Women on Death Row

Topics: Death Penalty, Murder, Capital punishment in the United States Pages: 6 (2089 words) Published: October 3, 2012
Women on Death Row

In this paper, it will discuss the history of death row, the first women executions, women currently on death row, and women on death row in Tennessee.

History of Death Row
Capital punishment is punishment by death for a crime, also known as the death penalty (Encyclopedia, Britannica, online). A sentence of death may be carried out by one of five lawful means: electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, gas chamber, and firing squad. Capital punishment is viewed very differently by many people. Some think it violates our Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution, cruel and unusual punishment, while others think it is justice to those who have had their voices taken away.

The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the 18th Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for twenty-five different crimes. The death penalty was also part of the 14th Century B.C.’s Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes; and in the 5th Century B.C.’s Roman law of the Twelve Tablets. Death sentences were carried out by such as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. In the 10th Century A.D., hanging became the usual method for executions for any crime, except in times of the war. This trend would not last very long, in the 16th Century, under the reign of Henry VIII, as many as seventy-two thousand people were estimated to have been executed. Boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and drawing and quartering were some of the common methods of executions.

The number of capital crimes rose in Britain throughout the next two centuries, and by the 1700’s, two hundred twenty-two crimes were punishable by death in Britain; including stealing, cutting down trees, counterfeiting tax stamps, stealing from a house or shop, and robbing a rabbit warren. Because of the severity of the death penalty, many of the jurors would not convict the defendants if it was not a serious offense. This helped lead to the reform of Britain’s death penalty, and it helped influence America’s use of the death penalty also.

The first attempted reform in the United States of the death penalty occurred when Thomas Jefferson introduced a bill to revise Virginia’s death penalty laws. It proposed that capital punishment be used only for the crimes of murder and treason, and the bill was defeated by only one vote. Although some states abolished the death penalty in the mid-19th Century, it was actually the first half of the 20th Century that marked the beginning of the “Progressive Period” of reform for the Unites States. Women’s First Executions

There are very little details of many of the earlier hangings because of the lack of media in those times. Newspapers only began to be routine in the mid 1800’s and even then they were usually only published on a weekly basis. But as a result, the earliest recorded female hanging in the colonies was that of Jane Chapman in James City, Virginia, in 1632 (http:www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/amfemhang.html). Jane Champion’s crime was lost in history, and no one seems to know the offense she committed. The second woman known to be executed in the United States that was recorded was that of Margaret Hatch on June 24th 1633, for murder, also in Virginia.

Hanging was the normal method of execution for both males and females until the electric chair was introduced in 1888 in New York (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/chair.html). It was also stated that the female prisoners usually liked to look their best before their executions and if they could afford it, they would buy or make themselves a new outfit for the event. If they were too poor to make or buy an outfit, it was not out of the ordinary for their friends, the townsfolk, or even the sheriff to provide them with new clothes to...
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