Week 5 Project: Trends in Capital Punishment
One of the most controversial and current issues in criminal justice is capital punishment.
As of June 2021, twenty-seven states and the Federal government allow the use of the death penalty. Twenty-two states and Washington D. C. have abolished the death penalty, and the rate of executions in the states that allow it has slowed dramatically. Three states have governor-imposed moratoriums, and several states have bills pending that have the potential to end or limit the use of capital punishment in those states. The U.S. Department of Justice can seek the death penalty in more than 20 states that do not have capital punishment, drawing on U.S. laws that allow executions by federal authorities for exceptional crimes. The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 expanded federal law to make the number of eligible death eligible offences to about sixty.
Prepare a report in a Microsoft Word document on the death penalty that covers the following points:
- Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. Prior to making the change in the law, the governor had simply stopped signing death warrants. For what reason did the then-governor, Pat Quinn, decide to stop approving executions? Was his reason valid? Explain your reasoning.
- List at least ten offences that are death penalty eligible by the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994.
- Since most criminal convictions and almost all death sentences are state cases, should the Federal government have the ability to override state law and impose the federal death penalty on a state offender for crimes such as fatal drive-by shootings, or car-jacking resulting in death? Why or why not?
- Consider the Supreme Court cases of Roper v. Simmons and Atkins v. Virginia. Do these decisions indicate a trend? What can you surmise about future challenges to the death penalty, based on the Court’s decisions?