American penologists justify the retention of capital punishment for two obvious reasons. Firstly, from the point of view of protection of society, death penalty is needed as a threat or warning to deter the potential murderers. Secondly, it also accomplishes the retributive object of punishment inasmuch as a person who kills another has perhaps forfeited his claim for life.
It is, however, generally argued that the risk of being executed in fact serves no deterrent purpose because the murderer often plans out his crime in such a way that the chances of his detection are rare and he is almost sure of his escape without being punished. The retention of death penalty for capital murderers is justified on the ground that f not executed, they will remain menace and potential danger to society.
Recent trend in America is to restrict capital punishment only to the offence of murder and rape. Another noticeable change in trend is to make the process of execution private, painless and quick as against the old methods of public execution which were brutal, painful and time consuming.
At present, the common modes of inflicting death penalty in United States are electrocution, hanging, asphyxiation with lethal gas and shooting. Several American States have abolished death punishment with beneficial results. Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark decision Furman v. The State of Georgia, observed that death penalty should be outlawed on the ground that it was an anachronism degrading to human dignity and unnecessary in mot’ m life.
But most of the Judges did not agree with the view that the Eighth Amendment of the American Constitution which prohibits capital punishment for all crimes and under all circumstances, is a good law. Some of the American decisions suggest that the courts are convinced that death penalty per se is not violative of the Constitution. However, in some parts of the United States death penalty has been retained only for the murder of a prison officer by a life convict.