The death penalty debate continues to rage across the United States, where issues of wrongful conviction and the ethics surrounding execution methods are in the media weekly. As we’ve covered, the ineffectiveness of Midazolam has been in an issue in an Oklahoma death row case, as well in the discussion of church shooter Dylan Roof. The intent for detractors is to prove that all execution methods are cruel and unusual punishment. As the discussion continues and activists push for reform, there is discourse among the abolitionists, as some fear another loss will be the last for this issue.
FURMAN VS. GEORGIA
What many Americans forget is that the death penalty was briefly struck down by the Supreme Court. In 1972, a case titled Furman vs. Georgia went before the highest court. The court then ruled that executions were a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution and did qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment.” Furthermore, the court said that the states handle the death penalty in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” specifically with regard to race. The ruling was overturned 4 years later, as a suggestion of legislation to regulate and standardize executions was included in the ruling. What was initially perceived as a victory for opponents of capital punishment became a defeat, as states hurried to push the new legislation through.
NEW PUSH FOR REFORM
Nearly 50 years after the landmark case, many are fighting, once again, to end the death penalty. The Marshall Project recently interviewed Michael Meltsner, an attorney who fought against capital punishment since the 1960’s and on Furman vs. Georgia. He offered insight into the current movement that suggests fragmentation and fear among abolitionists. “The court could get stricter in terms of what future death penalty cases they would be willing to consider,” Meltsner says.
The big difference, he states, is that in the 60’s and 70’s there was no further recourse than to tackle the issue as a whole, where now the court hears more individual cases. If capital punishment is brought to the Supreme Court again and is upheld, according to Meltsner, it would be more difficult for the individual cases to bring challenges. What do you think? Is Capital Punishment cruel and unusual or fair? Is there reform needed? Are there better options? Let us know: Facebook and Twitter
November 17, 2015 / Ryan Serey