The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It

By Gerhard Falk | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
THE DEATH PENALTY:
NON OMNIS MORIAR

CONVICTING THE INNOCENT

The phrase “death penalty” implies that those who are killed by the representatives of the government are penalized for the crime of murder. This implication is based on the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2008 that the death penalty is unconstitutional as punishment for the rape of a child or an adult. That decision overturned the death penalty rape laws of Louisiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. The Court ruled out the death penalty for any crime, other than treason or espionage, in which the victim’s life was not taken. The case under consideration involved Patrick Kennedy, who had been convicted of brutally raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter.1 As a consequence of the ruling, Kennedy was removed from death row.

The Kennedy decision was preceded by Coker v. Georgia in 1977, when the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could not apply to the rape of an adult woman because the sentence was deemed disproportionate to the crime. The Coker decision resulted in the removal from death row of 20 inmates awaiting execution for rape.2

The Kennedy and Coker decisions make murder, but not all murders, the only crime to which the death penalty may apply. According to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ford v. Wainwright (1986), it is also unconstitutional to execute a person who is insane.3 In addition, in 1988 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Thompson v. Oklahoma that according to the Constitution, youths younger than 16 could not be executed.4 In June 2002, the Supreme Court also ruled that the legal killing of mentally retarded defendants is also unconstitutional on the grounds that killing the retarded violates the Constitution. According to the Court, a “national consensus” no longer supports the killing of retarded persons. The Court ruled on the case of a Virginia man with an IQ of 59. The Court viewed such an execution as a violation of the provision prohibiting “cruel and unusual punishment” by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.5

-193-

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The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't , and How to Fix It
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Chapter 1 - The American Police 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Brief History of Criminal Prosecution in the United States 23
  • Chapter 3 - Prosecuting Violent Crime and Sex Offenses 45
  • Chapter 4 - Prosecuting Wwhite- Collar Crime 69
  • Chapter 5 - Defending the Accused 89
  • Chapter 6 - The American Jury 109
  • Chapter 7 - Courts and Judges 129
  • Chapter 8 - The Prison-Industrial Complex 151
  • Chapter 9 - Probation and Parole 173
  • Chapter 10 - The Death Penalty- Non Omnis Moriar 193
  • Epilogue 215
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 241
  • About the Author 251
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