Actions of the legislatures, lower-court judges and governors can all be read by the Supreme Court as signs of “evolving standards of decency” in society, a doctrine dating from 1958 that has been used by the court to ban executions of juveniles, mentally retarded inmates and rapists who did not kill their victims. No step or statement is decisive in itself. But when five or more of the Justices decide the time has come to put an end to this fiasco, they will use these signs of “evolving standards” as their justification to end capital punishment for good. Critics complain that the idea of evolving standards is a mere pretense to wrap personal preferences in a scarf of constitutional law. But more than half a century after the concept was coined, “evolving standards” is deeply woven into Supreme Court tradition. The Justices all know that the modern death penalty is a failure. When they finally decide to get rid of it, “evolving standards” is how they will do it. The facts are irrefutable, and the logic is clear. Exhausted by so many years of trying to prop up this broken system, the court will one day throw in the towel. Jonathan Brady Page | 3
Increased difficulties in carrying out executions aren't the only force behind the death penalty’s decline. This month alone, Washington Governor Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on his state’s death penalty, calling it “a system that falls short of equal justice under the law,” and the New Hampshire legislature’s abolition bill left committee with the help of past supporters of the death penalty who had changed their minds, reflecting a broader shift in public opinion on the long-debated topic. Dieter believes the turning point in the death-penalty debate came around the year 2000. “Since then, death sentences have plummeted, executions are down considerably, public support has dropped, and the number of states without the death penalty has grown by 50 percent,” he said. Now, as the European Union considers implementing an even more comprehensive system of export controls for lethal-injection drugs, it seems there is no going back. Capital punishment is the most irreparable crime governments perpetrate without consequence, and it must be abolished. “We’re only human, we all make mistakes,” is a commonly used phrase, but it is tried and true. Humans, as a species, are famous for their mistakes. However, in the case of the death penalty, error becomes too dangerous a risk. The innocent lives that have been taken with the approval of our own government should be enough to abolish capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims.” If there is any chance that error is possible (which there always is), the drastic measure of capital punishment should not be taken. Also, it is too final, meaning it does not allow opportunity for the accused to be proven innocent, a violation of the Fifth Amendment which guarantees due process of law.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 5 pages?
- Summer '14
- American Politics