The Death Penalty


American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper Number 8

Since our nation's founding, the government -- colonial, federal and state --
has punished murder and, until recent years, rape with the ultimate sanction:
death. More than 13,000 people have been legally executed since colonial times,
most of them in the early 20th Century. By the 1930s, as many as 150 people
were executed each year. However, public outrage and legal challenges caused
the practice to wane. By 1967, capital punishment had virtually halted in the
United States, pending the outcome of several court challenges.

In 1972, in _Furman v. Georgia_, the Supreme Court invalidated hundreds of
scheduled ...

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and discrimination. Several
states promptly passed or reenacted capital punishment laws.

Thirty-seven states now have laws authorizing the death penalty, as does the
military. A dozen states in the Middle West and Northeast have abolished
capital punishment, two in the last century (Michigan in 1847, Minnesota in
1853). Alaska and Hawaii have never had the death penalty. Most executions have
taken place in the states of the Deep South.

More than 2,000 people are on "death row" today. Virtually all are poor, a
significant number are mentally retarded or otherwise mentally disabled, more
than 40 percent are African American, and a disproportionate number are Native
American, Latino and Asian.

The ACLU believes that, in all circumstances, the death penalty is
unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, and that its discriminatory
application violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

Here are the ACLU's answers to some questions frequently raised by the public
about capital ...

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But in civilized
society, we reject the "eye for an eye" principle of literally doing to
criminals what they do to their victims: The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or
for arson, the burning down of the arsonist's house. We should not, therefore,
punish the murderer with death. When the government metes out vengeance
disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers in devaluing human life.

If execution is unacceptable, what is the alternative?

INCAPACITATION. Convicted murderers can be sentenced to lengthy prison terms,
including life, as they are in countries and states that have abolished the
death penalty. Most state laws allow life sentences for murder that ...

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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 11/5/2005 08:37:26 AM
Category: Legal Issues
Type: Free Paper
Words: 1980
Pages: 8

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