March 5, 2005
The debate about the right and wrong of capital punishment has gone on for many years. The article that is the basis for this paper, skims the surface of this debate. Convicted Killer Michael Ross is not opposed to his sentence. It is opponents to the death penalty that are behind all of the protests. I have to agree with the protestors on this one, capital punishment is nothing more than state mandated murder, whether the convicted person agrees with it or not. What is Capital Punishment?
In a simple but clear definition, according to the Superior Court of California (Superior Court, 2004), capital punishment is “The taking of a person's life by the state as the legal penalty for criminal offense” The History of Capital Punishment
The history of capital punishment was first recorded in the 18th century BC. The death penalty was codified for 25 different crimes. The first recorded death sentence was in Egypt in the 16th century BC. The convicted person was accused of using magic and was ordered to take his own life (Michael Reggio, 1999). Between the 14th and the 5th century BC, the death penalty was given for crimes such as burning down a house or a stack of corn near a house, perjury, publishing insulting songs, making disturbances in the night, willful murder of a free-man, or theft by a slave. The ways to kill, included crucifixion, drowning at sea, beating, being buried alive, and impalement. During this same era, the Greek philosopher Socrates was ordered to death for corrupting youth (Michael Reggio, 1999). Around 29 BC, Jesus Christ was crucified. Crucifixion was not a quick death. It could take several days before a person would actually die. This method was used by the Romans not only to kill the victim but also to keep the rest of the people in line (Crucifixion, 2002). Torture was included with capital punishment in the middle ages. The popular forms of capital punishment included hanging from the gallows, being drowned in a pit, Burning at the stake, being drawn and quartered, beheading, and boiling to death. In 1531 people were boiled for up to two hours before they were killed. During the reign of Henry VIII, it was estimated that as many as 72,000 people were put to death (Michael Reggio, 1999). In 1608, a little more than a hundred years after Columbus’s discovery of America, the first American execution took place. The executed person was Captain George Kendall, who was executed for being a spy. Britain had a great influence on bringing the death penalty to America with the colonists. Each of the colonies had their own version of death penalty laws (Introduction to the death penalty, 2005). In 1767 the first attempt at to abolish the death penalty took place in America with an essay from Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment. This essay influenced Thomas Jefferson to introduce a bill to revise Virginia’s death penalty laws to allow the death penalty only for cases of treason or murder. The bill was defeated by one vote. During the 1800’s, Rhode Island and Wisconsin abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Michigan abolished the death penalty for all crimes except treason (Introduction to the death penalty, 2005). During the early and mid 20th century, many states were back and forth between abolishing and reinstating the death penalty. In 1924, the state of Nevada introduced the use of cyanide gas as a more humane way to execute its inmates. The first attempt at this was to pipe the cyanide gas into the inmates cell while he slept. This failed so they went on to build the first gas chamber (Introduction to the death penalty, 2005). In the 1960’s and the 1970’s the debate of the constitutionality of the death penalty was brought to the Supreme Court on several occasions. The arguments were centered on the interpretation of the eighth amendment “Excessive bail...
References: Superior Court of California (2004) Glossary of terms (online).
PBS.org(1999) Michael Reggio (online)
Deathpenaltyinfo.org(2005) Introduction to the death penalty (online)
Legal Information Institute (2005) US Constitution (online)
Deathpenaltyinfo.org(2005) Suspending the death penalty (online)
Deathpenaltyinfo.org(2005) Reinstating the death penalty(online)
Deathpenaltyinfo.org(2005) Limiting the death penalty(online)
Advance on the web(2005) Historian tracks trends in attitudes towards death penalty(online)
Yahoo news(2005) Connecticut death row inmates on hunger strike (online)
The public Cause.net (2005) Death Penalty Arguments (online)
Clark County Prosecutors Office (2005) Opinion polls (online)
Wesley Lowe.com (2005) The deterrent effect on capital punishment (online)
Quotations page(2005) Mahatma Gandhi (online)
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