The death penalty is becoming less approved of by the American public as the years go on. “55% of Americans said they supported the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, down from a reported 60% in October 2016” (Gallup News). Yet, it still happens in some states regularly. Some people even show signs of pain going through the process of being executed, which is how this can become a cruel punishment for even the worst of offenders. Capital punishment should not be allowed in the United States, and can be proven to be unconstitutional
In a recent case where 4 death sentences were carried out within a week, one of the people was convulsing while dying and had foam coming out of his mouth according to some of the witnesses. One of the drugs used in some lethal injections, “Midazolam has become controversial because of complications, such as ‘gasping and snorting’ and convulsions” (McLeod). This is not how anyone should be treated, it is a cruel punishment that is not allowed for by the constitution. The best way to deal with the death penalty is to get rid of it completely. Realistically, there are states that will not accept that due to how often they use it still, and making a more humane way of carrying out the death penalty to ensure there is no pain or suffering is the most realistic way of ending the cruelest part of the death penalty.
Getting rid of the death penalty entirely would solve the issue of possible pain during the process, since the execution will never take place. “On 18th December 2007, in a historic vote at the UN General Assembly (Amnesty International 2008b), 104 countries adopted a resolution favouring a world wide moratorium on executions” (Babor et al.). Not only is it cruel to make someone’s death drag, but they also endure months, sometimes years, of prison time just waiting for their day to come, knowing the whole time that they are just going to be put to death. It is not easy to imagine being in that situation, as most people don’t even contemplate doing a crime heinous enough to warrant the death penalty, but put yourself in their shoes. Knowing that the rest of your life has no point to it, that if no one is still fighting for your rights, you will never get to change and become more in society. The feeling of hopelessness would weigh down on many people, and it does. “The results of the present study indicate that the mean suicide rate on death row from 1978 to 2010 was 129.7 per 100,00 per year, which is substantially higher than the suicide rate for males over the age of 15 outside of prison and inmates in state prison during that same time” (Lester and Tartaro). When the rate of suicide is increasing that much for a portion of a population it is obvious that the death penalty takes a mental toll on the inmates.
The constitutionality of receiving a death sentence is up for debate. The major amendments that have the most relevance to capital punishment, are the fifth and eighth amendments. Those supporting the continued legality of the death penalty use the fifth amendment to show that the founding fathers recognized and allowed the use of the death penalty. “It is impossible to hold unconstitutional that which the Constitution explicitly contemplates” (Blocher). Blocher was quoting Supreme Court Justice Scalia, this was a response to other justices saying that the death penalty in today’s day in age is getting closer to cruel and unusual punishment, which would make it unconstitutional. This is where the eighth amendment comes into play. It prohibits the uses of cruel and unusual punishment, so that we are not an uncivilized society, that tortures people. However, the death penalty is becoming more and more like torture the longer people are waiting in prison just to be put to death anyway. Considering this, the argument used, that the fifth amendment is what keeps the death penalty legal, is flawed, “The Fifth Amendment contains prohibitions, not powers, 14 and there is no reason to suppose that it somehow nullifies other constitutional prohibitions—most importantly, the ban on cruel and unusual punishment” (Blocher). It does not state that we have the powers to carry out capital punishment, rather that when given any punishment for crimes, the accused should be allowed due process of law. While it does mention capital crimes, it in no way is able to overrule other amendments that prohibit today’s use of the death penalty.
Getting rid of the death penalty would also stop jurors from having to determine future dangerousness, which is a question that, “impermissibly asks jurors to function as fortune tellers, basing their sentencing determination on the likelihood of some future, unascertained event” (Edmondson). This is not a fair way to tell whether someone is deserving of the death penalty or not. There is no way for someone to go into the future to know whether or not someone is going to commit another crime or not. Putting the life of a person on trial on the line, and the beliefs of future crimes happening from random people who in every case has no idea who the defendant is as a person. “Whether jurors answered the future dangerousness question in the negative or the affirmative, the two groups displayed almost identical rates of serious violent behavior. In the case of the single incident that resulted in a fatality, the jury predicted the defendant was unlikely to engage in future violent behavior.” The jurors were wrong just as often as they were right, meaning that every time someone is sentenced to death based on the threat of future dangerousness, it is only about a fifty percent chance that person was deserving of the punishment, in the eyes of the law.
Making the death penalty unconstitutional is what should happen, not only because it is unconstitutional, but it is genuinely never known whether that person will ever commit another crime even worth of being put in prison. As public opinion of the death penalty becomes more negative, and the approval rating goes down as well, we come closer to the end of capital punishment in the United States.
Blocher, Joseph. “The Fifth Amendment and the Death Penalty.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2015, doi:10.2139/ssrn.2682657.
Edmondson, Carla. “NOTHING IS CERTAIN BUT DEATH: WHY FUTURE DANGEROUSNESS MANDATES ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY .” pp. 857–918. Academic Search Complete [EBSCO], 24 Oct. 2016.
Edwards, Griffith, et al. “Drug Trafficking: Time to Abolish the Death Penalty.” Journal of Substance Use, vol. 16, no. 4, 2011, pp. 259–262., doi:10.3109/14659891.2010.514518.
“GALLUP POLL: Support for Death Penalty in U.S. Falls to a 45-Year Low.” Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center, 9 May 2018, deathpenaltyinfo.org/Gallup-Support_for_Death_Penalty_Falls_in_2017.
McLeod, Ethan. “Death Penalty.” CQ Researcher Online [CQ Press], 2 Aug. 2017, library.cqpress.com.chaffey.idm.oclc.org/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqr_ht_death_penalty_2017.
Tartaro, Christine, and David Lester. “Suicide on Death Row.” Psychological Reports, vol. 117, no. 3, 2015, pp. 944–950., doi:10.2466/12.pr0.117c29z9.
pic 1- http://stuffnobodycaresabout.com/2015/08/06/the-first-execution-by-electric-chair/
pic 2- https://www.cnn.com/2015/05/15/us/federal-sentences-death-row/index.html