The Eighth Amendment and Lethal Injection Essay

According to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. (Constitution) Essentially that means that fines that are not in alignment with the crime cannot be charged and that a punishment that is too painful and unjust cannot be given to a convicted person. The United States of America allows for individual stated to determine whether the death penalty is appropriate and legal. Out of fifty states in the United States, thirty-four have capital punishment

First, one must answer the question of what is cruel and unusual punishment.

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I do not know of anything that could be crueler that taking someone’s life. It is true that capital punishment is only used in capital offenses, but the Constitution does not say nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted unless they have committed a capital offense. If it were an amendment that would allow for it to apply to capital offensive, that would be different.

I would still not agree with it morally, however, I am for supporting the Constitution.

It is contradictory to say that the government can take a life yet it cannot inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Death is very serious. I know that I have just stated the obvious, but it is something that can ever be taken back. If it is proven that there was a mistake made in the case of a convicted person that is executed, then it cannot be taken back. Death is forever. It is important that every citizen of the United States takes the time to just think about forever. It is a concept that is hard, if not impossible to grasp, but it is worth the time to do it. What if you were a person on death row?

You would want those who chose to take your life to realize just exactly what they were doing. Since DNA testing has been admissible in court, one hundred and thirty-six cases have been overturned because it was proven that the convicted person was innocent. In most cases, many years of the convicted were robbed from them. That was time that cannot be recovered. Now we must wonder how many have been put to death that were innocent. I am mortified by the thought. It is one thing to rob someone of years of their life, but it is so much worse to take a life and then realize that a mistake was made.

If the Constitution says that it is against the law to inflict cruel and unusual punishment, then it must be taken into account that to execute an innocent person would have to be the cruelest thing that could ever happen. Second is the fact that there are many studies that prove that the most popular method of execution in the United States is lethal injection. While it is more humane than the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging, and etc, there are many studies that prove that it is still an extremely painful way to die.

They found that the levels of anesthetic sodium thiopental in the blood of inmates were low enough that they may have experienced pain. (Reilly) Again, there are some who truly believe that justice can be served by administering pain and death, but that is not what the U. S. Constitution says. In April of 2007, a Florida execution case made headlines around the world when it took thirty-four minutes to execute Angel Diaz. He was gasping for air for 11 minutes. Twenty-six minutes into the procedure, Diaz’s body suddenly jolted.

He was given a second round of drugs after the execution team observed that the first round had failed to kill him. He was finally pronounced dead by a hooded physician 34 minutes after the execution began. (Groner) That is an uncomfortable image to have in our minds, but it is fact and we as American citizens cannot afford to ignore it. It really happened and it completely went against what the Constitution stated. This means it was illegal to kill Diaz in the manner in which he was executed. Has our country gotten to the point that it breaks the law to punish people who break the law? It does not make sense.

No one will argue that Diaz was a murderer and deserved to be punished, but there were other ways that were not cruel and unusual like life in prison without the possibility of parole. There have been other cases where the convicted person did not die easily. In another recent execution in Ohio, witnesses were treated to the horrifying spectacle of an inmate who did not die when the drugs were administered. In this case, three to four minutes into the execution, the inmate raised his head off the table and said, “It don’t work, it don’t work. ” (Groner) So the idea that Diaz’s case was isolated in not true.

He was the only one that has taken thirty-four minutes to die, but how long is too long? In fact, two states, Florida and California, have halted their executions until this can be resolved. Even proponents of the death penalty like Governor Jeb Bush of Florida agree that it is cruel and humane to allow a person to suffer as Diaz did. Finally, it is not economically sound to administer any form of execution. While the actual process is cheap, the cost of a trial where the death penalty is considered last much longer and cost close to double of that for one where it is not considered.

The right to due process is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, a person who has been sentenced to death has many options for appeals. This is an extremely expensive process that cost tax payers millions of dollars for each person on death row. It is expensive to keep a prisoner incarcerated for life, but it is half the cost of the complete process of an execution because the prisoner will likely spend many years in prison even if the execution is eventually carried out.

While the death penalty and lethal injection are legal in thirty-four of the fifty states of the United States, it is contradictory to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is the ultimate oxymoron for a document to state that something such as the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment is wrong, and then to allow individual states to legally administer capital punishment. It is not legal to beat a prisoner, yet one’s life can be taken in a painful way, and that is legal. Before the next person is executed in this country, each individual citizen should stop and think about what the Constitution really says.

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