Killing someone without going against the constitution has been a controversial legal topic since the reinstatement of death penalty in 1976. In fact, statistics reveal that over 1200 convicts have been legally put to death since 1976 and the number is likely to rise. Elder and Terkel (2010) illustrate that “if the death penalty is not abolished, the population of death row inmates in the US will exceed 4,000 by the end of the decade” (p. 191). There is no doubt that this is a staggering number.
Legal Issues Raised
An examination of the methods used in death penalty reveals that many states use a lethal injection system for execution of convicted criminals. This is because of the unconfirmed belief that this mechanism of death, which does not offend the constitution, is least cruel and non-violent. The main challenge comes up when “an inmate facing lethal injection contends that the method is unconstitutional because the procedure causes unusual pain and suffering” (Elder and Terkel 2010).
According to Nisbet (2010), “the Eight Amendment of the Constitution ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights states that excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” This implies that this mechanism of killing goes against the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, whereas there is widespread that the lethal injection gives one a chance to die a quiet life, this is not always confirmed and might not be true.
The recent case in which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confiscated some lethal injection drugs from the state of California is an indicator to the fact that these drugs do not work as quietly as widely believed. In fact, the application of the 3-drug method leaves out a number of legal issues concerning lethal injection. The fact that a person does not cry or move during the entire process does not mean that there is no feeling of pain and suffering.
The Tenth Amendment on the other hand asserts that no cruel and unusual punishment should be inflicted on anybody. Nisbet (2010, p. 6) illustrates that “some executions have lasted between 20 minutes to over an hour and prisoners have been seen gasping for air, grimacing and convulsing during executions.” This confirms the fact that lethal injection is a cruel mechanism of death.
Resolution of these Issues
The only way to resolve the problem of legal issues arising from lethal injection is to uphold the Eight Amendment of the constitution by denouncing all forms of capital punishment. This is because we live in a civilized society in which justice should not be viewed as a form of revenge.
There is need to uphold human values and denounce all forms of execution. Whereas another alternative solution to this problem involves finding a certified human method of capital punishment, the legal issue of drug importation still arises because suppliers of the lethal sodium thiopental will not ship it to the US. Third, the financial cost of a prisoner appealing to death penalty raises the legal cost of the entire process.
Elder, R.K. and Terkel, S. (2010). Last Words of the Executed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Nisbet, J. (2010). Lethal Injection. NY: Overlook Press