California’s Death Penalty Law: Cruel and Unusual Punishment Essay.

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Details: Argue against the Death Penalty in California using reasons such as wrongful execution of an innocent person; High cost of the death penalty; Racial disparities; Inadequate legal representation; Lack of deterrence; Arbitrary application of the law and any other argument that can be used. A small segment should be used to argue for the death penalty, but the essay should reflect a strong opposition to it.



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The California’s death penalty has proved as one of the most controversial laws in the American history. The proponents of the death penalty law base their argument on the premise of saving lives and protecting the citizens from capital offenders. However, the case against the death penalty law seems to weigh more. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the death penalty is unconstitutional, and that it violates the constitutional prohibition of cruel punishment, and contravenes the due process of law and equal protection. Other arguments against the death penalty are based on premises such as inadequate legal representation, lack of crime deterrence, racial biasness, high costs, and arbitrary application of the law.


Overview of California’s Death Penalty Law


            For a better debate on the appropriateness or the doom of California death penalty, it would be wise to review the death penalty debate. Capital punishment was authorized in California’s penal code in 1872, and in 1891, the California law would be amended to allow for executions within state prisons. In March 1893, Jose Gabriel was hanged at the San Quentin State Prison marking the first state execution. In August 1937, the gas chamber replaced hanging as the official method of execution. Since then, capital offenders would face the death penalty until February 1972 when the Legislature re-enacted the death penalty. The new statute allowed for evidence in mitigation whereby under certain circumstances the death penalty would be considered as a possible punishment for first degree murder. In 1977, the penal code is revised to incorporate the sentence of life imprisonment without parole. The new amendment would shift the punishment for extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and robbery from death to life without parole. The changes continued to take place; gas chamber is replaced with lethal injection in October 4 1994 (


What seems to be most disturbing is that despite the death penalty having been instituted more than a decade ago, the first execution of a Native American took place in March 15, 2000 when Darrel Young Elk Rich was executed. Since then, massive criticism over the appropriateness of the death penalty surged. In November 6, 2012, voters in California narrowly overturned Proposition 34 (LWOP) which sought to entirely replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole as the most severe punishment in the state. Fear mongering dominated the day; whereby the opponents of Prop 34 used the phrase “instead of justice, killers would get lifetime healthcare and housing” if the amendment passed. Consequently, the voters were duped to sustain the present system of capital punishment (Mitchel, 2013).

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