Decisions in two states to halt executions have reignited debate about the death penalty, as polls suggest Americans’ strong support for capital punishment may be on a bit of a decline.
“A long and miserable existence is more punishment than a quick easy death, no matter the method,” wrote a death penalty opponent in one of the many online debates about the issue. “Those are very worthwhile observations,” replied a death penalty supporter. “But, perhaps the solution isn’t fewer executions, but more.”
The debate at , an online issues-based forum, was triggered by the actions of two men. First, Gov. Jeb Bush suspended executions in Florida after a medical examiner said that prison officials botched the insertion of needles when a convicted killer was put to death last week. Separately, a federal judge in California imposed a moratorium on executions, declaring that the state’s method of lethal injection runs the risk of violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
That prompted a HOTSOUP.com participant who goes by the name “bigbear” to ask fellow community members for a history of the 8th Amendment. He was answered with links to legal and historical research, as well as a wide range of opinions from other HOTSOUP.com writers. “I find it odd that the death penalty is cruel and unusual. What about the people they killed?” wrote “ptif219.”
Two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans supported the death penalty for people convicted of murder, according to a July 2005 poll by the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. However, public support for the death penalty was somewhat stronger in the late 1990s (74 percent in 1999). Most Americans continue to oppose the death penalty for those convicted of offenses when they were under age 18 (54 percent), and the Supreme Court cited a national consensus when it abolished the death penalty for minors in March 2005.
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