The Bill of Rights is the unofficial name of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, which enshrines the fundamental rights and freedoms of man and citizen and provides a mechanism for their implementation. Already in the early years of the American state’s existence, the absence of articles in the US Constitution protecting civil rights became one of the principal points of political contention. James Madison’s amendments, which included guarantees of the freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, freedom of assembly, the right to keep and bear arms, the inviolability of the person and the home, the impartial administration of justice, were the main proposed amendments. On September 25, 1789, Congress adopted these provisions, which together made up the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. These amendments became a fundamental element of the US Constitution on December 15, 1791, after being ratified by the state legislatures.
It guarantees that the US Congress will not support any religion or establish a state religion; prohibit the free exercise of religion; violate one’s right to freedom of speech and press; restrict the right to assemble; restrict the public’s right to petition the government for a remedy to their grievances. Therefore, no matter how serious a crime a person has committed, a court cannot disregard their rights protected by the First Amendment. The case of Xavier Alvarez serves as an example of how the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. Alvarez, who had never served in the military, composed lies about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor and many military decorations. In court, he utilized the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech to defend himself (Harr, 2018, p. 146). The court could not find him guilty since his false claims were not intended to cause damage. This example demonstrates that the First Amendment will preserve the rights of the criminal even if it is against morality.
The right of a person to keep and bear weapons is protected under the Second Amendment. The interpretation of the amendment has been the subject of discussion since it was proposed. Some contended that the amendment only permitted the carrying of guns for military purposes, while others countered that it also allowed using weapons for individual purposes, such as self-defence against criminals (Harr, 2018, p. 176). After the 2008 Heller v. District Columbia trial, Congress’s opinion was shifted. Heller won in the legal dispute, demonstrating that people can retain guns at home for self-defence (Harr, 2018, p. 179). The second amendment guarantees that those who use firearms for self-defence shall be justified in court. However, criminals who attack people with legally registered weapons are not covered by the Second Amendment.
The United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment forbids unjustified searches and seizures and requires every search warrant to be approved by a judge and supported by probable cause. After the trial of Mapp v. Ohio, it was decided that evidence gathered through violations of the Fourth Amendment is not admissible in court during criminal proceedings. After receiving information that the bomber was hiding in Mapp’s basement, the police searched Mapp’s house with a warrant. Although there was no bomber in the house, obscene materials were discovered. The court rejected evidence collected by infringing on a citizen’s constitutional rights (Harr, 2018, p. 231). Any evidence obtained unlawfully will be void if the Fourth Amendment guidelines are broken. Therefore, there is no point in conducting a search, which means citizens are shielded against unreasonable searches.
According to Fifth Amendment, anybody accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial, cannot be prosecuted again for the same act, is not compelled to self-incrimination, and the state has no authority to confiscate private property without just compensation. In the case of Miranda v. Arizona from 1966, Ernest Miranda wrote a confession in under two hours without being aware of his right to an attorney (Harr, 2018, p. 231). This lawsuit became widely known in media and appeared as a cultural phenomenon. The phrase “I plead the fifth” is frequently used in movies, as is a scene of a police officer telling a criminal being put in a car that he has the right to stay silent. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that a suspect has the right to remain silent, consult with a lawyer, and have a lawyer appointed on their behalf if they cannot pay for one. Being concise, the Fifth Amendment is about having the right to defend them in court.
According to the Sixth Amendment, criminal defendants have a right to a speedy trial, and if the appellate court determines that this right was not upheld, the conviction must be annulled, and the case must be dismissed (Harr, 2018, p. 395). Also, everyone has the right to a fair trial when accused of committing a crime or participating in any other legal dispute. It includes a fair public hearing conducted by an impartial and independent tribunal (Harr, 2018, p. 396). Moreover, the witness’s testimony should be subject to dispute and cross-examination by the defence. The accused may also request the summoning of witnesses who can testify on his behalf (Harr, 2018, pp. 402-404). Individuals are free to select a defence attorney or represent themselves. All the measures mentioned earlier are taken to guarantee a fair trial and a just court’s decision.
As stated in the Eighth Amendment, the federal government is not allowed to impose excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual penalties. The Amendment restricts the federal government’s ability to punish criminal defendants too harshly before and after a trial. The death penalty is the subject of the greatest debate. One of the most well-known cases addressing the issue of whether the death punishment is excessively harsh and unusual is Furman v. Georgia. Furman invaded a man’s home illegally to rob him. However, the burglary did not proceed as planned, and Furman accidentally killed the house’s owner (Harr, 2018, p. 441). Furman was given the death penalty, which was an unconditionally cruel punishment for him. Later, the court admitted Furman’s punishment to be excessively harsh, which generated resonance surrounding the death penalty issue. Therefore, the Eighth Amendment was adopted as a protection against severe and unfair decisions in court.
First and foremost, the death penalty is a tool for crime prevention. Egyptian and other Middle Eastern governments subjected many anti-government protesters and dissenters to the death penalty (Johnson, 2019, p. 341). Because people are afraid of dying, they won’t commit crimes.
Second, people sentenced to death are a threat to society. A person threatens the public if they have committed a crime so awful that they are facing the death penalty. Serial killers, for instance, who killed victims on purpose, might continue their criminal activities if released.
Third, the death penalty saves money on people with life sentences. There are people in the prison who have received life sentences or other lengthy prison periods. These offenders will no longer be able to contribute to society; instead, they will be dependent on government funding to survive.
However, the legal system is not perfect and is not fault-free. There is a genuine possibility of making a catastrophic mistake and killing an innocent person.
The absence of the death sentence does not indicate a lenient attitude toward criminal activity; rather, those who have committed significant crimes should face harsh punishment and come to terms with the fact that their actions are undesirable. No matter how much sorrow and pain the victim endures, killing a criminal is another crime that cannot change the past. It can’t bring the victim back; all it does is broaden the circle of cruelty and violence.
Over the death sentence, life imprisonment is a far better option (Johnson, 2019, p. 340). First, it is a much more humane punishment than murdering criminals. Second, by performing numerous tasks for free, the offender could help society as a whole, either in favor of the state, in favor of the victim, or both. If the state carefully considered this proposal and attempted to get the necessary finances, it would be economically and politically beneficial.
How attorney’s opinion on capital punishment affects the case? It is crucial to realize that the lawyer is a human being too, hence bias is likely to occur. Despite his views and ideas, an attorney will not take action against his client. However, studies suggest that their individual viewpoint affects the amount of time and energy they devote to a case (West et al., 2020, p. 237). In other words, a lawyer’s perspective matters a lot in court.
In conclusion, it should be recognized that, despite how cruel the death sentence is, it should not be abolished. To my mind, legally sanctioned murder is just as cruel as a crime that carries the death sentence as a penalty. However, some crime cases should not be forgiven due to safety issues. When operating as society’s protector, the government should have access to such unique population control methods in its arsenal of penalties. A death penalty is still an option in exceptional circumstances, even though the state, in accordance with the humanist concept, can and should replace it with life sentence.
Harr, J. S. (2018). Constitutional Law and the Criminal Justice System. Cengage Learning.
Johnson, D. T. (2019). A factful perspective on capital punishment. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 11(2), 334–345.
West, M. P., & Miller, M. K. (2020). The social science of the death penalty: Before, during, and after trial. Advances in Psychology and Law, 219–265.