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Moral and Religious Influences - Capital Punishment In Modern America

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The death penalty ruling of 1972 forced states to reevaluate their position on the death penalty as they created new laws to conform to the Supreme Court decision. The earliest new capital crime laws were also challenged, but this time the Court supported the states. In the 1976 case of Gregg v. Georgia the Court approved the new Georgia capital crime law by upholding the conviction of a person who had robbed and murdered two men. The Court said the new revised sentencing process, separate from determining guilt, did not violate the Constitution's protection from cruel and unusual punishment.

As the states reworked their sentencing procedures, fewer offenders were given the death penalty. Although murder was still a capital crime, it had to be related to another serious crime except when involving the death of a police officer or a child. Rape of an adult, armed robbery, kidnapping, and burglary were no longer considered capital offenses unless the victim died.

In the early twenty-first century thirty-eight states had the death penalty and twelve states did not. In the meantime Congress had passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to "get tough on crime," spurred by the newly Republican-controlled Congress. This increased the number of federal capital crimes to over fifty. Most involved murder during other crimes like bank robbery or kidnapping, or murdering someone on federal property. Capital crimes not involving murder included treason, espionage, major drug trafficking, and the attempted murder of a police officer.

Moral and Religious Influences - Execution Methods [next] [back] Moral and Religious Influences - Deciding Who Dies

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