Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Capital Punishment and the 8th Amendment

“Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.” This quote by Albert Camus is only the tip of the iceberg regarding how the death penalty is unconstitutional. One of the clauses that is broken by this irreversible punishment is the 8th Amendment that states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”. Unfortunately in our American society, it seems as if this amendment is not being followed, specifically with regard to the death penalty. In the United States, 34 states are practicing inhumane punishment in the form of the death penalty, a system that is becoming considerably more unusual throughout the world. You can read which states have retained this punishment here.

The death penalty is inhumane because there is no way to know whether or not the alleged criminal is feeling pain while being executed. Since the first two chemical solutions injected into the person’s body are used to induce a coma and then to paralyze them, we can get no sense of the possible physical distress that the person being executed is feeling. The intention is for the person not to feel pain, but because we cannot ask them about their experience afterward, we can only speculate.

Additionally, the lethal injection process is certainly not foolproof. With any kind of medication, certain people require higher doses in order for the desired effect to take place. Lethal injection is no different. The coma may not be successfully induced, or the paralysis fully in effect before the final chemical is injected to stop the heart, making the execution all the more painful and inhumane. To read more about lethal injection, you can visit this article on

Finally, capital punishment violates the 8th Amendment by being unusual. Nearly half of all countries have completely abolished the death penalty, and an additional 17% have at least abolished it in practice. The United States stands as the only Westernized country that retains the death penalty and it is in the top five countries with the highest execution rates as shown by this chart. In 2010, the US only had fewer executions than China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen. To be grouped with such countries, many of which the US criticizes for their disregard for human rights, shows the disgrace in our backward beliefs and policies.

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