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Is the Death Penalty Cruel and Unusual?

It is often regarded by those on the Left that the death penalty is a “cruel and unusual punishment,” and thus should be banned entirely. However, the Left’s position on the death penalty has proven to be a flimsy one. They will probably be against the death penalty on matters relating to criminal justice reform and heinous crimes committed by minorities, but when discussing appropriate punishment for rapists, sexual harassers, and others in the Harvey Weinstein category, all options appear to be on the table.

While there is an argument to be made that rapists and other criminals convicted of sexual assault deserve death, the argument that the death penalty is “cruel and unusual” is illogical.

For starters, whenever using the phrase “cruel and unusual,” the issue to which you are trying to attach it to should be “cruel and unusual.” It simply cannot be one without the other, both must be true. That being said, the death penalty alone cannot be constituted as cruel nor unusual simply because death is a regular occurrence in the natural world. Instead, the argument should be made that the death penalty is cruel and unusual if it outweighs the severity of the crime committed. For example, theft and possession of illegal substances are surely not crimes that should incite the death penalty, but rape and murder are.

In addition, the death penalty could only be cruel and unusual if death is caused through a form of torture. Obviously, the methods used to kill someone in the Middle Ages would almost certainly be unconstitutional due to the fact that those methods are archaic and barbaric. So while there may be truth to the fact that the electric chair is cruel and unusual, I would argue that lethal injections are not because of their ability to achieve death quickly and efficiently.

In general, I believe that the death penalty is a legitimate punishment for particularly heinous and immoral crimes. More specifically, I feel as though death should only be punishment for crimes that have severely violated the right to life. Every single murder, except in justified cases such as self-defense, should call for the death penalty. Even rapists, who have traumatized their victims to the point of ruining their livelihoods, should be put to death. My personal limits toward the death penalty end there. I do not believe that any other crime, excluding those cases of rape and murder, are severe enough to make the death penalty appropriate, otherwise that actually would be cruel and unusual.

Lastly, I believe that the death penalty is an issue best left to the states. State and local governments are the ones in charge of deciding the punishment for crimes. I fully believe that a federal law imposing the death penalty on all murders and rapes at the state and local level is a violation of federalism and is arguably unconstitutional.

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About Luis Lopez (7 Articles)
Luis Lopez is a current student in California.

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