Essay on Capital Punishment

Submitted By stephenberni
Words: 1491
Pages: 6

When we hear the term capital punishment or the death penalty we often think of people being executed for the horrific crimes they committed. Justice is served. In ancient times any person could be sentenced to death for any charges brought about by their accusers. Often, many innocent people were condemned to die along with the guilty. Now that we are in the modern era, society has taken a different stance on capital punishment. Many countries have abolished the death penalty on the basis of it being uncivilized and cruel and unusual due to the many different methods of torturous execution in the past and present. However, the United States remains one of the few democratic nations to have it: 34 out of 50 states still have the death penalty, which also includes the U.S. government and military (www.google.com). Many who support it believe that it is a deterrent to crime. Yet, capital punishment is merely a disguise for revenge that often blinds justice and should be abolished on the basis of violating the eighth amendment. An analysis of the eighth amendment will be used as part of the discussion to see how it has been used to influence those who are for and against the death penalty and how it has been interpreted by the courts. The eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution contains three stipulations that are supposed to protect individuals from excessive bail and fines being imposed and most significantly the prevention of cruel and unusual punishments. This was established by the founding fathers as way to reduce executions for any reason and make the punishment fit the crime. The origins can be traced to the 1215 ancient English liberties charter, The Magna Charta, which dictated that the severity of a punishment should bear some relationship to the severity of the criminal offense (Dworkin, 1977). In 1689, the principle of proportionality was incorporated into the English Bill of Rights, which used language that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution later borrowed (Dworkin, 1977). Under the Excessive Fines Clause, the courts are given a wide margin in its use. Fines imposed by a trial court judge or magistrate will not be overturned on appeal unless the judge or magistrate abused his or her decision in assessing them (Dworkin, 1977). Appellate courts may overturn a fine that is arbitrary, capricious or “so grossly excessive as to amount to a deprivation of property without due process of law” (Dworkin, 1977). Fines are rarely reversed on appeal for any of these reasons. Trial court judges are given less freedom under the Excessive Bail Clause. Bail is the amount of money, property or bond that a defendant must pledge to the court as a security for his or her appearance at trial. The defendant is entitled to recover the pledged amount at the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. When imposing the amount of bail, the court considers several factors: (1) the seriousness of the offense; (2) the Weight of Evidence against the accused; (3) the nature and extent of any ties, such as family or employment, that the accused has to the community where he or she will be prosecuted; (4) the accused’s ability to pay a given amount; and (5) the likelihood that the accused will flee the jurisdiction if released (Dworkin, 1977). Setting bail for an unreasonable amount would unnecessarily restrict the freedom of a person who only has been accused of wrongdoing and is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, courts are aware that they must protect communities from harm by dangerous defendants and are permitted to deny bail to prevent risks if they are released. Throughout United States history people were being executed for lesser crimes such as witchcraft, theft of someone’s horse or even perjury. People often were often subjected to tortuous execution methods such as castration, burning at the stake, quartering, crucifixion, breaking on the wheel and other punishments that…