In 1622, the first legal execution took place in Virginia with the execution of Daniel Frank. Frank was hung for theft. Back then, there were 13 crimes punishable by death, including idolatry and witchcraft. During the seventeenth century, a great number of women executed. Between 1608 and 1708, 24% of the executions performed legally in the early American colonies were women. In the eighteenth century, 48% of the performed executions were African American people. Beside murder, the crime most African Americans were executed for was slave revolt.
Over the next two centuries, the numbers would increase but the percentages would remain about the same. From 1709 to 1808, a total of 1,554 people were recorded as being legally executed. From 1809 to 1908, 6,630 people were legally executed.
Since 1976, 976 convicted murderers have been executed in the United States. Of those executed, 565 (58%) were white and 328 (34%) were black. 10 were female.
Over the years, rules and standards were set for execution but it was never completely prohibited. In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and the Eighth Amendment stated that cruel and unusual punishment was illegal. In 1793, Pennsylvania created degrees of murder to help stipulate which offenses should be punishable by death. In 1833, Rhode Island becomes the first state to require private hangings. Through the following years, some states would abolish execution and execution would be turned over to the state rather than local powers. During 1976, the Supreme Court ruled out certain mandatory death penalties, allowing the margins of error to decrease.
The methods of executions have also changed. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, executions were performed by hanging, shooting, burning, pressing, hanging by chains and other cruel ways. Rounding the nineteenth century, executions would begin to be performed by electric chair. In May, 1889, William Kemmler became the second person sentenced to death by electric chair but the first person whose sentence stands. In August of 1890, Kemmler is killed by two currents of electricity. The electric chair would later be corrected and one strong current would kill a person.
The next method used would be asphyxiation gas or more commonly referred to as the gas chamber. Between 1930 and 1980, 945 men and seven women were put to death in the gas chambers. Eleven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming) have used lethal gas. Of the thirty eight states with capital punishment, only Arizona, California, Maryland, Missouri and Wyoming still allow for the use of lethal gas.
The most recent and now used method of execution in the United States is lethal injection. The idea of lethal injection had been proposed in 1888 but not approved. In February of 1977, the idea had been revived and approved in the United States. On December 7, 1982, Chris Brooks Jr. became the first person in the United States to be legally executed by lethal injection in Texas. Since then, lethal injection has become America's main method of execution.
Execution in America is a widely disputed issue and for good reason. Ending someone's life is an incredibly serious matter. Taking the life of someone is something a great deal of America considers a matter...