History and Evolution of the Death Penalty in the United States
Ethics of Judiciary and Sociology of Criminal Law
The history of the death penalty is tumultuous, from the punishment being initiated to abolished, and then reinstated. The death penalty, initiated in the United States in 1622, continues to be exploited by 32 states, regardless of its integrity and use to discourage people from committing serious crimes. It is now being eroded again and the abolition of the death penalty seems to be inevitable.
One problem with the death penalty is that it has been shown that many people have been executed when they have not committed the crime. Since 1973, hundreds of ...view middle of the document...
The Davis case generated widespread national outrage, as thousands gained support to end the death penalty, believing that Davis was wrongfully killed and that the death penalty is too risky. There are many more cases like this one; the Death Penalty Information Center has reported that from 1973 to 2012, 142 death row inmates have been exonerated and could have easily been killed for crimes they did not commit.
It is also important to examine cases from the 1950s and 1960s that challenged if certain punishments are constitutional. The first of these was Trop v. Dulles (S. CT. 1958). This case identified, under the Eighth Amendment, that punishments for crimes needed to still uphold a humane, standard of decency consistent with the maturity of our society. Chief Justice Earl Warren was one out of four justices overhearing Trop v. Dulles (Trop). In his words that would be quoted for future opinions talks about “standard of decency” and how the “Eighth Amendment must illustrate its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” The Eighth Amendment in Warren’s view, must establish “vital, living principles that authorize and limit governmental powers in our nation. They are the rules of government.” Meaning that our nation needs higher authority such as the government to set standards that society can abide by. If we did not have principles to authorize and limit what is good and bad then our nation would be chaotic. This was the argument that the Supreme Court applied in Furman v. Georgia (S. CT. 1973) to support the abolition of the death penalty. The argument that was applied in Furman v. Georgia was that the death penalty breached the Trop v. Dulles (Trop) standard of decency (Riley 855-6).
The petitioners in Furman v. Georgia (1972), Jackson v. Georgia (1972), and Branch v. Texas (1972) were all African American men who were sentenced to death, one of them for murder (Furman) and two for rape (Jackson and Branch). In all three cases, the court held that the charge and carrying out of the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The courts for these three trials intentionally selected a discriminative grand jury in order for a racial decision to be made. This selection process did not allow these men to have a fair punishment for their crime. An all-white jury was selected by the prosecutors, so it would be likely that the men would be executed. The men were indeed sentenced to death by the jury. The judgment in each case was therefore reversed and the cases were remanded for further proceedings (Capital Punishment in Context).
Many limitations have been imposed on the death penalty since its creation and misuse. The case of U.S. v. Jackson (S. CT. 1968) held that the death penalty should only be invoked on the recommendation of the jury. This meant that the potentially arbitrary decisions of a judge could not be imposed on...