The social evolution of human populations is one of the evident phenomena in studies relating to the changes that have defined the death penalty’s application in the US over the years. When studying the history of the application, it is important to consider the financial and social consequences of the penalty. As well, it is important to consider the court resolutions and public attitudes that have characterized the application over time. This paper explores how the decisions arrived at by the Supreme Court over the centuries have shaped the death penalty’s evolution. Besides, the paper appraises the social, as well as financial, costs associated with the penalty.
Supreme Court’s Influences on the Death Penalty’s Evolution
In the US, until the 1970s, there were marked efforts by abolitionists aimed at ending the penalty’s application in individual states. Even then, the efforts bore limited success. The abolitionists started focusing on the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to advance their cause. Notably, the Supreme Court agreed with the sentiment of the abolitionists that the penalty was unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia. Apart from the Furman v. Georgia determination, the court has made other determinations that have shaped the death penalty’s application significantly at varied times according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006).
In 1878, in Wilkerson v. Utah, the court determined that executing those handed death sentences by firing squads was legal. Even then, it determined that it was cruel, hence illegal, to execute them via quartering and drawing, burying alive, dissection in public, or emboweling alive according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006). In 1910, in Weems v. USA, decreed that the definition of what punishment was unusual, as well as cruel, should not be limited, to the forms of undesirable practices that the Bill of Right’s framers experienced according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006). The court decreed that the definition should be guided by the extant circumstances. In 1947, in Francis v. Resweber, the court decreed determined that the constitution offers protections to men from the cruelty intrinsic in given punishment methods rather than the suffering attendant to the application of the methods as long as they are used to end life in humane ways according to Latzer and McCord (2010).
In 1958, in Tropp v. Dulles, the court decreed that any punishment is cruel, as well as unusual, if its severity is tormenting. The punishment is as well as cruel if it is odd or excessive in the light of the changing decency standards, which define the advancement of societies that are maturing according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006). In Furman v. Georgia, the court delivered a judgment partially aimed at ending the application of the penalty in various states. In the judgment, the court asserted that punishments are unusual, as well as cruel, if their severities do not match the corresponding crimes, if they were arbitrarily applied, if they fail to match the society’s appreciation of justice, and if they are excessive in the light of the corresponding crimes. The judgment effectively outlawed capital punishment. Even then, in less than three years, 30 states had reconfigured their laws on capital sentencing to agree with the judgment’s provisions according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006).
In 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia, the court supported the new Georgia’s law on capital sentencing, agreeing that it was not continually unusual as well as cruel. In 1987, in Tison v. Arizona, the court supported the new Arizona’s law on capital sentencing, agreeing that it was constitutional for those convicted of the felonies defined by negligent unresponsiveness to life. In 1987, in Thompson v. Oklahoma, the court supported the argument that those under 16 and engage in murder can be executed. Two years later, in Penry v. Lynaugh, the court allowed for the handing of death penalties to lawful sane convicts who are otherwise retarded.
Death Penalty’s Financial Impact on Society
The death penalty drains considerable public resources without matching reductions in crime levels according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006). The resources would be more effectively used in enhancing other more effective strategies for fighting crime. The capital trials that result into the having convicts get the death sentence are longwinded and very costly. For instance, Texas spends close to $2.30 million in each capital trial. Notably, in most of the trials, the public remains responsible for capital defendants’ defenses and prosecution (Dieter, 2015).
Death Penalty’s Social Impact on Society
As noted earlier, the social evolution of human populations is one of the evident phenomena in studies relating to the changes that have defined the death penalty’s application in the US over the years. The death penalty is largely seen as being handed to persons from minority populations and poor families disproportionately. That means that it may breed social tensions in the society as sections of the society feel discriminated. For instance, in the US, the death penalty is largely seen as being handed to Blacks. Over time, that has served to heighten suspicions between Whites and Blacks, especially those involved with the country’s criminal justice system according to Sarat and Ogletree (2006).
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