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PITAL PUNISHMENT Is there a rational resolution to the capital punishment debate Arguments on both sides create a hierarchy of various goals and principals in an effort to offer resolution The principle of common human dignity appears to play a central role in determining the appropriateness of the death penalty as punishment But because common human dignity cannot be precisely defined other considerations - such as whether capital punishment is acceptable to society whether the death penalty is administered in an even-handed way and whether the purported goals can be met - are used as gauges In Furman v Georgia 1972 for example the Supreme Court used the common human dignity principle as the basis for a test of a Georgia statute regarding capital punishment In this case the Supreme Court not only determined that the statute unfairly administered the death penalty it also deemed capital punishment impermissible The Supreme Court roughly measured common human dignity in terms of the pain that a punishment would exact and a vague maxim that humans not be treated as non-humans adding three additional principles to ascertain whether capital punishment passed the human dignity test In the Furman case capital punishment failed all tests First the Furman court indicated that the Georgia statute violated a principle that even-handedness is a necessary component for punishment The Supreme Court demonstrated that capital punishment was inflicted primarily on racial minorities and therefore was selective and irregular The small number of criminals that were sentenced to death approximately 50 per year indicated that the punishment was not regularly or fairly applied especially because the caliber of those particular murders were no worse than cases not resulting in the death penalty Judged by the irregular and unusual administration the statute did not comport with the dignity of man and was invalidated Second as to whether capital punishment itself could be considered cruel and unusual the Supreme Court assessed the acceptance level of society and
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