthe Constitution. When someone is executed by a firing squad he is strapped to a chair andhas a target attached to his chest. Then five marksmen aim for the target andfire.
Having people being paid to shot at a target on someone’s chest is notonly cruel, but humiliating for the person being executed. The death penalty by itself is a cruel and unusual punishment, but thetreatment of prisoners before being executed is also cruel and unusual. InAugust 1995 Robert Breechen was scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma. Heattempted to commit suicide, but authorities revived him, then executed himhours later.
In Illinois last November, the state gave death row inmate Johndel Vecchio two heart surgeries and then executed him in December. RichardTown’s execution in Virginia was delayed for twenty two minutes while theylooked for a vein to inject. The death penalty is the ultimate form of punishment, because there isno way to reverse its effects. It will end up taking the lives of innocentvictims as long as there is fault in the justice system. The death penaltycontradicts the whole idea of human rights.
Human rights are significantbecause some means may never be used to protect society because their useviolates the values that make society worth protecting. From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery ofdeath. . . .
I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that thedeath penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me nowthat no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can savethe death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies. — JusticeHarry Blackmun. Supporters of the death penalty believe that the death penalty helpskeep the crime and murder rate down, but that is not so.
States with deathpenalty laws do not have lower crime or rates than states that with deathpenalty laws. Also, by incarcerating criminals for life, instead of executingthem, it makes them think about what they did and forces them to live with theconsequences of their actions. The death penalty violates our constitutional rights and should be madeillegal. It directly contradicts the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel andunusual punishment. If the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishmentthen what is? Is there possibly anything more cruel then dying a slow deathwhile breathing in lethal fumes, or anything more unusual then watching peoplewho are paid to shoot at the target on your chest? The Bill of Rights wasestablished to protect the rights of the people and now Americans are takingaway these rights from their own countrymen.Category: Law