Nov 16, 2020 in Law





In line with sentencing, proportionality is the concept utilized as the criterion of fairness and justice in the process of statutory interpretations. Notably, proportionality is regarded as the logical method that can assist in finding the balance between the corrective measure imposed on a criminal and the nature of the crime committed. Therefore, it conveys the idea that the level of punishment of an offender must be equal to the nature of crimes committed.

Three Groups of People that Cannot Be Given the Death Penalty

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The three key groups of people who cannot be given the death penalty include juveniles under the age of 18 years, individuals suffering from mental retardation, and individuals with severe mental illness.

One significant example of people who are not sentenced the death penalty is people with severe mental illness. According to Hinojosa (2008), the first reason for exclusion comes in tandem with the McNaughton Rule, which emphasizes that a defendant must understand the difference between right and wrong to be held accountable for any alleged crime. Therefore, individuals with mental illness are excluded because they cannot differentiate right and wrong to be held liable for the crimes committed. The second reason for exclusion is the fact that people with mental illnesses are not competent enough to assist in their own defense. They are usually perceived defenseless as they do not have the ability to stand in a court and defend themselves for crimes they might not remember. The third reason for exclusion is that people with mental illnesses are not sane enough to understand the process that takes place in court and the reasons for such happenings. Therefore, individuals with severe mental illnesses would automatically not be subjected to the death penalty because of the reasons discussed above.

Effect of the Sixth Amendment on Sentencing Provisions

The Sixth Amendment affects sentencing provisions through its statement of rights related to criminal prosecution. One of the significant ways in which the Sixth Amendment affects sentencing provisions is through its reiteration of the right to speedy trial. It prevents long-term incarceration and the detention of individuals without trial. Neubauer and Meinhold (2012) affirmed that it eliminates any form of delay in sentencing of individuals believed to have committed different crimes. Secondly, the Sixth Amendment affects sentencing provisions through its emphasis on the right to public trial. It is worth acknowledging that it gives all defendants the right to public trail, hence eliminating any chances of hidden trials that could affect the defendants position in the case. Public trials aims to eliminate instances of underhand trials that could lead to unfair sentencing of criminals.

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Thirdly, the Amendment affects sentencing provisions in line with its provision for the right to an impartial jury. Members of the jury are supposed to be as impartial as possible to ensure that they deliver justice to the defendant. The Sixth Amendment requires that individuals involved in the sentencing process must be fair enough to ensure that fairness is enhanced in the case. Additionally, the Sixth Amendment gives defendants some level of defense over the confrontation with witnesses. It impacts sentencing provisions by allowing defendants to testify in close-circuit television instead of having to face their accusers. Hinojosa (2008) opined that this is to prevent instances of intimidation of the defendant, thus providing adequate room for satisfactory defense. The Sixth Amendment also ensures that juveniles are highly protected, hence affecting sentencing provisions related to this group of people. It states that juveniles cases should be considered by juvenile courts that exhibit a high level of privacy. It affects sentencing provisions in the sense that juveniles cannot face high-level courts irrespective of the crime committed. Lastly, it influences sentencing provisions in such a way that defendants have the right to assistance of counsel. It is mainly directed to less privileged defendants that cannot afford to hire attorneys. They have the right to such assistance to boost their position to fair trial.

The Felony Murder Rule and Limitations Imposed

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The felony murder rule is believed to have originated during the 12th century in England. The U.S. adopted this rule in the 18th century. The most significant thing to note is that the rule emanated from the concept of transferred intent that is older than the limit of legal memory. The rule states that the malicious intent inherent in the process of committing any crime, however minor, was considered to be associated with the consequences of that crime, however unintended.

The most crucial limitation imposed on this rule is that a person cannot be subjected to the death penalty in cases where there is a proof that he/she played a minor role in the crime. It means that one cannot be convicted of murder unless he/she acted with malice-afterthought that relates to the intent to kill or a reckless approach to human life. Therefore, there must be enough proof of such a position in the felony murder case. Neubauer and Meinhold (2012) opined that the merger doctrine is another significant limitation of the felony murder rule. It states that the felony murder rule cannot be applied in cases where the underlying felony is assultative in nature. This means that the felony murder rule entails an immediate threat of violent injury to the victim. Additionally, a felony murder cannot be admitted in instances where it can be proven that the felony was not inherently dangerous. The absence of inherent danger in the felony may lead to the reduction of the murder case to the lowest level possible for criminals.


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