It’s been nearly four decades since the Supreme Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that the death penalty was not a violation of our Eighth Amendment rights relating to cruel and unusual punishment. Since then, over a thousand executions have taken place in as many as 34 states, including Georgia.
In 2000, the Georgia General Assembly passed a law instituting the use of legal injection, rather than electrocution, as its means of capital punishment. However, the growing controversy surrounding the drugs used for lethal injections has brought the issue all the way to the Supreme Court. Although lethal injection was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008 as a constitutionally appropriate means of capital punishment, the court will revisit the issue in April.
But the real issue at stake is the concept of “cruel and unusual.” What does that really mean and why does it matter? Is lethal injection less cruel and unusual than other forms of capital punishment, which are currently not allowed in the state of Georgia. For example, other states still use electrocution and firing squads. Why is the method so controversial? It has become an effective tool to try and limit the method, thereby limited the act itself, even though a majority of Americans support the death penalty.
Capital punishment is perhaps the greatest power government exercises over us – the power to take a life. It should therefore be the highest of burdens to prove guilt – without any doubt – before exercising such power. The method of capital punishment should be debated openly as the courts continue to rule on the issue and societies weighs the morality of our choices.
Podcast – The Adam Goldfein Show – Hour 1
Legal Fight Reopens Over Woman’s Execution in Georgia (WSJ)
Shrinking Majority of Americans Support Death Penalty (Pew Research)
New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability (Gallup)
Capital punishment in the United States (Wikipedia)
Death penalty facts that may surprise you (CNN)
Supreme Court strikes down Florida law on intellectually disabled death row inmates (Washington Post)