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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Political Science Perspective - Essay Example

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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Political Science Perspective

The US is a Constitution-based federal republic. This basically translates into a government wherein the powers of the central (national) government are limited or restricted and in which the component states enjoy a certain degree of autonomy, sovereignty and self-government. In this form, the sovereign power rests with the people who elect their representatives. However, the component states that form the United States are bound by the Supreme law of the land, the Constitution.
With that in mind, it would be necessary to state the degree of autonomy each state has in governing its respective territories and constituents. Each state has the three main branches of government, namely the executive, legislative and judiciary. The executive is headed by the Governor, while the legislative and judiciary are composed of State representatives similar to that of these branches in the national level. Each state has its own laws and each State Supreme Court has the power to create the judicial determination of issues of law on their own, subject only to the limitations imposed by the Constitution and the US Supreme Court.
One of the limitations imposed by the U.S. Constitution on the issue of capital punishment is mainly enshrined in the Eighth Amendment, proscribing the use of cruel and unusual punishment. For around four decades now since 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court has held steadfast in its ruling that the death penalty does not violate of the Eighth Amendment. Another key limitation is one wherein the U.S. Supreme Court overturned death penalty sentences in 19 states, when it held that the death penalty could not be imposed on convicted murderers who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed their crimes. (Walker 2006)
Thus, it can be seen that indeed each state has the right to determine whether or not a convicted felon should be executed, as long as the State law allows it, and the practice is in accordance with the limitations set on the National level.
Therefore, various differences can be seen as to how State practice and legislation allows capital punishment. California, Connecticut, Florida, and Texas are four States that allow the practice. However, California's governor has the sole power to grant clemency or reprieve from the death penalty. In Connecticut, the exclusive power lies in the State Board of Pardons. Florida's situation is where the Governor has the authority, but can do so only on the advice of the Board of Executive Clemency, and the conditions are almost the same in Texas. Out of the 50 States in the US, 12 do not allow the practice of capital punishment. (DPIC, 2006)
Many of the issues surrounding capital punishment are based mainly on human conduct and behavior as well as ethical and moral standards. Arguments supportive of the death penalty in the United States include deterrence, retribution, and the growing concern of overcrowded prisons, among others. These individuals feel that by allowing the death penalty, potential criminals would be deterred in conducting their criminal motives. Retribution or revenge is also on the pro side, basically allowing the community the satisfaction of knowing that the person who committed such heinous crimes would not be ...Show more


Capital punishment has always been a controversial issue anywhere in the world, and has been synonymously used with the death penalty. It is commonly viewed as unethical and immoral means of punishment upon those that are found guilty of having committed heinous and violent crimes…
Author : stanleykulas
Capital Punishment in the United States: A Political Science Perspective essay example
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