The death penalty (also commonly referred to as capital punishment or death sentence) can be handed to those convicted of murder or other capital crimes. While legal in the United States, the death penalty is not employed in all 50 states. The death penalty continues to be a controversial issue, as some argue that it violates the Eighth Amendment (ban on cruel and unusual punishment). The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment, but it uses the amendment to help shape when and under what circumstances a jury can rule in favor of the death penalty. The death penalty has also come under fire in recent years after advances in DNA testing technology have been able to prove that some prison inmates awaiting execution were wrongly convicted. Research on the topic of the death penalty often considers questions of race, class, mental status, innocence, false confessions and public torture and the legal, ethical and social issues around the death penalty.
(Source: Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute)
Few issues in criminal justice are as controversial as the death penalty. For most people who support the death penalty, the execution of killers (and people who commit other horrible acts) makes sense. Death penalty supporters frequently state that executions do prevent those executed from committing heinous crimes again and that the example of executions probably prevents most people who might contemplate committing appalling crimes from doing so. In addition, many death penalty supporters simply believe that people who commit such crimes deserve to die—that they have earned their ignominious fate.
Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues
Ed. Michael Shally-Jensen. Vol. 2: Criminal Justice. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. p429-440. COPYRIGHT 2011 ABC-CLIO, LLC Robert M. Boeh
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