Essay on Constitutionality of the Death Penalty

1567 Words May 11th, 2011 7 Pages
Constitutionality of the Death Penalty
Case Law and Prosecution

There has been much controversy concerning the death penalty both within society and the judicial system. Courts throughout the nation have waivered back and forth on the subject. Several times in various states the death penalty has been abolished, re-instated, and vice-versa. From 1976 to present day the death penalty has been in effect federally, but that does not mean that the law will remain in place for good. There are still several issues concerning the death penalty; such as the method upon which death is inflicted. Other issues include whether or not juveniles and/or mentally handicapped individuals should be considered for the death penalty, and the
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There is difficulty in discerning the truth of whether or not authorities are arresting and prosecuting everyone fairly, or if it is possible that the majority of the capital offenders are black males, and whether these minorities are receiving cruel and unusual punishment when compared to the majority of offenders with the same type of offenses. In McCleskey v. Kemp (481 U.S. 279 (1987)), McCleskey argued that there was racial discrimination in the application of Georgia's death penalty, by presenting a statistical analysis showing a pattern of racial disparities in death sentences, based on the race of the victim. The Supreme Court held, however, that racial disparities would not be recognized as a constitutional violation of "Equal protection of the law" unless intentional racial discrimination against the defendant could be shown. The issue of the mentally ill with regards to sentencing in capital cases continues to be a tricky one. In 1986, the Supreme Court banned the execution of insane persons and required an adversarial method for determining mental competency (Ford v. Wainwright (477 U.S. 399)). In Penry v. Lynaugh (492 U.S. 584 (1989)), the Court held that executing persons with mental retardation was not a violation of the Eighth Amendment. However, in the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia (536 U.S. 304), the Court held that a national consensus had evolved

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