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Essay/Term paper: Capital punishment

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Politics

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Capital Punishment

Throughout history, statistics have proven that Capital Punishment or
otherwise known as the death penalty, has been an effective deterrent of major
crime. Capital Punishment is the lawful infliction of death among criminals and
has been used to punish a wide variety of offenses for many years all over the
world (Bedau 16). When the death penalty is enforced, it shows society that
committing a capital crime has deadly consequences.

In early times, many methods of Capital Punishment were used to deter a
variety of crimes. For over a century, the uniform method for executing persons
in America was hanging, although starvation was very common also. There were
exceptions which included spies, traitors, and deserters who would face a firing
squad. Then in 1888, New York directed the construction of an "electric chair"
(Flanders 11). It was believed that the new harnessed power of electricity
would prove to be a more scientific and humane means of execution. The first
electrocution took place in New York in 1890.

In the past, capital crimes were much different than they are now.
Robbery and the selling of alcohol to underage customers was a serious capital
crime (McCuen and Baumgart 21). Rape was also a crime where the criminal was
sentenced to death.

In America, only thirty-seven states authorize the death penalty. In
most of those thirty-seven states, murder is the only capital crime. The
Supreme Court requires that two conditions must be met in order for a specific
murder to warrant the death penalty (Nardo 32). The first condition is that it
must be first degree murder, which is the deliberate and premeditated taking of
life. The second is that one or more aggravating circumstances must be present.
Aggravating Circumstances refer to those aspects of a crime that increase its
severity. An example of an aggravating circumstance would be torture in
conjunction with a murder. ("Capital Punishment" 32).

Every society has faced the problem of what to do with its most
troublesome criminals. Many people in the past have argued whether or not
Capital Punishment is justified and necessary.

Most societies now believe that a criminal should receive punishment
proportional to the crime committed. Most societies believe that such a severe
punishment was necessary to install fear in others.

While more social structures developed, the crimes developed into public
and private offenses. Public offenses such as witchcraft and blasphemy, were
punished by the state; while private offenses still were answered by acts of
personal retribution.

The enforcement of Capital Punishment in the early twentieth century
declined drastically because of all of the controversy. Today, many more states
are taking the death penalty into consideration.

Methods of Capital Punishment used today are somewhat different than what
was used in the past. The lethal injection method, which is by far the most
common, and the "electric chair" are the most recently used. The gas chamber
is still used but in very rare cases.

In 1924, the gas chamber was introduced in Utah with a hope to still
find a more humane way to execute the convicted. The gas chamber method proved
itself to be a very inhumane way of execution. There were many errors while
using the gas chamber. Using too little or too much of the gas was a huge
factor that was constantly argued.

The continuing desire for a less painful, error-free means of execution
led to the development of the lethal injection method in the 1970's. Initially
it was approved in Oklahoma and Texas in 1977. This method involved injecting
a combination of a sedative, which is used to make the execution less painful,
and a fatal chemical agent into the condemned prisoners bloodstream. Lethal
injection was first used to carry out the death penalty in 1982.

In 1980, The American Medical Association [AMA] went on record to oppose
the participation of any physician in an execution by lethal injection. A
doctors involvment was seen as a contradiction of the professional
responsibility under the Hippocratic Oath to save lives. As it now stands, no
state that uses lethal injection, requires a physician to be present. The
deadly solution is normally administered by medically trained technicians.

There is much evidence showing that Capital Punishment is a deterrent of
crime. The most persuasive research compared the homicide rates of states that
did and did not prescribe the death penalty. For instance, Michigan, which
abolished Capital Punishment in 1847, was found to have had a rate higher to
adjacent states, Ohio and Indiana, that were executing. Similarly, Minnesota
and Rhode Island, states with no death penalty, had many more killings then
their respective neighbors Iowa and Massachusetts, which had Capital Punishment.
In 1939 South Dakota adopted and used the death penalty, and its homicide rate
fell twenty percent over the next decade; North Dakota went without Capital
Punishment for the same ten years, and homicide rates went up.

Similar before and after studies in Canada, England, and other countries
likewise found that the suggestion of Capital Punishment had deterred murderers
better than the prospect of long prison terms. In Britain during the 1950's, a
typical "lifer" actually served only seven years, compared with a much tougher
average, the United States life term today of twenty years.

Between 1930 and 1980 there have been 3,860 executions in the United
States. Of this number 3,380 had been executed for murder. Rape, armed robbery,
burglary, and aggravated assault no longer are capital crimes.

Only thirty-two women have ever been executed. Since 1930 half of all
persons executed were non white. Over 1,200 death row inmates were awaiting
execution by 1984.

In 1980, thirty-nine states had enacted death penalty laws. From 1965 to
1983 favoritism of the death penalty has risen thirty-two percent. Now,
seventy percent of Americans favor Capital Punishment.

Washington D.C. had the highest murder rate in the country with 35.1
murders per 100,000 population. Nevada is second with twenty, Texas with 16.9,
Florida at 14.5. South Dakota has the lowest murder rate with .7 murders per
100,000 population.

Since the Supreme Court rulings in the 1970's up to 1984, only sixteen
death row inmates have been executed.

In America we have many criminals. Different societies have different
views on how these criminals should be punished. The more harsh we are on the
criminals and the more death penalties we hand out, there will be a drastic drop
in capital crime. Capital Punishment is necessary in any imperfect society.


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