The Supreme Court decided today that a certain sort of capital punishment via lethal injection is in fact constitutional, but that doesn't mean all were in agreement.

In a stinging dissent to this morning's ruling, Justice Stephen Breyer called for abolishing the death penalty, contending that capital punishment, as it is currently practiced, violates the Constitution. 

Justice Breyer states: "I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question."

Here's five of his many reasonings, as reported by Mother Jones:

  • [R]esearchers have found convincing evidence that, in the past three decades, innocent people have been executed...about 4% of those sentenced to death are actually innocent.
  • [T]he crimes at issue in capital cases are typically horrendous murders, and thus accompanied by intense community pressure on police, prosecutors, and jurors to secure a conviction. This pressure creates a greater likelihood of convicting the wrong person.
  • [B]etween 1973 and 1995, courts identified prejudicial errors in 68% of the capital cases before them. [I]rrelevant or improper factors—such as race, gender, local geography, and resources—do significantly determine who receives the death penalty.
  • [N]early all death penalty states keep death row inmates in isolation for 22 or more hours per day….This occurs even though the ABA has suggested that death row inmates be housed in conditions similar to the general population, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a global ban on solitary confinement longer than 15 days.
  • The rationale for capital punishment, as for any punishment, classically rests upon society’s need to secure deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, or rehabilitation. Capital punishment by definition does not rehabilitate.

What do you think? 

Does the death penalty violate the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the federal government and state governments from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments, including torture?

Sound off below. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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