Essay about Capital Punishment
Is there a rational resolution to the capital punishment debate? Arguments on both sides create a hierarchy of various goals and principals in an effort to offer resolution.
The principle of “common human dignity” appears to play a central role in determining the appropriateness of the death penalty as punishment. But because “common human dignity” cannot be precisely defined, other considerations - such as whether capital punishment is acceptable to society, whether the death penalty is administered in an even-handed way, and whether the purported goals can be met - are used as gauges.
In Furman v. Georgia (1972), for example, the Supreme Court used the “common human dignity” principle as the basis for a test …show more content…
Second, as to whether capital punishment itself could be considered “cruel and unusual,” the Supreme Court assessed the acceptance level of society, and also examined whether a less severe alternative to the death penalty could accomplish the same goals as those purportedly achieved by the death penalty. The Supreme Court reasoned that if society did not accept capital punishment, then capital punishment did not pass the dignity standard. This supplies a “sliding scale” standard as regards dignity, as dignity could encompass more or less barbarous acts depending on the century.
There was also a scale as to what could be used to gauge what constituted societal acceptance. According to the Supreme Court in Furman, legislative authorization did not reflect societal acceptance of capital punishment. In the court’s reasoning, legislatures had to be closely scrutinized to avoid terrible excesses that had occurred in England and early American history. So even though there was a statute on the books regarding capital punishment, other factors were scrutinized to determine acceptance level - the “uniqueness” of the subject matter that aroused heated debate; the evidence that capital punishment is reserved only for the most heinous crimes; the general rejection of the common-law rule imposing a mandatory death sentence for murder; and a