The topic I chose for my research paper is Capital punishment. I chose this topic because I think Capital punishment should be banned in all states. The death penalty violates religious beliefs about killing, remains unfair to minorities and is therefore unconstitutional, and is inhumane and barbaric. The death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (Bedau 2).
Those who had shown no respect for life would be restrained, permanently if necessary, so they could not further endanger other members of the community (Cauthen 2). But the purpose of confinement would not be vengeance or punishment (Cauthen 2). Rather an ideal community would show no mercy even to those who had shown no mercy (Cauthen 2). It would return good for evil. The aim of isolation is reconciliation and not revenge.
Although the founders of the new country were generally in favor of the death penalty for certain crimes, many Americans in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth century were highly vocal opponents, known as abolitionists (Stewart 12). The best known of the American abolitionists was Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of The Declaration of Independence and a confidant of Benjamin Franklin (Stewart 12). Like many other Americans at the time, Rush equated the death penalty with a cruel monarchy specifically that of England's George and believed that the new republic should have nothing to do with executions (Stewart 12). Rush wrote a number of pamphlets and books arguing that the very idea of a death penalty contradicted the notion of humanity and divine love (Stewart 12). Who are we to destroy what god has made. It is far better to reform a criminal than to destroy him.
It is shown that Capital punishment leads many citizens suffering before they are officially dead. When Mississippi executed Jimmy Lee Gray in the gas chamber in 1983, his head was not immobilized (Stewart 30). As the poison gas began suffocating Gray, eyewitnesses and media representatives reporting Gray suffering a torturous death, his head flailing about wildly, smashing the medal pipe (behind his chair used for support) many times before he lost consciousness (Stewart 30). The electric chair and hanging too, sometimes fail to be quick, and there have been glitches in lethal injections- executioners have sometimes had difficulty finding usable veins into which to inject the poison, and some victims have suffered breathing trauma before being rendered unconscious by the injection (Stewart 30). Several electrocutions in recent years have taken more than fifteen minutes to kill the condemned man, and meanwhile he has been severely burnt (Stewart 76). How can it serve the purposes of a modern society to condone such torture.
Americans also express great concern over the possibility that an innocent person maybe killed by the state for the crime he or she did not commit (Jackson 45). At least 23 cases have resulted in the execution of innocent people (Jackson 45). Since 1900, this country, there have been on the average more than four cases per year in which an entirely innocent person was convicted of murder. (Bedau 8). Scores of these people were sentenced to death. In many cases, a reprieve or commutation arrived just hours, or even minutes, before the scheduled execution (Bedau). In 1986 a white women was shot and killed at a dry cleaners in Monroeville, Alabama. (Stewart 66). The town was shocked by the murder; however, for the next eight months the police were unable to come up with any likely suspects (Stewart 66). Finally police arrested Walter McMillian, a black man who lived in a nearby town. (Stewart 66). McMillian denied murdering the women at the dry cleaners; he claimed he was at a fish fry all that day with friends and relatives (Stewart 66). In fact, his story corroborated by several people (Stewart 66). Nevertheless, McMillian was arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned on death row even before formal sentencing (Stewart 66). For more than six years, Walter McMillian lived on death row while various appeals were filed in his behalf, all of which were denied (Stewart 67). Eventually, however, new attorneys took over the case an a volunteer basis, and were able to demonstrate serious