A longtime liberal goal has been to eliminate the death penalty under the “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” clause of the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution. In the 1970s, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped executions of criminals and establish more difficult procedural requirements before imposing this punishment. More recently, the Court flatly prohibited use of the death penalty for any crime committed by someone under age 18 or deemed to have a low IQ.
Supporters of the death penalty point out that it must be constitutional because it was widely accepted and used when the Constitution was adopted, and implemented ever since both by states and by the U.S. government. The Bible and the Constitution expressly support the death penalty. It brings closure for society, and particularly for family members of victims after a highly disturbing crime. Capital punishment prevents a lingering sense that the criminal “got away with something,” and it prevents him from killing again inside or outside of prison. Criminals often plead guilty to avoid facing the death penalty, and that facilitates justice.
The latest ruling by the Supreme Court in October in favor of the death penalty was only 5 to 4. The Court may be only one vote away from striking down numerous laws of the United States and most of the States. In this case a convicted killer had escaped from prison and then strangled someone to death before he could be captured. Yet a judge stayed his execution based on whether the drug being administered to kill him had been proven to ensure a painless death. The Ninth Circuit agreed and blocked the execution, but the U.S. Supreme Court, by a margin of only one vote, then reversed and the killer was executed. If one conservative Supreme Court Justice is replaced by another liberal, the death penalty may be declared unconstitutional.
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