Powerful cases both for, against death penalty

Friday, June 29, 2001 at 1:00am

In my previous article, I discussed the history of the death penalty; this week I review its pros and cons.

There have always been opponents of the death penalty. However, in the last couple of years, opposition has intensified. Although recent national and state polls show a solid majority still favors capital punishment, the percentage favoring it has declined somewhat.

The first argument advanced against the death penalty is that it is cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has not bought this argument.

Consequently, death penalty statutes exist in nearly 40 states and in the federal government as well. Although the Supreme Court has mandated that a condemned killer must not be mistreated while on death row and must be fed, clothed and quartered in sanitary conditions, he or she nevertheless can be put to death.

Second, there is the argument that the death penalty is not a deterrent to those who will murder and commit other violent crimes in the future. In fact, it has been pointed out that Texas and Florida have high murder rates despite having among the swiftest process of death sentence appeals. This argument is really hard to test. Suffice it to say a death sentence that takes 20 or more years to carry out

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