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Capital Punishment - Research Paper Example

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Introduction Capital punishment is a debate on many levels – moral, legal, personal. The points raised range from whether the eye for an eye mentality is archaic to whether another human has a right to kill another just because one has committed a crime…
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Capital Punishment
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Download file to see previous pages The History of Capital Punishment The history of capital punishment is complex and diverse. The capital part of the nomenclature comes from the Latin word capitalis, which regards anything involving the head, and indeed early capital punishment often involved decapitation. Even prior to this, capital punishment was widely used and examples of capital punishment can be found in the past (or present, in 58 countries) of almost every culture. Nearly every law regarding capital punishment in the past two millennia regard capital punishment as only appropriate for serious crimes, such as murder, treason or political dissent, although there are some examples where the punishment can be used for military crimes such as desertion or refusing national service. The first recorded case of capital punishment in the United States was in 1608 on a Mexican immigrant who was accused of spying for the Spanish government (Goldberg, 1974). Since this initial incident, the history of capital punishment in the USA has been mixed throughout various states and areas. It is reported in the Espy files that over 15,000 people have been executed in the United States (or colonies before the formation of the States) since 1608 (Henderson, 2000). This suggests that the punishment is rare and, as previously mentioned, only considered in serious breaches of law. One incident stands out among the rest if only because of the nature – a mass execution of 38 people in Dakota who were convicted of rape and murder during the Dakota war of 1862 (Kronenwetter, 2001). Again, this incident stands out due to its rarity – examples of mass capital punishment are even rarer than their singular counterparts. The 20th century brought with it a more compassionate culture and thus a different attitude towards capital punishment. It is proudly announced by citizens of Michigan that the state was the first English-speaking government in the world to ban all capital punishment for crimes other than treason (Henderson, 2000). Michigan itself can also be proud of the fact that it has not carried out a capital punishment since it joined the Union. It has now been joined by 14 other states that explicitly ban the use of capital punishment, although 35 states still currently have a law sanctioning the penalty (Banner, 2002). Several other countries now ban the death penalty, including every member state of the European Union and many South American countries including Venezuela. Capital Punishment in the United States Taking into account the potted history of capital punishment, it is no surprise that it causes such a debate, particularly in the United States. The United States is often championed as being a free and liberal nation, the jewel in the crown of the Western world, but still carries out capital punishment year after year with a spike in the early 2000s to pre-1950s levels of execution (Banner, 2002). Over 40 death penalties were acted upon in the year 2010 in the United States. The US government did, however, have a brief period in the 1970s where capital punishment was completely banned, and it was expected that many states would keep this ban. However, after the ban was lifted in 1977, 37 states reinstated the death penalty. Why does this champion of modernity still hold what could be seen as archaic views on this extremely harsh (and arguably archaic) punishment? To understand this further, it would be wise to investigate the statistics in context. Since 1977, over 500 people have been executed in the United Sta ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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