Death penalty is an important issue in the US. The debate over it has continued for decades, but there are still some states that support capital punishment. It is truly amazing how in modern world, which supports human rights and stands for equality of all people, someone can support such medieval actions. This paper is aimed at proving that this type of penalty is not only cruel due to its irreversibility, but is also unconstitutional and thus has to be banned.
The two parts of the US Constitution, which are directly connected to the capital punishment debate, are the 5th and 8th Amendments. Amendment XIV, Section I can sometimes be as well used to prove that capital punishment might be unconstitutional. Therefore to see, how each of the amendments can be used in the capital punishment debate one has to examine each of them and define if these amendments truly support the ban of capital punishment.
From the first glance the 5th Amendment should be used for supporting capital punishment, as it states that no person should “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Constitutional Amendments). Therefore the US Constitution provides a possibility for death penalty, but only in case of proper trial. But if one looks for a deeper meaning of the 5th amendment and takes into consideration the growing rates of innocent people convicted of capital crimes, this amendment will change its’ meaning.
Capital punishment is irreversible, and it is a fact that has to be constantly taken into consideration. New techniques in criminal science may with time either provide court with new evidence, or just be able to process existing evidence in a new way. As a result, already convicted people can be proven innocent. And there is an enormous difference between the innocence of a person serving a life sentence and the one convicted of capital punishment, which has already been executed. The innocent person, who has been proven innocent after the execution of capital punishment, cannot get his or her life back. Therefore such people are deprived of exoneration. And that obviously violates the “due process of law”, which is emphasized in the 5th Amendment. Therefore the impossibility to reverse capital punishment and provide a convicted person with proper procedures if proven innocent makes the 5th Amendment a pro-ban one.
The 8th Amendment is more straightforward then the 5th one. It states "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." (Constitutional Amendments). In this case the most arguable point is the definition of “cruel and unusual”. Therefore to understand this Amendment one has at first take a look at the definition and its’ perception by modern society.
The question is if capital punishment violates the constitutional idea of “cruel and unusual”. The supporters of death penalty rely on the attitudes of the majority. If the majority supports capital punishment (for example, this is the case of Texas), it should not be considered either cruel or unusual. And something what is widely accepted cannot be seen as a violation of constitutional concepts. Consequently, according to this idea capital punishment does not violate the US constitution.
On the other hand the opponents of capital punishment state a number of reasons that define capital punishment as both cruel and unusual. In 2008 the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty has expressed its concerns in Pavulon (used in lethal injections). NCADP stated that due to the paralytic influence of Pavulon a person is not able to say if he is feeling any pain (Problems Associated with Lethal Injection). And any painful execution is a violation of the 8th Amendment. Moreover, death penalty is commonly considered as violation of human rights and human dignity and the possibility to sentence people to death makes the society perceive them as nonhumans. One should also take into consideration that although there are still societies that support death penalty, the most part of the Western World expresses strong position against this form of penalty (Ingold). Taking into consideration the possible painfulness of capital punishment and the opinions of international community towards this issue, it should be assumed that death penalty violates 8th Amendment.
Lastly, the 14th Amendment should be taken into consideration while discussing death penalty as a way of discrimination. It is widely believed that judges are biased while making a decision on the type of punishment. Statistics show that the majority of criminals sentenced to death penalty are of non-white origin (Ingold). Therefore the 14th Amendment is being violated and death penalty can be considered unconstitutional.
Capital punishment is an irreversible act, which is condemned by international community. Even if proven innocent, a person cannot get his or her life back. Moreover, this type of punishment might be painful and thus cruel. Hence this murder, supported by state, is unconstitutional. And something that stands not only against human rights but also against the most important document of the United States should be banned.