Tuesday, July 12, 2011


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The Morality of the Death Penalty

One of the most controversial practices throughtout the centures has been the

death penalty. In this paper I am going to discuss and examine the morality of the death

penalty as well as show some history of this practice.

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Capital punishment has been around since ancient times. The dirst recorded laws

that included the death penalty were set up by Hammurabi, the king of Babylonia, in 17

B.C. The crimes that warranted the death penalty under his set of laws were robbery,

adultery, and murder. Depending on the crime, one could be beheaded, stoned, or even

drowned. Unlike the opportunity to reform, Ancient Babylonian criminals were expected

to suffer. In Ancient Rome, a common form of execution was crucifixtion. Jesus Christ,

who was sentenced to death by the Romans, is the best known person to be executed by

crucifixtion. Once a symbol of the lowest form of death, the cross is now the principal

holy symbol of Christianity.

During the Middle Ages after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Christian

church administered the death penalty. In 1, Pope Gregory IV established the

inquisition to supress heresy. Most people were found guilty and executed. In 1478, King

Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain established the Spanish Inquisition. They killed

Jews and Muslims living in Spain. This inquisition was more severe than the previous one.

The death penalty was not reserved just for criminals, political executions took

place as well. Anne Bolyn, Catherine Howard, and Mary Queen of Scots were English

Queens that were beheaded. In most political executions, a swordsmen was used.

Execution by swordsmen was considered the noble way to die. Lowly criminals were hung

or drawn and Quartered. The heads of common criminals were put on stakes above the

Thanes River in England.

In early France, burning at the stake and beheading by Guillotine were the most

common forms of execution. Joan of Arc, a French national heroine, was burned at the

stake on May 0, 141. Most French criminals died by Guillotine. During the French

Revolution, thousands of French were beheaded, including King Louis XVI and Marie


Death in the United States was usually by hanging. The person slowly suffocates

when hanged if his kneck doesnt break first. The Puritans hanged many people because

they were not tolerant of their beliefs. In 168, in Salem Massachussetts, 5 people were

executed for witchcraft. Movements to abolish the death penalty began in the 1700s with

Montesquieu and Voltaire. They used the same arguments to abolish the death penalty

then, as are used today.

Two of the mot important occurences were the invention of the electric chair in

180, and the invention of the gas chamber in 11. These two methods offer a less cruel

way of execution. Both methods are still in use today. Althought the methods have

changed, the current status and attitudes of the death penalty has not changed much from

ancient times.

The rate of execution today is much lower than it was 50 years ago. In 1, over

000 people were sitting on death row. The chance of you being put to death depends

totally on where you live. If you commit pre meditated murder in New York, the longest

sentence you will recieve is 5 years to life imprisonment. Florida and Texas have

executed the most people since 176.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 176, 1 of 6 states with death penalty

laws have executed criminals. Most criminals sentenced to death row, stay there for many

years before they are executed. If they plan to appeal, they must wait on an appeal process

that takes 7 to 11 years no matter where you live. Opponents to the death penalty say that

the appeals process takes too long and that innocent people can spend years getting their

sentence overturned. Opponents of the death penalty also say that criminals recieve

different penalties for the same crime. Wealth, race, gender, and location affect who gets

the death penalty. Females who committ murder rarely get capital punishment.

Some opponents of the death penalty interveiwed several police chiefs and got

their opinions of capital punishment. Of the police cheifs polled, most veiwed other

methods of controlling crime as more effective including gun control, community policing,

neighborhood crime programs, and more effective efforts against drug and youth crime.

The police chiefs rank capital punishment as less cost-effective than other methods and a

vast majority do not believe that the threat of the death penalty deters people from

committing murder. Barely half of the police chiefs that were polled support the death

penalty. It costs three times as much (more than million per inmate) to carry out the

death penalty, than keep and inmate for 40 years in prison.

Opponents of the death penalty support the passage in the Bible Thou shall not

kill. Thy believe that it is morally wrong to sentence someone to death. Supporters of the

death penalty say that society needs to get rid of savage killers and that if a person isnt put

to death, he may kill again. Supporters of the death penalty also say that they agree with

the saying from the bible Life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.. Criminals

should pay for what they have done by being given equal punishments for their crimes.

Former New York State Governor, George Pataki was quoted as saying The

death penalty is a necessary tool to fight and deter crime, by causing murderers to fear

arrest and convicition, and by preventing convicted murders to kill again. In recent years,

violent crime in New York has dropped dramatically, due in part to the reinstitution of the

death penalty. Pataki also said that For too long criminals were not subject to swiff and

certain punishment and, as a result, violent criminals acts were not detered. Preventing a

crime from being committed ultimately is more important than punishing criminals after

they have shattered innocent lives. Patakis supporting statements of the death penalty

summarize the beliefs of supporters of the death penalty.

What does the future hold for the death penalty? Well, the conservative justices of

the Supreme Court show no sign of overturning the death penalty, althought opponents to

capital punishment have turned to state legislatures for change, their has been little results.

As long as the opinion of many Americans is that capital punishment is the answer to

violent crimes, the United States is likely to have a death penalty.

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