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Death Penalty Or Capital Punishment Essay

3271 words - 14 pages

Death penalty or capital punishment is a controversial issue and one of the highly debated subjects in the United States. The issue of death penalty has attracted attention of scholars, academics, legislators, policy makers, and the general public. The opinion on the issue of death penalty is primarily divided between two segments; proponents and opponents presenting arguments to favor their viewpoint. The debate, however, remains unsettled and inconclusive. Proponents of death penalty consider the punishment as a deterrent to crime. Major religions of the world including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism support the punishment of death penalty especially for capital crimes. The ...view middle of the document...

The key sections of the English common law were specifically based on precedents; the decisions in the past made by judges instead of legislative law. The penalties and statutes, therefore, developed over time and were the consequences of several decisions. Each legal decision was made on the basis of a preceding case (Gershman 56-57).
The death penalty being the most severe form of punishment was part of those traditions of English common law. The range of offenses that an individual could be found guilty of and awarded death penalty during the colonial period was noteworthy. For example, the English had more than two hundred offenses that could result in death penalty. The number of eligible offenses attracting death penalty has decreased with the passage of time mainly because of constitutional and legislative laws. Another attribute that the colonists form the Great Britain brought was that the convictions eligible for death penalty resulted in compulsory sentences. Although some sentences awarded to individuals were either executed symbolically or commuted, the sentence was not at the discretion of a jury or judge (Gershman 56-57).
The English common law in America continued to remain valid and formed the basis for several statutes in the United States; it is no more the main source of the law. Upon its ratification, the U.S. Constitution has become the primary law for the Sates and the nation. It was also the U.S. Constitution that created a balance of powers among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of the government. The Founding Fathers of the United States and the Framers of the Constitution were intellectuals and philosophers. They were aware of the shortcomings in the legal systems of other countries especially European nations- the main being Great Britain, Spain, and France (Gershman 56-57).
The Framers wanted to devise a Constitution that addresses all loopholes and shortcomings. They included the punishment of death penalty in the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of aw; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” (U.S. Constitution Online).
It is evident that the U.S. Constitution supports death penalty as a form of punishment. The main legal document of the nation, written and approved by the intellectuals, provide evidence that death penalty is a justified punishment. The nature of heinous crime- whether committed in the past or today- cannot be changed. Capital...

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