Essay, Research Paper: Capital Punishment In History

Legal Issues

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Many people support the death penalty, and a lot of them use the defense that
comes from the Bible: an eye for eye, and a limb for a limb. I on the otherhand
believe otherwise. Punishment by death, in my opinion, is a very barbaric way of
penalization . In the world, it is known that at least 2500 prisoners are
executed in at least 37 different countries, on an annual basis. There will be
various statistics, opinions, history, and background information discussed
through out the residuum of this thesis. The history of the death penalty, dates
back to the days of Hammurabi and his code to the days of the present. The
methods nowadays are certainly different, but the objective and goal has
remained the same. The earliest known date of any form of organized capital
punishment was in 1750 B.C., with Hammurabi and his code. The Bible prescribed
death for more than 30 different crimes, including: murder, treason, theft,
arson, and rape, to name a few. In the Medieval Times, treason ( grand and petty
) murder, larceny, rape, and arson were all crimes recognized as punishable by
death. During the reigns of King Canute and William the Conqueror, it was not
used at all. By 1800, though, more than 200 crimes were construed as punishable
by death, but most were commuted by a royal pardon. In the American Colonies, in
the years before the Revolution, it was commonly for a wide variety of offenses.
Near the end of the 18th century, though, efforts to abolish it arose in Europe.
It was led mainly by the Quakers, who believed in non-violence all together.
Then when influential documents arose, it prompted and inspired the great French
philosopher, Voltaire, to oppose it publicly. At the present there are many
fundamental questions raised pertaining to the fact that with the death penalty
intact and fully operational, isn’t the government condoning killing. Also,
isn’t the government being kind of hypocritical when they say taking a human
life is bad, but then they go ahead and do exactly the opposite of what they are
saying? One of the axiomatic questions erected is: “Whether the death penalty
is more effective than life-time imprisonment?”. Also, is it an effective
deterrent to future violent crimes? Defenders point out that since taking a life
is more severe than any sentence imaginable, it must be the right and just thing
to do. Public opinion in the United States supports it by more than a 2 to 1
ratio. They, also, point out that there is no other adequate hindrance in life
imprisonment that is effective for those who commit heinous crimes inside or
outside of the prison walls. On the flip side of the coin, the opposers say that
in adjacent states in which one has it and one doesn’t, there is no long term
significant differences in murder rates and amplitude. Also, and this seems hard
to believe, but states that use the death penalty actually show higher murder
numbers than states that do not. When a local execution occurs, the murder rates
do not fluctuate at all, they stay the same. There are literally thousands of
ways to kill someone or something. But only about 10 of those are used in
conjunction with the death penalty, itself. Many of those thousand are
considered barbaric and uncivilized by today’s standards . There are usually
specific procedures for each execution method, to ensure a quick and painless
death. There are nine methods of execution that I will now discuss. The first is
crucifixion. Crucifixion was most likely first used in the 6th century B.C. and
was last used in approximately the 4th century A.D. Most notably, it was used on
Jesus Christ in the year 33 A.D. It is where the person is nailed to a cross for
as many hours as it takes them to die from loss of blood. The second is boiling
in oil. Boiling in oil usually occurs after a severe beating has been
administered. It burns the cuts and open wounds, it is truly a very painful way
of death. Death by boiling in oil is considered savage by today’s society. The
third is death by beheading. It was used commonly during the Medieval days.
Usually some form of torture is performed beforehand. Some tortuous acts
include: partial hanging, taking out and destroying of the innards, and
incinerating. It can be carried out with either an ax or a guillotine. For an
example, watch the movie, “Braveheart” starring Mel Gibson. The fourth is
death by drowning. He/she is usually weighted down with something of a metal
nature; i.e. an anvil. The fifth is “curtains” by hanging. It is the
traditional method of execution throughout the English speaking world. It has to
be done with very specific measurements, that is why the prisoner is weighed
prior to the execution. The “drop” is based on the prisoners weight to
deliver 1260 foot pounds of force to the neck. That is done to assure almost
instantaneous death. Properly done, death is by dislocation of the third or
fourth cervical vertebrae. It is used in Delaware, Montana, and Washington. The
sixth is doom by lethal injection. It was introduced by Oklahoma in 1977. Lethal
injection involves the continuous intravenous injection of a fast acting
barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic agent. Many doctors have
pointed out that the drugs may not work correctly or effectively with former
drug users or diabetics. In some cases, minor surgery may have to occur. A total
of 27 states use it including: Illinois, North Carolina, among others. Also, the
US Military and the US government utilize this method. The seventh technique is
dissolution by electrocution. It produces visibly destructive effects on the
body. The prisoner often leaps forward against the restraining straps and
harnesses, when the switch is flipped. Also, the body changes color, the flesh
swells and may even catch fire, eject feces through the anus, urinate, or vomit
blood. Witnesses perpetually report the looming smell of incandescent flesh.
States that use it embody: Florida, Kentucky, in the midst of eight others. The
eighth methodology is disintegration by way of gas chamber. The prisoner is
restrained in a hermetically sealed steel chamber, below which is a pan. Upon a
second signal, about 8 oz. of potassium cyanide crystals or tablets are dropped
mechanically into the pan, producing hydrocyanic gas which destroys the ability
of blood hemoglobin to perform through out the body. Unconsciousness usually
occurs within a few seconds if the prisoner takes a deep breath, and longer if
he/she holds their breath. After pronouncement of death, the chamber is expunged
through carbon and neutralizing filters. Gas-masked crews decontaminate the body
with a bleach solution and the body is out gassed prior to release. An unwary
undertaker may be killed if this is not done. The 9th and last style of
execution is demise by firing squad. There is reportedly no specific protocol
for this procedure, which according to information from published reports,
involves a five man team. Four out of the five use blank bullets, so that no one
will know who the real shooter is. Since its reinstatement in 1976, there have
only been 2 executed; Gary Gilmore and John Taylor. Where there is the death
penalty there are moral concerns. When ever you have a person dying in a
situation that is controversial, there will be some serious moral concerns.
