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Capital Punishment, A life and Death Issue - Research Paper Example

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Instructor name Date Capital Punishment, a Life and Death Issue Punishment for crimes that are considered cruel and unusual is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment is frequently invoked when speaking of the legal merits regarding the death penalty…
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Download file to see previous pages Opponents also assert that the practice is overtly costly and racially biased while not realizing the intended outcome. Proponents think it is neither cruel nor unusual, quite the opposite, they think it fair and just. The objective of this study is to discuss the moral and legal concerns that literally are a life and death issue and is a key barometer when measuring a cultures collective conscience. The ‘eye for an eye’ faction not only accepts but insists that the death penalty be sustained and has supporting rational to back up their argument which will be covered comprehensively in this discussion. It will also take into account the opponents’ reasoning concerning why it should be eliminated along with the legal precedents concerned in an effort to achieve a comprehensive view of the capital punishment debate. Legal speaking, capital punishment is not unusual, by definition, unless one acknowledges the racial bias that exists throughout the justice system. The law cannot define whether it is cruel or not. Cruelty can be defined only by the collective social conscious of a society. The legal interpretation of the combined ‘cruel and unusual’ is open to debate, to some extent but the general usage of the word ‘cruel’ refers to vicious punishments that cause extreme pain. Most legal scholars agree that punishments that include body dismemberment or torture are unquestionably classified as cruel. The term torture was evidently open for debate during the past decade but the word means essentially the same universally; causing unwanted physical or mental anguish. The word ‘unusual’ is normally understood to mean going beyond what is an equitable application of punishment for an offense. For instance, if ten people were ticketed for a traffic violation and judge fined nine of them $150 but one was charged $1500, this punishment would be considered ‘unusual.’ Taken together in the phrase, ‘prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment’ signifies that the penalty should be apportioned equitably according to the specific offense committed. A ‘life’ prison sentence is an acceptable punishment but not if this punishment was imposed for jaywalking, that would be an obviously unacceptable sentence imposition because it is considered excessive and extreme given the nature of the offense. Excessive is a term that is also open to broad interpretation in both the legal and public realm. Some would contend, for example, that any amount of time imposed for ‘crimes’ such as the possession of drugs, prostitution and gambling should be interpreted as excessive consequently ‘unusual.’ The Supreme Court has on many occasions judged the merits of the death penalty and this action is interpreted as punishment which is cruel and unusual by the Constitution. The Court has consistently ruled the language of the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death sentence as punishment. The Constitution was meant to be and is a malleable document, however. The judicial interpretation of the Eighth Amendment has evolved to some extent throughout the years. Therefore the Court could potentially reverse this standpoint at a future time as result of changing societal values. For instance, whipping convicted criminals was routine until the late Eighteenth Century. This practice is now considered to be inappropriate because society’s attitude changed to define it as a ‘cruel’ punishment. With respect to capital punishment, however, “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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