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Capital punishment is one of the most popularly debated topics in the nation today. Since colonial times, more than 13,000 people have been legally executed and a large percentage of these executions occurred during the early 1900\'s. In the 1930\'s, approximately 150 people were being legally executed each year. However, the number of executions started to decrease, as public outrage became apparent. Currently, over 3,500 people are on death row. The death penalty violates the Eight Amendment because the act is cruel and unusual, and because the punishment discriminates against the poor and the minorities, the punishment also violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Surprisingly, many victims on death row are mentally retarded or disabled. Unfortunately, the death penalty has many supporters, and their main claim to why the death penalty should be constitutional is that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, but research has proved their claim to be false. The most disturbing factor of all is that a significant number of the inmates are innocent. For many reasons, capital punishment should be illegal throughout the nation.
Capital punishment is not acceptable because it is unconstitutional. Capital punishment has been proven to violate the Eighth Amendment, which is the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It is also a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the laws and due process. The death penalty, which was legal with no objections through the 1900\'s, became a controversial issue in 1972. In 1972, the Furman vs. Georgia trial caused the Supreme Court to cancel hundreds of scheduled executions and to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. However, in 1976 in Gregg vs. Georgia, the Court reinstated the death penalty. After this decision, several states reenacted the capital punishment laws. However, capital punishment indeed violates the Eighth Amendment, which became a part of the United States Constitution in 1789. Capital punishment is both a cruel and an unusual punishment. No punishment can be crueler than death, especially if it is applied to an innocent person. In Wendy Kaminer‘s book, It\'s All the Rage, Kaminer describes the death penalty as, “barbarously cruel . . . . shocking, unjust, and unacceptable” (106). The Fourteenth Amendment is also violated in cases of the death penalty. Once again, the Fourteenth Amendment in the United States Constitution promises equal protection of the laws and due process to everyone, but Vilbig says, “Death penalty critics say defendants, many of whom are poor, frequently get a poor legal defense, often by court-appointed lawyers“ (4). This fact indicates that the unfortunate are not being given equal protection under the law. However, the death penalty was found to be discriminatory based on the color of one\'s skin (Bedau 6). Therefore, the death penalty clearly violates the Fourteenth Amendment.
The application of the death penalty sentence shows racial discrimination, sex discrimination, and socio-economic class discrimination all over the nation. Over the years, the statistics of the executions have been studied. According to these statistics, from 1930 to 1990 the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reports an interesting conclusion about racial discrimination. The GAO confirmed that, “. . . a consistent pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in charging, sentencing and the imposition of the death penalty after the Furman decision . . . . race of victim influence was found at all stages of the criminal justice system process . . . ” (Bedau 5). Along with this finding, they also asserted that “. . . those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks” (Bedau 6). This information revealed that the convict\'s race, as well as the race of the victim, influenced the criminal justice process. In 1987, a study taken in New Jersey showed that of all the executions made that year, fifty percent of the cases involved a black defendant with a white victim, while only twenty-eight percent of the cases involved a white defendant with a black victim. In California, studies indicated that while six percent of those convicted of killing whites got the death penalty, only three percent of those convicted of killing blacks got the death penalty; “Since 1976 only four executions involved a white defendant who killed a black victim” (Bedau 6). In
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Capital punishment in Georgia, Capital punishment in the United States, Crime in the United States, United States law, Capital punishment, Furman v. Georgia, Capital punishment debate in the United States, Kennedy v. Louisiana
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