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Death Penalty

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Throughout history, societies have punished criminals by executing them, but today many countries have abolished the death penalty. In the United States however, the federal government and many of the states continue to sentence convicted criminals to death. This leads us to the question: Should the government have the power to sentence convicted criminals to death? Before we approach this question lets take a look at the history of the death penalty and other factors that could affect the answer to this question.

Although the first case of capital punishment is not documented, we know that it was brought to North America by European colonist in the 18th century. In Europe, murderers, thieves, spies, alleged witches, and over 100 other so-called "crimes" were punished by death. Although hanging was the most common form of execution, other methods such as stoning, beheading, burning at the stake or being broken on a wheel were used. Hangings usually took place at high noon on a main street or in a town square to be viewed by the public. They were excitedly watched as if it were a new episode of the sopranos. In fact public executions often turned into outdoor festivals in which the city advertised the execution through posters, handbills, and notices in newspapers. In the 1700's after being convicted and sentenced to death, unlike today, you would be executed usually within less than a week.

Executions moved through from hanging and other methods to electrocution. When in 1889, New York passed the electrical Execution Act, which declared death by the electric chair as the state's new method of execution. As with many other ways of executing people, this way is both cruel and unusual punishment. Although there are many instances were cruel and unusual punishment were used, I am going to give you one example and let you judge for yourself. In August of 1890 the first man to be sentenced to the electric chair was William Kemmler. This execution did not go...