Death Penalty

The death penalty has been around since the 1800’s. The death penalty, also
known as capital punishment, is the punishment for murder. It has also been
imposed for armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, and treason. A person who is
incapacitated, is unable to commit a serious crime again. Today more than
thirty-three hundred people are on death row and are sentenced to die by either
life in prison without parole, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, gas
chamber, or by a firing squad in the United States.

These are the twenty-eight procedures necessary in reaching a death sentence.

 The crime must be listed as a capital crime in the penal code.

 The suspect must be identified and arrested.

 Beginning with the Bill of Rights, the Miranda warnings and the
Exclusionary Rules, United States criminal defendants and those convicted have
the most extensive protections ever devised.

 In Harris County, Texas, a panel of district attorneys
determines if the case merits the death penalty as prescribed by the Penal Code.

 A Grand Jury must indict the suspect for capital murder.

 The suspect is presumed innocent.

 The prosecution must prove to the judge that the evidence, upon
which the prosecution will rely, is admissible.

 The defendant is assigned two attorneys. County funds are
provided to defense counsel for investigation and trial.

 It usually takes three to twelve weeks to select a jury.

 The trial is conducted.

 The burden of proof is on the state.

 All twelve jury members must find for guilt, beyond a reasonable
doubt. (In most cases the juror must know nothing of the defendants previous
criminal acts, at this stage.) If found guilty, then the punishment phase of the
trial begins.

 The prosecution presents additional evidence against the
murderer.

 In order to find for death, the issues to be resolved by the
jury are…

 …Did the defendant not only act willfully in causing death,
but deliberating act as well.

 Does the evidence show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is
likelihood that the defendant will be dangerous in the future.

 If there is was provocation on the part of the victim, were the
defendant’s actions unreasonable in response to the provocation.

 Is there something about the defendant that diminishes moral
responsibility or in some way mitigates against the imposition of death for the
defendant in this case.

 The defense presents all mitigating circumstances, which may
lessen the probability of the jury imposing death. Witnesses such as family,
friends, and co-workers are presented to speak and offer the positive qualities
of the defendant.

 The jury make take into consideration those mitigating
circumstances and if only one juror believes that the perpetrator deserves
leniency because of any mitigating circumstances, then the jury cannot impose
the death penalty.

 When the death penalty is imposed, the perpetrator receives an
automatic appeal.

 The death row inmate may be granted a hearing in both state and
federal court to present post conviction claims of innocence. The burden of
proof for these claims of innocence mirrors that are used by the federal courts.

 Convictions and sentences are subject to pardon or sentence
reduction through the executive branch of government, at both state and federal
levels.

Lethal injection is the first of the five methods by which a prisoner can be
executed. It is known to prisoners as “the ultimate high.” Thirty-two states
including Texas use a three drug combination. The first drug, sodium thiopental,
makes the prisoner unconscious. The second drug, pancuronium bromide, paralyzes
the diaphragm. The last drug, potassium chloride, causes cardiac arrest. Many
say that this is the most humane form of execution. Physicians say that this can
be very hard though, because prisoners may have scarred veins from drug abuse.
Lethal injection is the most popular method of execution used today.

Electrocution is the second method of execution. Eleven states use this
method. The prisoner is strapped in a chair specially built for electrocution.
He/she is shaved to provide clearer contact with the copper electrodes. When the
executioner pushes the button, the prisoner jumps forward against the
restraints, often causing vomiting, urination, or defecation. In an execution,
three or more executioners press a button, but only one is connected, so that
the executioner is not revealed. The size of the jolts are different in every
state. It also depends on the body weight of the prisoner. In the state of
Georgia a convict gets two-thousand volts for four seconds, then one thousand
volts for seven seconds, and then two-hundred and eight volts for the next two
minutes.

The gas chamber is the third method of execution.