There have been many moral arguments in favor and many arguments that are
against. Many of the moral concerns in favor have been biblical and retributive.
Supporters also say: “ Let the punishment fit the crime.” Proponents of
capital punishment have and will continue to claim that society, as a whole, has
the right to kill in defense of its members. There have been numerous moral
arguments opposed to the death penalty. Critics have pointed to the risk of
executing the innocent. Also, it has been argued, that “one can accept a
retributive, without necessarily resorting to death.” Also, some arguments are
that women rarely are executed, a disproportionate number of non-whites and the
poor and friendless are often executed. The current status of the death penalty
is firm, at least in the US. It is firm because 36 out of the 50 states
authorize the death penalty as a punishment. The American people back this up by
more than a 2 to 1 ratio. In the 1970’s there were a series of decisions that
made capital punishment “unconstitutional if it is mandatorily imposed without
sufficient evidence or if it is imposed for a crime which does not threaten a
life.” Apart from crimes of treason and espionage, the death penalty has been
reserved for crimes of murder. There was a total of 38 states that revised and
reenacted after the ruling. Also, it was decided that all emotionally supportive
and unsupportive of capital punishment are barred from jury duty. In the early
1990’s, the trend of favorable rulings for Death Row inmates were cut back.
The death penalty in other countries is not especially similar to the one we
have here. It is inflicted for an extremely wide variety of crime, unlike in
America. A few African and no Asian or Arab nations have abolished it.
Approximately a dozen European countries have had executions fulfilled since the
late 1970’s. Around 1/2 the world’s countries have abolished it. 55 nations
abolished it for every crime. On average, 2 countries a year abolish the death
penalty in one form or another. Some countries are: Paraguay, Greece, Italy, and
Hungary. Once abolished it is seldom reintroduced. Since 1985, 24 countries have
abolished the death penalty in law. During the same period, only 3 have
reintroduced it. During 1994, 2,331 prisoners were known to be executed in 37
different countries. Also, there were 4,032 in 75 countries that were sentenced
to die. China led the way, so to speak, with 1,791 killed. International Human
Rights prohibit anyone under the age of 18, at the time the crime was committed,
to be executed. More than 100 countries have laws specifically denoting this.
Five countries since 1990 are known to have executed a human being under the age
of 18 years old. They include: Iran, Pakistan, USA, and Yemen. The majority
being in the US. As long as the death penalty is maintained, there will always
be a minute possibility, that you are executing the innocent. During the years
of 1900 to 1975, a total of 350 people were convicted of capital crimes and
executed for a crime they did not commit. Some escaped execution by minutes, but
others were not so lucky. 48 people were freed from Death Row since 1972. In
terms of people on Death Row, California is number 1 with 477, while South
Dakota has 2. Illinois has 165, that is an above average amount. The US total is
3,365. Out of 50 states, 14 do not have it. They include: Hawaii, North Dakota,
and Maine. 28 states authorize 2 methods of execution. My personal opinion about
the death penalty is lukewarm, meaning that I could go for or against it. I will
discuss the pros and cons and my heartfelt opinion. I believe that retribution
plays a huge role in the death penalty process. It helps bring closure to a
subject that once was unimaginable. Also, it helps the families move on and put
behind them what has caused them anguish, for some that has been literally
years. Also, forgiveness is a major player in this situation. It brings the
convicted into the hands of God, where he will be forgiven. Hopefully, the
convict leaves this world with nothing on his chest because the family has
forgiven him. Fear. It plays a major role in this. It shows a future criminal
what quite possibly could happen to them. Also, it puts fear into society, as a
whole, that committing heinous crimes just isn’t good. The cons of the death
penalty, and there are some, are large in my mind. I will explain how certain
states weigh in, killing the innocent, and death, in it self. There are many
statistics floating around, but these are the two most accurate. One state shows
that incurring it will not all deter crime, while the second shows that the
number of murders does stay the same in areas that have it. Killing the innocent
is very important because whenever a human life is concerned, you should proceed
with caution. In the case that you execute the innocent there should be some
serious remorse. Death, in and of it self, is huge here. Think about it, you are
taking a fellow human’s life, which is just as bad as what they did. I believe
that capital punishment is a crude and barbaric form of punishment. In some
cases, people who are really sorry for what they did, are executed. Sometimes,
death is delayed, and they have to start over again, while the “executionee”
is half-alive. I further believe that it is unconstitutional for people, to be
submitted to so much pain and agony. Life without the possibility of parole
would be fine. At one point in time, not too long ago, the Supreme Court ruled
it unconstitutional. Also, statistics show it doesn’t decrease the murder
rate, it only decreases the population. It does not deter criminals from future
crime. In closing, I believe that the death penalty is a crude and vulgar source
for some sick people to find joy. I believe that capital punishment is in fact
unconstitutional. The Bible may prescribe death, but on this one I believe that
it is wrong. Statistics show that capital punishment doesn’t decrease murders,
but in some places increases them! Some day soon, I believe, the Supreme Court
of the United States of America will in fact outlaw all forms of capital
punishment, and instead implement more life without parole sentences. It cost
the taxpayers millions to execute someone!
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