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Controversy that Surrounds Capital Punishment - Research Paper Example

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Introduction The application of the death penalty has remained a controversial issue in contemporary societies, as it has continued to attract heated debates both from opponents and proponents without the hope of reaching a consensus (McCafferty 17). This is a contentious issue, the magnitude of which can only be compared to that of abortion, which has also continued to elicit emotions, especially on the basis of its moral implications…
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Controversy that Surrounds Capital Punishment
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Download file to see previous pages Capital Punishment Capital punishment is one of the most controversial aspects of the administration of criminal justice. Its documented history is rooted in the early eighteenth century B.C. among the Babylonians under the leadership of King Hammurabi, who is associated with the Hammurabi Code (Brians 59). This code contained 282 laws that governed that society, with more than twenty-five of these laws advocating for the death penalty as a punishment for the crimes committed. These crimes included stealing from temples, breaking and entering, false accusations, and adultery, among others. During this period, the major modes of execution seemed to be harsh and inhumane and bent towards making the culprits suffer before they eventually died. For example, depending on the crimes committed, convicted criminals were put to death through burning, crucifixion, drowning, or even being beaten to death (Brians 64). In the United States, the first documented execution with regard to capital punishment can be traced back to the year 1608, when Captain George Kendall was killed for allegedly spying on Britain for Spain (Cassel 14). It may be important to note that the United States at this time was under the colonial rule of the Britons, who are credited with the introduction of the death penalty in the pre-independence era. The second execution was that of a Daniel Frank from the then-colony of Virginia, who was accused of committing robbery, an act that was contrary to the divine, moral, and martial laws of 1612 which were enforced by the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, and which prescribed the death penalty for crimes that would be considered petty today. Crimes that earned the death penalty included stealing items such as grapes, doing business with Indians, or merely killing a chicken (Cassel 23). The death penalty has been in existence so long that it is entrenched in many cultures (Bedau 12). It is therefore no surprise that many countries, including the post-independence United States, have embraced the death penalty as one way of deterring crimes, especially those considered capital offenses. However, the scope within which it is applied has been reduced significantly over the years to limit it to crimes such as first-degree murder and treason, as seen in most of the states’ penal codes. Other capital offenses include drug trafficking, kidnapping, aircraft hijacking, perjury, and acts of terrorism, among others, but these vary by state (Bedau 28). This means that committing perjury resulting in death may attract a death sentence in California but a more lenient punishment in a state such as Oklahoma. The military can also sentence soldiers to death in times of war for committing crimes such as desertion, rebelling openly against their superiors’ orders, or betraying their own forces, thereby compromising their mission. However, most of these crimes are uncommon, and murder has been the crime that has most often resulted in the application of the death penalty in the United States (Roberts 132). Unlike in the pre-modern societies such as the Babylonians under Hammurabi, the carrying out of death sentences has taken more humane forms, which are less primitive and aimed at getting the results (i.e., the death of the convict) rather than inflicting pain. In this context, most ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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