US Supreme Court Rules on Capital Punishment

Annie69 By Annie69, 26th Sep 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>History

The US Supreme Court has heard 39 cases involving capital punishment. The first was in 1879. The most recent was in 2009. Here's a brief look at some cases and statistics.

Wilkerson v. Utah, 1879

The first time a case involving capital punishment was heard before the US Supreme Court was in 1879 in Morrison Remick Waite's court. In a unanimous decision, the Court upheld the decision "of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Utah in stating that execution by firing squad, as prescribed by the Utah territorial statute, was not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

Powell v. Alabama, 1932

In a 7-2 decision, the Charles E. Hughes' Court reversed the convictions of nine young "ignorant and illiterate" black men for allegedly raping two white women. The court reasoned that "the right to retain and be represented by a lawyer was fundamental to a fair trail and that, at least in some circumstances, the trial judge must inform a defendant of this right. And if the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the court must appoint one sufficiently far in advance of trial to permit the lawyer to prepare adequately for the trial."

This was the first time the Court had ever reversed a state criminal conviction for a violation of a criminal procedural provision of the US Bill of Rights.

Francis v. Resweber, 1947

The case before the Vinson Court involved a failed execution by electric chair. In 1946, Willie Francis survived Louisiana's first attempt to execution him. Would a second attempt be considered double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment?

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that protection under Amendments 5 (double jeopardy) and 8 (cruel and unusual punishment) were not violated and that the state could execute Francis as sentenced in a court of law.

Execution was carried out the following year.

Statistics, 1971-2009

The Supreme Court held its first session in 1791, but it was almost 90 years before the first case regarding capital punishment was brought before them. Over the next 80 years they only heard an additional four cases. Then, in less than 40 years, 1971-2009, 34 cases were presented to the Courts of Warren Earl Burger, William H. Rehnquist, and John G. Roberts, Jr.

Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger's Court heard 11 cases regarding capital punishment between 1971-1986. The Court of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist heard the most, 15, between 1987-2005. Current Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.'s Court has heard 8 so far in the three year span of 2006-2009.

To date, 2006 has been the big winner on total number of cases in a year with four.


Capital Punishment, Supreme Court

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author avatar Annie69
History column appears weekly in local newspaper. Also news, human interest, and pictures. My fiction and poems have appeared in literary anthologies and I've written 3 novels

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author avatar pohtiongho
26th Sep 2015 (#)

Capital punishment may seem very cruel and uncivilized. But can you imagine the scene when the thugs killed the victims? Should this category of sub-humans be allowed to walk freely on the street, after only 20 years eating free food and drinking free water?

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author avatar Annie69
26th Sep 2015 (#)

A valid point in my opinion. I could be persuaded to vote against capital punishment, but my price would be mandatory life with no chance of parole.

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author avatar M G Singh
26th Sep 2015 (#)

Capital punishment serves a purpose and needed. I am glad the USA has not fallen into the trap of abolition of capital punishment.

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author avatar Annie69
26th Sep 2015 (#)

I'm torn. What if we execute an innocent person? But then again, I worry about those who confess, have no remorse, and get sent to prisons that give them better benefits than our senior citizens have. They should get LIFE without parole in REAL prisons.

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