The Death Penalty Today
In April 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Commission passed the Resolution Supporting Worldwide Moratorium On Executions . The resolution calls on countries which have not abolished the death penalty to restrict its use of the death penalty, including not imposing it on juvenile offenders and limiting the number of offenses for which it can be imposed. Ten countries, including the United States, China, Pakistan, Rwanda and Sudan voted against the resolution. (New York Times, 4/29/99). Each year since 1997, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has passed a resolution calling on countries that have not abolished the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions. In April 2004, the resolution was co-sponsored by 76 UN member states. (Amnesty International, 2004).
In the United States numbers of death sentences are steadily declining from 300 in 1998 to 106 in 2009.
v. Georgia Court Case (the Supreme Court
reviewed this case and also included the similar cases Gregg v.
Georgia, Jurek v. Texas and Proffitt v. Florida)
The US Supreme Court found the DP laws to be unconstitutional. The laws were deemed cruel and unusual punishment which is in violation of the 8th Amendment of our Constitution: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted ." The Supreme Court felt allowing a jury to decide sentencing could yield arbitrary results which would not be fair to the defendant and amount to "cruel and unusual punishment." To counteract this, states wrote new laws providing sentencing guidelines to the jury and to the judge. "Aggravating" and "mitigating" circumstances were added to crimes to help the juries and judges decide who should get the DP. The DP laws were also found to violate the 14th Amendment, the right to due process. Supreme Court justices believed defendants should not be sentenced to death immediately, during the same deliberations that found them guilty, but should get a separate sentencing phase. The Supreme Court also started the practice of allowing a death sentence an automatic appeal. This helps the state's maintain a fair standard of death sentences by reviewing each DP case in the state's appellate courts.