Is Capital Punishment a Violation of Human Rights

The Eighth Amendment of United States Constitution provides that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Numerous Supreme Court Justices have wrestled with the interpretation of the Eighth Amendment and the question of what the Framers really meant by it. Capital Punishment also known as ‘The Death Penalty’ should be abolished because it is inhuman and shows little regard for human life. For years and even today, the idea ‘an eye for an eye’ has remained prominent in the mentalities of Americans across the nation.

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However, this ideology is hypocritical in that it is violative of the Eighth Amendment. The United States is a country that murder is unacceptable, and that should mean for everyone, even the government and the legal system. Since 1973, approximately 160 people have been exonerated from death row due to a number of circumstances such as the emergence of more advanced technology (which was perhaps unavailable at their time of conviction) and the introduction of new evidence. To further illustrate, the aforementioned statistic equates to approximately one wrongly convicted individual for every ten who have been executed (Jeffery). In light of these disturbing facts, it seems that Voltaire was correct in stating that “It is better to save a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one”.

Over the years, the death penalty has been widely used across the United States. Unfortunately, some of these instances may have consisted of executing an individual that was wrongly convicted to begin with. The mere possibility of such an injustice is enough to throw away the punishment as a whole. Capital punishment essentially runs the risk of stripping American Citizens of the right to a fair trial and the right for their side of the story to be heard. The main problem with capital punishment is facing the reality that there is always a chance for an innocent person to be executed, “157 innocents have walked off death row, reported as of June 2017. The risk of making a mistake and killing an innocent person is too high to keep capital punishment alive” (Stroud III). The United States is making a fatal mistake in failing to completely abolish the death penalty, though many states have done so in previous years. One of the primary contributing factors to the occurence of innocents landing on death row is the fact that jurors are typically individuals with little to no legal background. Jurors are charged with the hefty task of determining whether a person lives or dies based simply on evidence presented by both the State and the defense. The fact that an innocent person could be put to death if their case is heard by the wrong twelve people is proof that America’s legal system is severely flawed.

The Death Penalty is also extremely taxing on every person involved in the process, including but not limited to the judge, attorneys, defendant, the victim and the families affected on both sides of the “fence”. Additionally, the common method of lethal injection is inhumane because contrary to popular belief, it is not a perfect science and if the inmate is given the wrong dose, the could potentially suffer for minutes or hours on end, another clear violation of the constitution (Death Watch).

The religious aspect of capital punishment is where much of the controversy has lied in recent years. For example, the Pope, a pillar in the Roman Catholic faith, has spoken out in regards to the termination of capital punishment. United States bishops have also been campaigning for abolishment for approximately 40 years. A recent article has stated, in reference to the general Catholic stance on the death penalty, that “Catholics are becoming more galvanized in their views against capital punishment. She said the botched death by lethal injection is a “stark reminder” that capital punishment is an affront to the dignity of human life” (America, vol. 212).

Many would agree that complete termination of the death penalty is desirable, not only for the fact that it goes against good morals, but it completely deplinishes the appreciation of human life. An article expressed “Abolition is certainly a respectable stance to take: Given that the evidence of deterrence is hotly disputed, one might reasonably conclude that capital punishment offers only speculative benefits that do not justify the purposeful killing of another human being. But this conclusion is hardly inevitable. A retributivist might believe that acts of deliberate murder warrant capital punishment regardless of whether it will deter future crimes — and that retribution of this sort is a good in itself that justifies or outweighs the costs of capital punishment.”(Mitchell) This excerpt helps reinforce the idea that many would agree with the elimination of the sentence.

The quantity of information that the research has shown is profoundly anti-death penalty. Many people would agree with the literature and statistics and could confidently conclude the death penalty does, in fact, violate the Eighth Amendment by its very nature. The amendment protects citizens from cruel and excessive punishment and the amendment is not biased, that is, if it is implemented to protect all United States Citizens, including those accused and/or convicted of even the most heinous crimes known to man. Therefore, the amendment protects the offender from being sentenced to a punishment comparable to that of the victim. The research provides further evidence that the death penalty is a direct violation of the Eighth Amendment, and in no way could ever state that it is moral. 

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