The Costs of the Death Penalty in the United States Essay

1534 Words 7 Pages
The Costs of the Death Penalty in the United States
Capital punishment has existed in the US since colonial times. Since then, more than 13,000 people have been legally executed. Today, there are only twelve states which do not have the death penalty: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Washington D.C. The locations of these states are important because they illustrate the lack of ideological homogeneity usually associated with geographical regions of the US. The methods of execution are as varied as their locations. The word “capital” in capital punishment refers to a person’s head, as,
…show more content…
In its decision, the Court voted that the death penalty statutes were vague and ambiguous, providing little guidance to juries in deciding whether to apply the death penalty. This caused states which still wanted the death penalty to revise their legislation to satisfy the Supreme Court’s objection to the arbitrary nature of execution.
State governments tried two new strategies to be more specific and direct in death penalty trials: guided discretion and the mandatory death penalty. In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976) among others, the Supreme Court gave sentencing courts the right to impose sentences of death for specific crimes and allowed a two-stage (“bifurcated”) trial (www.cpa). In the first stage, the guilt or innocence of the defendant is established, while in the second stage, the jury or the judge (depending on the state) determines the sentence. Mandatory death penalty for specific crimes, on the other hand, was deemed unconstitutional because of cases such as Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280 (1976). These rulings lead to the modification of each state’s statutes regarding the death penalty (www.uaa). The moratorium ended and executions resumed in January 1977.
Capital punishment remains, as it has always been, controversial and heavily debated on both philosophical (moral) grounds as well as on a strictly financial basis. Both sides, however, seem to be able to crunch the…