Death Penalty Term Paper

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Death Penalty is the most severe forms of punishment that can be accorded to a criminal who has committed a crime and deserves to be punished. The brief history of death penalty shows that this is nothing new, because it was something that was practiced right from the eighteenth century BC, in Babylon, and thereafter in Athens, and in Rome, and in Great Britain. The death penalty methods of punishments were actually brought in from Great Britain to the United States of America, and there were any number of methods of execution, like for example guillotine, burning at a stake, or impalement. There are many numbers of people who either support death penalty or are against it, and there are quite a few arguments in support of both. However, what one decides ultimately rests on the individual and his cultural background and his religious and moral ethics, but the death penalty is now being supported by many more people today than it was before, and maybe the number of supporters will keep on increasing.

Death Penalty

What is Death Penalty? Death penalty also means capital punishment, and it is used both today as well as in ancient times in order to punish a large number of offenses. Death Penalty is one of the most severe forms of corporal punishments that a court of law can enforce within the law on an individual who has committed some grave crime. Law enforcement officials will kill or put to death the offender who is being punished by one of the several means of punishments allowed, and some of them are death by hanging by the neck until the offender is dead, gassing of the offender, or he can be put to death by a bullet from a firing squad. The Supreme Court of the United States of America has stated that on no account shall corporal punishment or death penalty be considered to be unconstitutional, or as being a cruel and an unusual punishment. (Definitions of death penalty)

Some of the first established death penalty laws were in the eighteenth century BC, when according to the Code of the King of Hammaurabi of Babylon, there was a codification of death penalty for about twenty five different crimes. Around the fourteenth century BC, there is evidence of death penalty, and this was known as the Hittite Code, after which evidence shows the presence of the Draconian code of Athens in the seventh century BC, according to which there must be death punishment for a crime of any kind at all, whatsoever, and then the Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets in the fifth century BC. In those early days, death penalty meant that the criminal would be either hanged to death or he would be drowned, or he would be burned alive, or impaled on a sharp object. It was during the tenth century AD in Britain that death by hanging became more and more popular, and this became the most favored method with which a criminal of any kind could be put to death under the law. Britain served to influence the U.S.A. A great deal in the method of the execution of a criminal, and it was when European traders arrived in America that the concept of death penalty was brought into America. (History of the death penalty)

During the early years of the nineteenth century, many states in America and Great Britain reduced the number of cases of death penalty and started the method of housing the criminals at the expense of the state by building state penitentiaries. Pennsylvania, for example, managed to do away with very public executions in the nineteenth century, and instead resorted to more private hangings or other forms of punishments in the various correctional facilities that had been built for this very purpose. In 1846, Michigan abolished the death penalty for all crimes except for treason, and later, many other states began to abolish the death penalty. However, capital punishment was not abolished, and some states started to group more and more crimes under the heading of capital offenses. In 1924, the first criminal was executed using the methods of lethal gas and this method was considered to be a more humane method than hanging or electrocution. During the 1960's, the basic principles behind death penalty were questioned, and the issue of whether or not it was legal to impose a death penalty was brought up too. Soon afterwards, the U.S. Supreme Court
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started to fine tune the method of the administration of the death penalty, and tow cases were regard with this in mind, and they were U.S. Vs. Jackson, and Witherspoon vs. Illinois. The jury was supposed to decide on whether or not to impose death penalty, and this was not acceptable to a large number of people. (History of the death penalty)

Death penalty is supported by some and adamantly opposed by some others, but the issue at stake is whether a human being has the right to take the life of another human being, and according to a thorough review of several cases of death penalty, it was discovered that the opponents of death penalty have in fact lied extensively about the number of innocent persons who have been sentenced to death. In fact, these same people claim that from the year 1973, more than 114 persons from twenty-five states have been released from death row where they had been put while awaiting their execution, with solid proof of their innocence. However, this claim has been proven to be a lie and false, and that the very foundation for such claims started in the year 1993, when a study showed that in reality, only 48 innocents had been released from death row since 1973, unlike what had been claimed by others, and a claim was made by U.S. Rep Edwards, the individual who conducted the latter study, that under the law, there is actually no difference between definitely innocent and between those that were found to be innocent after the trial, but in fact, the U.S. Rep was wrong. The truth is that the law does recognize the exactly specific distinction between the persons who were legally innocent, and those who were really and actually innocent, and this is the same as saying that the murdered was never there at the scene of murder, and that the murderer was there, but managed to escape persecution just because of some sort of legal error. What happens is that Rep Edwards and others like him tend to combine all the cases and arrive at a figure of the number of innocents that is far above the real figure. (Innocence)

In a capital murder case, there can be an appeal for justice, and there are appellate courts to deal with these cases, and there are in general about eight levels of appeal available to the criminal. If the criminal desires to do so, he can appeal to the higher courts, and finally to the Supreme Court, and when the Supreme Court denies his appeal, only then will he be executed. (Appeals) There are people who support death penalty and those who do not. Let us take the former group into focus now; this group of people is often asked the question about how they would feel if somebody happened to rape and murder their own child or their wife. The answer often given by them is that they would of course like to see them punished in some way, and maybe kill the murderer or the criminal with his own bare hands, but not by taking his life all by himself. Personal revenge, they state, is not good, and nor should it be encouraged. The final act of meting out punishment must be left to the Justice System of the country and not taken into one's own hands, and in addition, is the execution of the criminal going to bring back the victim in any way, and is it possible to gain closure from the death of the murderer, as many relatives of victims like to say? (Fight the Death Penalty in the U.S.A.)

The truth is that it is just not possible for the relatives to feel happy about closure when the murderer dies; the relatives will continue to suffer their losses for a much longer time even after the murderer has died. What about the relatives of the murderer, is it really correct on the part of society to treat them too as outcasts and ignore them completely? Is this fair in this our civilized society of today? After all, they too must be suffering at the death of their relative or loved one at the hands of the executioner, and why are they ignored? This does not mean that one should feel pity for the criminals; in fact, they do not deserve any pity, but, being of the Christian faith, it is true that Christians are taught that to forgive is to…

Sources Used in Documents:


Appeals. 5 October, 2001. Retrieved From Accessed on 24 March, 2005

Capital Punishment, Three good reasons for supporting the death penalty. Retrieved From Accessed on 24 March, 2005

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