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Death Penalty

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The English instilled the death penalty upon America when it was just a colony. Ben Franklin opposed the death penalty as he helped write the Bill of Rights and the well alluded to 8th Amendment. In 1846 Michigan was the first to repeal capital punishment. By 1917, ten states had repealed capital punishment. By the mid 1960s, the death penalty seemed fated for extinction. Only seven executions were conducted in 1965 and only one in 1966. For about ten years supporters and opposers of capital punishment looked to the Supreme Court for a final ruling on the constitutionality of the death penalty. In the 1976 case of Gregg v. Georgia, the court ruled that, "the punishment of death does not violate the Constitution." Many call capital punishment unconstitutional and point to the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution for support. The amendment states that, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines be imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment be inflicted."

The death penalty is a practice of ancient standing. It succumbs to the old adage "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." It is my opinion that capital punishment should not be allowed in the United States. Taking the life of someone else does not redeem the life of the person that was killed and simply becomes an act of revenge. When we put criminals on death row for committing murder, we become no better than them. Most of them are poor, mentally retarded, or otherwise mentally impaired. Every year at lost 4 innocent people are put to death. Since 1976, 70 people on death row were found innocent of the charges they were accused of and at least 33 of those were mentally ill. Some experts estimate that as many as 10-15% of the 3,000 men and women on death row today are mentally ill.

There are plenty of convincing reasons against the use of capital punishment including the denial of basic rights, the possibility of error, unfair judgment, lack of deterrence, the prolonged uncertainty and wait for execution is most certainly another form of torture, the person possibly having justifying circumstances, i.e. emotional trauma, severe abuse, and the effects on our society as a whole by having a "revenge is essential" attitude. Executions also cost more than life in prison at $2 million person vs. $500,000. Death sentences are also handed down arbitrarily, not in a fair manner. An "angel of death" nurse in NJ who admitted killing 17 people got life, meanwhile mentally ill and impoverished murderers who could not afford good lawyers and did not warrant much media attention were given the death penalty. In Alabama, David Hocker was executed after a one-day trial. His mental illness was not sufficiently described to the jury. Alabama also executed a 74-year-old man (James Hubbard) who had been on death row for 27 years and was beset by medical problems which would have probably soon caused his death



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