Time from sentence to execution cruel & unusual punishment?

In 1890 SCOTUS noted that long delays between sentencing and execution, compounded by a prisoner’s uncertainty over time of execution, could be agonizing, resulting in “horrible feelings” and “immense mental anxiety amounting to a great increase in the offender’s punishment". Yet back then the delay was nowhere near as long as it is now when delays of 20 years or more are not uncommon.

How is this not cruel and unusual punishment? OK, it’s the condemned themselves who make the appeals but they’re certainly not responsible for the inordinate length of time the appeals take. Surely there has to be a way to expedite this process, to fast-track death penalty appeals so that they take months rather than years. Such cases should have priority in state and federal courts. It’s just ridiculous for an appeals process to take this long.

Are these long delays even constitional? Has that ever been tested?

BTW I don’t want this debate to turn into an argument over the death penalty itself. That’s not the point of the thread.

Overwhelmingly the condemned would rather be alive and facing this anxiety instead of dead.

Instead it’s the relatives of the victims who continue to suffer.

This is correct.

If an execution relieves their suffering they are sick people.

If anyone is slightly cognizant about the miscarriages of justice which have come slight since the 1980’s, and how older certainties have been called into question, they would not ask why the delay.

But none of this addresses the question of just why it should take so damn long for the courts to work. I get long delays sometimes bring new evidence to light but by that argument we should never execute at all, just in case. And as I said that’s not what the thread is about.

Well then. Lets hire many more police and detectives. Increase the number of Trial Coirt judges manyfold and give them all expanded staffs. Double or triple the number of Appellate Court judges. Make sure all Forensic Science labs are funded, expanded, equipped with the latest gadgets and remain current on best practices. Increase the budget for research. Have a huge fund for monies for public defenders. And still run a civil justice system.

Would you be wiling to pay the taxes that this would need?

If you do consider a long delay between sentence and execution to be C&UP, I don’t think the conclusion is that you must execute people more quickly. It’s that if you’re not in a position to execute them quickly, you can’t execute them at all.

Is it your opinion that the widow of a 9/11 victim is a “sick person” if they took some measure of relief in hearing that Osama bin Laden had been killed?

I fully support multiple appeals, etc. to bring all possible evidence to bear to exonerate the condemned if he is innocent, but what bugs me is when the lawyers will intentionally raise some brouhaha at the last minute - sometimes almost literally the last minute, prior to or on Execution Day - to try to stay the execution. They had YEARS to make that phone call or bring something to light. It’s a blatant, obvious, delaying/stalling tactic.

I think I might, but only that they’re ‘sick’ in the sense of being an unhealthy/unwilling victim of a situation that is fucked beyond proper repair, which there is no avoiding at that point.

That said, I think it’s fair to say that the execution of a murderer might enable part of the closure process to happen for the relatives and friends of the victim, without anyone actually taking sick vengeful joy in the thing.

If it’s enabling a sense of vengance, I don’t feel like that’s a healthy thing, and ‘not healthy’ does indeed equal ‘sick’.

Relief for eliminating the fear of further attacks isn’t the same as relief from taking revenge. Bin Laden wasn’t tried and convicted for his evil acts, all of us should take relief that a killer at large has been stopped from killing again.

Take this back to the starting point, and make note:

this is about cruel and unusual punishment.

This concept in American law is commonly misunderstood, mostly because people rattle off the phrase without really thinking about it, before making a declaration about a given example.

First of all, pay extra attention to the “unusual” word in there. This is about treating everyone equally. If EVERYONE who is condemned to death has the same right to appeal, and it takes a long time because of appeals, then the suffering they may or may not go through because of that, isn’t UNUSUAL.

“Cruelty” is trickier. Almost all punishment is unpleasant by design. The general idea behind prohibiting “cruel” punishments, was to take a stand against those in power, torturing those who they deemed to be criminals. What is considered “cruel” has varied from culture to culture, and era to era.

But my personal short answer to the posted question is, no, having a long process take place between conviction and execution is not “cruel and unusual.”

I believe the majority of time between sentencing and execution is due to appeals filed by the person who’s been convicted. I don’t see how the appeal process can by defined as punishment as it’s a situation chosen by the person who’s allegedly suffering from it (I’m aware there are cases where appeals are automatic but I’m talking about regular appeals). Obviously the person thought delaying his execution in order to go through an appeal was preferable to being executed promptly. Delaying the execution was not an act imposed by the state.

It might even be hard to say this is punishment … many jurisdictions require an automatic appeal but as far as I know there’s no requirement for the condemned to zealously pursue such an appeal …

I’m against the death penalty in all cases … imagine if Gandalf had Gollum executed when he had the chance … then Frodo would have given The Ring to Sauron and then where would we be? … an unending series of Peter Jackson sequels? … just too horrible to imagine …

Agreed. It’s important, as AK84 noted, to remember how we got here. The delays are all the result of miscarriages of justice. The delays exist to fix previous problems.

If the alternative is Red Chinese style “justice” – conviction and execution on the same day – then to blazes with that. There might be room for shortening the time waited – but this risks bringing back the errors, prejudices, and deliberate obstructions of justice – Texas, I’m looking at you – that existed in the past.

Yes, it is. But you see, the state is about to kill someone so they are rather desperate. Can you imagine that? State-sanctioned murder? How could that even happen in a 21st Century civilized society?

How can you blame attorneys for making even the most blatantly obvious and transparently lame stalling tactic when a medieval and barbaric act of revenge is about to be perpetrated by the government? What would you want your attorneys to do if you were in that situation?

I agree. If the convicted criminal wants to delay his execution I can’t see that as cruel and unusual. Something like an undetermined execution date any time in the next 10 years might be. But I believe everybody should have the right to suicide including prisoners and if they really don’t want to wait to be executed then reasonable means to take their own life should be available if the state won’t do it for them. Imprisoning a person and denying them the opportunity to take their own life is what I would consider cruel and unusual.

Last words of one of the most evil men in history:

I think it would be a good thing to change SCOTUS from 9 to 12 justices. The first year, 3 of the 12 would be chosen at random. After that, the three chosen at random would be from the remaining pool of nine so that no one would serve consecutive times.

Those three justices constitute a death penalty tribunal. They do not hear any other cases that term. The legal process then becomes conviction in district court, conviction upheld in state appellate court. It then get appealed directly to the tribunal, skipping the federal district and appellate courts. If the tribunal upholds the conviction, that’s it. Sentence carried out within ten days.

In the UK we do not have a death sentence this has the benefit of the prisoner starting their sentence immediately if during their sentence they are found innocent (it happens) they are still alive to be released. The death penalty does not discourage murder it just allows a country to bury its mistakes