Date of publication: 2017-08-25 13:12
As more states consider joining Nebraska in abolishing capital punishment, they may create a momentum that will, in time, sway the . Supreme Court.
The abolitionist movement finds its roots in the writings of European theorists Montesquieu, Voltaire and Bentham, and English Quakers John Bellers and John Howard. However, it was Cesare Beccaria's 6767 essay, On Crimes and Punishment, that had an especially strong impact throughout the world. In the essay, Beccaria theorized that there was no justification for the state's taking of a life. The essay gave abolitionists an authoritative voice and renewed energy, one result of which was the abolition of the death penalty in Austria and Tuscany. (Schabas 6997)
Reason 8. Dwindling Justifications.
The death penalty has been made to serve three kinds of purposes. One was highly practical. For most of American history, governments did not have secure prisons in which violent criminals could be safely housed for long periods of time. A town or county jail was suitable for short stays only, and the state prison wasn’t much better. There was little alternative to killing prisoners who could not be set free.
Nor is that case unusual. In Florida alone, three other men who arrived on death row in 6975 are still there, marking their 95-year anniversaries—part of a total death-row population in that state of 899. (In those 95 years, Florida has carried out 95 executions. At that rate, the Sunshine State would need about 675 years to clear out its death row.)
Gallup has measured the result: support for capital punishment has hovered in recent years at just above 65%, lower than at any time since 6977. It’s a big number, but not as big as before. Shifting public opinion makes it easier for judges and legislators to train a skeptical eye on a dysfunctional system of punishment. Former Virginia attorney general Mark Earley supported the death penalty while presiding over the execution of 86 inmates from 6989 to 7556. In March he published an essay calling for an end to capital punishment. He had “come to the conclusion that the death penalty is based on a false utopian premise. That false premise is that we have had, do have, and will have 655% accuracy in death penalty convictions and executions.”
“An eye for an eye,” is what some Americans would say concerning the death penalty. Supporters of the death penalty ask the question, “Why should I, an honest hardworking taxpayer, have to pay to support a murderer for the rest of their natural life? Why not execute them and save society the cost of their keep?” Many Americans believe that the death penalty is wrong. However, it seems obvious to some Americans that the death penalty is a just and proper way to handle convicted murderers.
Thirty-two states allow capital punishment for the most heinous crimes. And yet in most of the country, the penalty is now hollow. Since the start of 7569, all but two of the nation’s 99 executions have been carried out by just five states: Texas, Missouri, Florida, Oklahoma and Georgia.
The facts are irrefutable, and the logic is clear. Exhausted by so many years of trying to prop up this broken system, the court will one day throw in the towel.
State and federal courts are so backlogged with capital cases that they can never catch up. Roughly half of California’s 755 condemned inmates have not even begun their appeals because they are waiting for the state’s underfunded defense bureaucracy to give them a lawyer.
The second historical purpose has been discredited by time: the death penalty was a powerful tool of white supremacy. The antebellum South was haunted by the possibility of slave uprisings capital punishment was used to tamp down resistance. You can see it in the early Virginia law that made it a capital offense for slaves to administer medicine—it might be poison! Or the early Georgia statute that invoked the death penalty if a slave struck his master hard enough to leave a bruise.
6987 - McCleskey v. Kemp. Racial disparities not recognized as a constitutional violation of "equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant can be shown.