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Capital Punishment Essay

2100 words - 9 pages


Capital Punishment
Kathleen Predmore

Capital Punishment should it be abolished or continue? Over 15,269 Americans have been executed since the beginning of the death penalty in the United Sates, which dates back to colonial times. Some people see it as a barbaric means of punishment while others see it as an important tool for fighting pre-meditated murder and other horrific crimes. The death penalty has bee in existence since the Eighteenth Century B.C. At first, it was carried out by horrific means, boiling, beheading, and burning at the steak just to name a few. Later as man became more civilized, more ...view middle of the document...

During his reign an estimated 72,000 people were put to death. The death penalty was carried out for such crimes as marrying a Jew, not confessing to a crime, and treason. By the 1700’s, two hundred and twenty two crimes were punishable by death in Great Britain, including e.g. crimes as stealing, cutting down a tree, and robbing a rabbit warren. As a result of the severity of punishment, many juries were hesitant to convict the defendants if the offence was not that serious. This caused Britain to reform its laws during the years 1823 to 1837 and eliminated one hundred out of the two hundred and twenty two crimes punishable by death. (Death Penalty Information Center) Great Britain has influenced America’s use of the death penalty more than any other country. The colonists brought the death penalty with them when they came to America.
The death penalty has not always been consistent in the American history. There have been many changes and reforms throughout the last two hundred twenty five years after the American Revolution. The death penalty was reversed and abolished for many crimes right after the American Revolution. No one opposed the death penalty until the nineteenth century. Government officials ended public hangings in the mid nineteenth century, and moved them to the privacy of the prisons. Officials considered it more appropriate to conduct executions in prisons, away from public scrutiny.
In the 1840’s the abolitionist movement called for the end of the death penalty. In 1846 the Michigan legislature made their state the first government in the world to remove Capital Punishmentr. “The Historian, Louis Masur argued in Rites of Execution Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865 that the death penalty might well have ended in the whole nation if the Civil War, and the brutalizing of society that it engendered, had been averted.” (William McFeely)
Instead, during the Civil War, the legislative changed from local government having the authority over executions to allowing the state level of government to have that authority. In 1864, Vermont took the law away that gave the right of local towns and counties to sentence a hanging, and allowed only state-sanctioned executions. Most all the other states followed suit. The reason for the change was to limit overly eager “hanging judges,” but instead it institutionalized the death penalty in a way that disturbs many people today.
Other changes have influenced methods of capital punishment. With the discovery of electricity, the electric chair was invented and used as a more humane alternative to hanging. Later, the method of lethal injection was adopted by many states. It is considered a less stressful method of execution to the prisoner and the witnesses than the electric chair.
'Old Sparky' is the electric chair that Nebraska used for executions. It is housed in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln,...

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