Lecture and Assignment # 9 Capital Punishment – The Death Penalty Definition – Death as a punishment given by a court of law for our most serious crimes known as Capital Crimes. In a State Court a person can only be sentenced to death for the crime of Murder with aggravating circumstances. The Federal Court uses this as well but also adds the crime of Treason to the list of crimes that can make one eligible to receive the death penalty. Important Supreme Court Decisions on Death Penalty: Furman V. Georgia (1972) – Supreme Court struck down use of death penalty due to the arbitrary and capricious manner in which it was being imposed. Gregg V. Georgia (1976) – Supreme Court reinstated use of death penalty with guided discretion. Guidelines were instituted. It was to be used for Murder only and no longer for rape. It was proven that for rape cases the quickest way to death row was if the defendant was black and the victim was white. Facts about Death Penalty: Since being re-instated in 1976 approximately 1600 people have been executed. There are currently 2,721 people on death row awaiting execution. About half of all death row inmates are in the following three states: California (740), Florida (354), and Texas (228). Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978 inmates are far more likely to die from suicide or old age than by execution. Although California is a death penalty state no one has been executed there since 1976 although many have died from natural causes and suicide. The Death Penalty is legal in 29 states plus the Federal Government and the United States Military. The Death Penalty is illegal in 21 states plus Washington D. C. Since 1976 the vast majority of executions were by way of lethal injection but 160 people were electrocuted, 11 died by way of the Gas Chamber, 3 were hanged, and 3 were executed by way of the Firing Squad. Since 1973, more than 160 people have been released from death row due to evidence that proved their innocence. We still average about 5 exonerations per year for people who would have been executed had not their innocence been proven in time. Death Penalty and Race: 56% of people executed since 1976 were white and 34% were black. 9% of those executed were Hispanic and almost 2% identified as other. Studies still indicate that the quickest way to land on death row is if the defendant is black and the victim is white. Currently on death row the prisoners are 42% white, 42% black, 13% Hispanic, and 3% other. This tells me that there is still racial discrimination in the sentencing of death penalty cases evidenced by the sentence above and the fact that African Americans make up about 12 percent of our population yet are represented on death row by 42%. Do executions save money as opposed to keeping a person in prison for the rest of their natural life? A death penalty case from trial to execution costs approximately 3.5 percent more than the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. This considers pretrial and trial costs. Costs of automatic appeals, state habeas corpus requests, federal habeas corpus requests, and the cost of incarceration on death row which is the most expensive wing of any prison. NOTE: the habeas corpus requests mean that the government must prove that they have the legal authority to hold the prisoner in custody. In most cases it is just a formality. Do executions lower homicide rates? A recent survey of leading criminologists showed that 88% of them did not believe that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. According to the Uniform Crime Report which is produced by the FBI, the Southern States account for 80% of all U. S. executions and yet those states also have the highest rates of murder. By contrast, states in the Northeast account for 1% of executions and those states have the lowest rates of murder. A recent poll of police chiefs in the nation ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime. In fact they considered the death penalty to be the least efficient use of taxpayer’s money. Assignment # 9 Are you for or against the Death Penalty as a legal form of punishment to be used for those people who are convicted of the worst crimes that we can imagine? Such as, murder accompanied by torture or rape, murder and torture of children. Basically if there is any circumstance that you would be in favor of the government taking a life in the name of punishment than you are for the death penalty. If, on the other hand, there is no circumstance at all, in which you would condone a state sanctioned execution than you are against the death penalty. In the United States the penalty for the worst crimes one can be convicted of is as follows – depending on what state you live in: 1. Capital Punishment – Death Penalty 2. Life in prison without the possibility of parole 3. 25 years to life –this means that after 25 years the prisoner can be eligible for parole but parole is not guaranteed. Examining 1, 2, and 3 above which would you favor as our penalty for people who are convicted of the worst crimes in society? Please support your answer with sound reasoning.
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