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The Death Penalty, the American Public Opinion, and the Factors Affecting the Americans Position on the Death penalty - Essay Example

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The U.S. Death Penalty Since the 18th century, over 15 thousand people have been executed in the United States. Slaves, pirates, witches and murderers were executed by a selection of ways, such as gibbeting, death by crushing, burning, broken on a wheel, and hanging…
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The Death Penalty, the American Public Opinion, and the Factors Affecting the Americans Position on the Death penalty

Download file to see previous pages... Historical crimes punishable by death in the U.S. were concealing birth, slave revolts, piracy, witchcraft, and guerrilla activity.1 In the late 1970s, lethal injection was developed as a more humane alternative than electric chair, which had been the principal execution method in the United States for more than 7 decades.2 Under discretionary statutes, juries control decisions on the death sentence of defendants which could result in arbitrary verdicts. This arbitrariness was ruled by the court as a violation of both the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment’s assurance of equal protection under the law. The constitutionality of capital punishment was questioned and the states stopped executions. In 1972, the Supreme Court decided to suspend the death penalty in all executing states. Four years after the 1972 decision, the court ruled that death penalty sentencing laws should include a set of objective guidelines that would help judges and juries in deciding whether a death sentence is deserved and just. The amendments led to the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976. The court likewise affirmed that the death sentence was constitutional under the Eighth Amendment.3 The Poll Trends Today, the American public opinion on the death penalty has only fairly changed although with far less support than in the mid-1990s when public acceptance was at a remarkable climax. In a survey performed in November 9-14, 2011 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, in two thousand adults, 62% are in favour of the death penalty for persons convicted of murder while 31% are opposed to it. In 1996, 78% favoured death penalty for murder offenders. Support for capital punishment then declined, dropped to 66% in 2001, 62% in 2005, and 58% in October 2011.4 In Gallup’s first survey about the death penalty in 1936, “Are you in favour of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?” 59% recorded support and dropped to an unsurpassed decline of 42% in 1966, which was the first time there was more opposition than support over the 75-year course of the survey. Between 1970 and 1980, the support for capital punishment rose again and peaked in the mid-1990s.5 Factors That Might Change the Americans’ Position on the Death Penalty In some old analyses, it was recorded that not many death penalty supporters are influenced by information that death penalty is not a deterrent to crimes and that it is not cruel and unjust.6 On a recent study, 42% of respondents stated that a non-white defendant has higher probability of receiving the death sentence than a white defendant.7 In another study, 49% concurred that a black would more likely be sentenced to death than a white, and 67% agreed that a poor defendant was more likely to receive a death sentence than a non-poor.8 On a survey regarding deterrence issue, death penalty supporters were asked if they would still support capital punishment even if new substantiation confirms that it does not decrease the rate of murders. 69% to 73% of respondents affirmed their support.9 Incapacitation: Prevents Murderers from Killing Again Life imprisonment without parole is an alternative that renders the death penalty unnecessary. From views, majority of the death penalty supporters consider incapacitation as a relatively insignificant concern. In the 1991 Gallup survey, merely 19% of supporters cited incapacitation ("Keeps them from killing again") as a basis for their support, while 50% cited retribution ("A life for a life").10 This result, nevertheless, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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