Execution and Methods in America

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Execution and Methods in America

Timothy McVeigh¡¦s execution is less then a month away, and the media has him once again all over the news. The latest newsflash was that the survivors and family members of the 1995 Bombing were allowed to view the execution over closed circuit television in an unspecified place. However, the question with another execution at hand is, if the states have the right to take someone¡¦s life. Abolitionists have asked this question for centuries and even today continue their fight to abolish the death penalty. It is a question of humanity, values and morals. The bible has it written, ¡§an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth¡¨, and in today¡¦s words that means, if you kill someone, you will be killed as well. The victims more than anyone, would probably agree with that, but the bible also states not to harm thy neighbor. Are we not all neighbors? That is what the bible wants us to believe, it is not only a Christian belief, and it is part of most religions in this world today. Yet, it is up to the individual to decide, whether they are for or against the death penalty. However, how can one make that decision without having profound information and understanding of the human right that we hold in the United States? In addition, how can anyone override the power that the Supreme Court and the President have over its citizens, because with a simple ruling, they have the right to give and take life your life, if you have committed a capital crime. History speaks for itself.

Executions have existed since the 18th century B.C.; it was then when the first death penalty laws were established, and the most common method used was hanging. At the time, executions were more frequent in Europe, before the death penalty came to America, but in contrast, they are more executions today in the United States then in any other European country.

At a hanging, the prisoner was weighed, because it was used to calculate ¡§drop¡¨. The ¡§drop¡¨ had to deliver 1260 foot-pounds of force to the neck. The weight (in lbs.) was divided into 1260 to arrive at a drop of feet. The nose coil was placed directly behind the left ear, so that the third and fourth cervical vibrate would dislocate, breaking the neck, causing an instant death. In those years, it was quiet common, for the prisoner¡¦s sentence to be carried out in public for everyone to observe. It was a social event for the population of the city.

In Europe, William the Conqueror (11th century A.D.) banned all executions during his reign, except in war, and Henry the VIII (16th century A.D.) overturned this decision. It is believed that during his time about 72,000 executions took place. A variety of methods other then hanging was used, such as boiling, burning at the stake, and beheading. Other countries used drowning, beating to death, impalement and stoning. Burning at the stake was commonly used for proclaimed witches or the ones that were believed to use witchcraft. Some other crimes that received the death penalty were treason and not confessing to a crime, striking one¡¦s parents and denying the ¡§true God¡¨.

When people from Europe began to settle in America, the practice of the death penalty came with them. In 1608, Captain George Kendall, who was convicted of spying for Spain, was the first man executed in the new colonies, and the first woman to be executed was Jane Champion in 1632. However, it is not surprising to know, that the abolitionist movement also holds its roots in Europe. In an essay, written in 1767 by Cesare Beccario is stated that ¡K¡¨ no justification for the state taking life¡K¡¨ Europe was not alone to be influenced by this statement, in America, Thomas Jefferson proposed a bill that capital punishment is only to be used for crimes of murder and treason.

The abolitionists gained momentum in the 19th century, when the execution rate dropped. They continued their fight against the government to abolish the death...
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