Time Essay: The Death Penalty: Cruel and Unusual?

THE enormity of killing one's fellow man with premeditation is the principal reason for the existence of the death penalty; it is also the principal argument for abolishing it. The dilemma of deciding which aspect of that paradox should prevail has occupied the minds and emotions of civilized men for centuries. This week it will be the concern of the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears oral arguments on the contention that the death penalty constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment. The opposing lawyers are again marshaling the extensive arguments that have developed over many...