Capital Punishment :
There is one question that has always brought about controversy. Should capital punishment be used as a way of disciplining criminals? Over the past twenty years, there has been an enormous increase in violent crimes. It seems logical that a person is less likely to commit a given act if by doing so he will suffer swift and certain punishment of a horrible kind. As most Americans agree, death is the only appropriate punishment for such crimes. In ancient times' executions were not uncommon. Even the Bible teaches capital punishment. It states that who so shredded man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed…for in the image of God made he man. In ancient times a set of laws were written which specified many crimes punishable by capital punishment. These laws were the Code of Hammurabi. Some of the punishable crimes mentioned included adultery, robbery witchcraft and murder. During the Middle Ages, the Church assumed the responsibility of administering punishments. During the late 1700's the death penalty steadily grew in acceptance. Over 200 crimes were punishable by death at the beginning of the 1800's. There were just as many methods used to execute wrong-doers as there were crimes. Some of the techniques used included beheading, stoning, drowning, hanging, crucifying and burying people alive. Also used were many nontraditional forms of execution. One type of execution utilized elephants to crush the criminal's head on a stone block.
As times changed, so did the death penalty. Laws aimed at abolishing the death penalty began to evolve at the turn of the century. Even with the changes made, the effectiveness of punishment stayed right on track. The crimes punishable by death became more specific, while some were eradicated completely. For example, there are different types of capital murder that have been specifically defined, but vary from one jurisdiction to another. These include murder carried out during the commission of another felony, murder of a peace officer, corrections employee or firefighter engaged in the performance of official duties, murder by an inmate serving a life sentence and murder for hire (Contract Murder). Other crimes worthy of death include espionage by a member of the Armed Forces (communication of information to a foreign government), tampering where death results by a witness and death resulting from aircraft hijacking. While hangings and firing squads remained in use, many forms of execution were done away with.
Methods such as electrocution, lethal gas and lethal injection soon replaced the annulled ones. As with almost everything, there were exceptions made. Some states the prohibited the execution of anyone mentally retarded. In 1901, Colorado made it a law that capital punishment would not be used if the accused was convicted only on circumstantial evidence. The American public has long been favorably disposed toward capital punishment for convicted murderers and that support continues to grow. In a 1981 Gallup Poll, two-thirds of Americans voiced general approval of the death penalty. That support rose to 72 percent in 1985 to 76 percent in 1991 and to 80 percent in 1994. Although these poll results need to be interpreted with extreme caution, it is clear that there are few issues on which more Americans agree: in at least some circumstances, death is seen as a justifiable punishment for the worst sorts of criminal homicides.
On the other hand, much of the public and political support for capital punishment rests on its presumed value as a general deterrent. We need the death penalty to encourage potential murderers to avoid engaging in criminal homicide. Unlike the issue of retribution, empirical studies can answer questions about the death penalty's general deterrent effects. To supporters of capital punishment, the statistics are pleasing. In the past seventy years there have been 4,002 executions carried out in the United States. Approximately three-fifths of the executions were in the South. A ten year interim began in 1967. The states as well as many advocates waited anxiously as the Supreme Court resolved the issue of the constitution versus capital punishment. There have been 143 executions since its end in Utah. Statistics show that criminals convicted of murder make up 87% of those executed. After the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building, a poll was taken Which asked the question…Do you think the persons responsible for the bombing should receive the death penalty if caught.
The CNN USA Today Poll reported that 86% of the people replied YES. These findings have stayed constant with previous polls. The statistics for Texas are quite interesting. Currently, Texas holds the second highest number of executions. Of some 4000 deaths in the USA, 334 have been in Texas. Whether or not the threat or use of the death penalty is, has been or could be a deterrent to homicide is an empirical question that cannot be answered on the basis of gut feelings or on moral or political grounds. It is a question that scores of researchers, dating back to a young Edwin Sutherland have examined. Some research has asked the general public whether the death Penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. Such a question is regularly asked to national samples in Gallup Polls. In the mid-1980's, Just over 60 percent of the respondents in Gallup polls said they believed the death penalty was a deterrent. Furthermore, these polls show that the deterrence idea is important to death penalty justification. In 1986, 70 percent of the respondents supported the death penalty, but only a bare majority – 53 percent-supported it when the alternative was life without parole.
Gallup further asked if the respondents would still support the death penalty if new evidence proved that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder. Support for capital punishment then dropped to 43 percent. There are many examples of cases from which to choose from. Without a doubt, the most famous execution was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ! Another well-known case was the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were put to death in 1953 after being accused and convicted of spying. On December 7, 1982, Charlie Brooks was the first man to die by lethal injection. Along with being the first person to be executed since 1962, Margie Velma Barfield was the first woman killed by lethal injection. The execution of the first man in the electric chair, William Kemmler, on August 6, 1890, attracted almost as much attention as the presidential election.
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