Juveniles In the United States, most young people are minors, or juveniles, until they reach the age of eighteen. The Supreme Court, however, has said that people who are sixteen when they commit murder may receive the death penalty. In the s, the United States was one of only six countries to allow juvenile offenders to be executed. Death penalty opponents say that it is barbaric to execute juvenile offenders. They say juveniles are too young to understand what they are doing when they kill another person.
Some juvenile murderers are themselves victims of crime, including physical and sexual child abuse. Death S u p r e m e C o u r t D r a m a 2 5 7 penalty opponents say these juveniles need love, caring, and reform to nurture them into responsible adults. Death penalty supporters argue that a person who is old enough to kill is old enough to die for it. They also say gangs use juveniles for crimes if juveniles cannot get the death penalty. In , just one juvenile offender was executed in the United States.
Cost Death penalty cases spend many years in the court system because defendants appeal their convictions and sentences many times. The average inmate spends eleven years on death row during this process.
Because the state often pays expenses for both the prosecution and defense, one estimate says that death penalty cases cost states between two and four million dollars per inmate. By comparison, it costs about one million dollars to keep a criminal in prison for life.
Opponents say that death penalty cases are wasting taxpayer dollars. Death penalty supporters disagree with these numbers. They say inmates on death row are costly and take up valuable space in already overcrowded jails. The law is designed to speed up death penalty cases so they do not take as long or cost as much. Some fear, however, that quicker executions will cause more mistakes.
Prevention Death penalty supporters say that capital punishment prevents murderers from killing again and discourages other people from ever killing. They point to the example of Kenneth McDuff, who was sentenced to death for two murders in After being released on parole in , McDuff raped, tortured, and murdered at least nine women before being caught again in Death penalty opponents argue that capital punishment does not stop criminals from committing murder. They point to studies that show that the murder rate in states without the death penalty is half the murder rate of states with capital punishment.
For death penalty opponents, this is evidence that capital punishment increases violence in society by setting a bad example. Capital Punishment. New York: Crestwood House, May 1, Gottfried, Ted. Enslow Publishers, Inc. Nardo, Don. Death Penalty. Lucent Books, San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Steins, Richard.
Twenty First Century Books, Wawrose, Susan C. Millbrook Press, Winters, Paul A. The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints. Wolf, Robert V. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, Chief Lawyer for Appellant: Anthony G. Brennan, Jr. White Justices Dissenting: Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Significance: Furman said death penalty laws that allow random, racial results are unconstitutional.
He went to bed around midnight. Two hours later, the Mickes were awakened by strange noises in the kitchen. Thinking that one of his children was sleepwalking, William Micke went to the kitchen to investigate. Furman was a poor, uneducated, mentally ill African American who had broken into the house and was carrying a gun.
When he saw Micke, Furman fled the house, shooting Micke as he left. The bullet hit Micke in the chest, killing him instantly. Within minutes, the police searched the neighborhood and found Furman still carrying his gun. Furman was charged with murder. After studying Furman, the hospital decided he was mentally ill and psychotic. His court-appointed lawyer, B.
Furman testified in his own defense. He said that when Micke caught him in the kitchen, he started to leave the house backwards and tripped over a wire.
When Furman tripped, the gun fired. Furman said he did not mean to kill anyone.
Although the evidence suggested Furman killed Micke accidentally, the jury sentenced Furman to death. Furman Appeals Furman appealed his conviction and sentence. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed both on April 24, Supreme Court. Amsterdam, joined Mayfield to help with the appeal. At the time, juries received no guidance about choosing the death penalty. They simply listened to the evidence on guilt or innocence and decided whether the defendant deserved to die. Studies showed that juries acted randomly when choosing the death penalty. In cases that were similar, some defendants got the death penalty while others just went to prison.
Other studies showed that defendants who were black, uneducated, poor, or mentally ill received the death penalty more often than those who were white, educated, wealthy, and mentally healthy.
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Amsterdam said these random, racial, unfair results made the death penalty cruel and unusual. The justices, however, could not agree on a reason for their decision. All five justices in the majority, then, wrote separate opinions explaining the result. Justice Douglas reviewed the history of the death penalty in England and America. He noted that under English law, the death penalty was unfair if it was applied unevenly to minorities, outcasts, and unpopular groups. He decided that African Americans and the poor, sick, and uneducated members of society received the death penalty most often.
Douglas believed this happened because juries had no guidance when applying the death penalty.
This allowed juries to act on their prejudices by targeting unpopular groups with the death penalty. Douglas suggested death penalty laws would have to be rewritten to prevent such results. Justices William J. They believed the death penalty was cruel and unusual punishment in all cases and should be outlawed forever. Chief Justice Warren E. The issue was whether the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment. The incident followed two others in Florida in and , when inmates caught fire as they were killed in the chair.
Death penalty opponents said the electric chair is cruel and unusual punishment. They called for Florida to stop all such executions. Meanwhile, the U. Supreme Court agreed to review a case to determine whether Florida may continue to use the electric chair. Death penalty supporters said the electric chair is a fair way to execute convicted murderers. Davis had been convicted of murdering a pregnant woman and her two young daughters. In January , the Florida state legislature considered a law to switch the death penalty from the electric chair to lethal injection.
Impact Furman did not outlaw the death penalty. It just required states to prevent random, racial, unfair results by giving juries guidance to apply the death penalty fairly. After Furman, most states rewrote their death penalty laws to do this. In the first phase, the jury decides if the defendant is guilty of murder.
In the second phase, the jury hears new evidence to decide if the defendant deserves the death penalty. The new laws gave juries guidance for making this decision. Georgia , the Supreme Court said the new laws were valid under the Eighth Amendment. America was allowed to keep the death penalty. Some people believe the death penalty is still unfair under the new laws. For the ninety-eight people executed in the United States in , of their victims were white while only fifteen of their victims were black. Death penalty opponents say this means the system treats whites better by punishing their attackers more severely.
Death penalty supporters disagree. They say studies prove that criminals who get the death penalty are the ones who commit the worst murders, such as murder during rape, murdering children, and murdering more than one person. Suggestions for further reading Almonte, Paul. Bragg, Rick.