The death penalty this history and facts

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The death penalty or capital punishment has been around for hundreds of years. The first recorded death penalty dates back to the 16th Century BC Egypt, where a man was accused of magic and was sentenced to take his own life (Michael H. Reggio). In the English American colonies the first documented death penalty was in 1608, when George Kendall of Virginia was executed for allegedly scheming to betray the British. Back then, death penalty was much more inhumane, it was seen more as torture than punishment. There were numerous crimes in the past which ended in a death sentence. Whether it was practicing witchcraft or minor offenses such as stealing, these crimes would usually seek the death penalty.

Around the 18th century, there were many ways that executions could be carried out. Some of these executions included burning at the stake, the wheel, guillotine, hanging and the garrote, and headman's axe. Burning at the stake was the most well-liked death sentence. It was used mostly for heretics and witches, this form of death penalty dates all the way back to the Christian era. The wheel is another type of execution that was used during the middle ages. There were a number of ways to use the wheel as a method of torment and execution. A person was attached to the wheel and was either rolled over razor-sharp spikes, or rolled down the hill until they were pronounced dead. The wheel could also be laid on its side with a person tied to it. While the wheel turned people would take turns beating the victim with iron bars, in time causing death. The guillotine was a tall standing frame from which a blade was hung. This blade is raised with a rope and then dropped, decapitating the head from the body. This form of execution was very popular during the French Revolution. Hanging was a very common form of execution. Hanging is a very easy procedure; the prisoner is simply hung from a noose and left to die. The garrote was also a very common form of execution and was very similar to hanging. A mechanical device such as a rack or a gag would be tightened around the person's neck, causing slow strangulation, stretching, and obstruction of blood vessels (Unexplained, 2002-2005). The headman's axe which was usually seen throughout Germany and England was a very popular form of execution during the 16th and 17th centuries (Unexplained, 2002-2005). An executioner would cut off the person's head using an axe or a sword.

Today, the death penalty or capital punishment has become less horrific. In the United States, we now use lethal injection, lethal gas and electrocution. We have changed our forms of execution to make the death sentence more human for the victim, or prisoner. A majority of Americans support the death penalty, with 64 percent of those surveyed by Gallup in 2010 favoring it and 29 percent opposed (David J. Phillip, The New York Times). There are currently 35 states that have the death penalty and 15 without the death penalty; Nebraska is one of the 35 states that support the death penalty.

There are many reasons why capital punishment should be supported and made legal in each state. The first reason why capital punishment or the death penalty should be enforced is it is a crime deterrent. To deter is to discourage or restrain from acting or proceeding (Random House Dictionary, 2011). To deter a crime means to stop a crime from happening due to punishment. The theory of deterrence is based on the idea that the threat of punishment must be severe enough to counter the benefits or pleasures that the criminal would receive from the crime (enotes.2011). Capital punishment reduces the amount of murders throughout different states because murderers are scared to commit a crime due to execution. Many studies have been done over the past years that prove that the death penalty is deterrence to crime. A study done in the past six years verifies that the death penalty, without a doubt, is a deterrent to crime. These studies show that between 3 and 18 lives would be spared by the death of each convicted murderer. Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, co-authored a 2003 study and re-examined a 2006 study that found that each execution results in five fewer homicides (ProDeathPenalty). When interviewed Naci Mocan states: "Science does really draw a conclusion...There is no question about it. The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect. The results are robust. They don't really go away. I oppose the death penalty. But my results show that the death penalty (deters) - what am I going to do, hide them?" (ProDeathPenalty) This quote from an economics professor shows that even though he is against the death penalty, there is evidence that the death penalty is crime deterrence. This study is among many studies that have been done to prove that the death penalty is a crime deterrent. All of these studies look at executions and murders by year and by state or county in order to prove that capital punishment does have a huge impact on homicides. The death penalty is also a crime deterrent for criminals in prison. What stops a cold blooded killer from murdering his cellmate? If this was to happen the only thing left to do would be to extend the criminals sentence, this will not stop them from killing again. The death penalty is a crime deterrent, there are many studies that prove this claim.

The next reason that capital punishment should be put in force is because it brings a sense of justice and revenge. Consequences forced on criminals should match the crimes that they have committed. Therefore, someone who commits murder should be given the worst punishment possible, which is death. The definition of murder is the killing of one human being by another (Capital Punishment Essays). The death penalty is the killing of another person lawfully; therefore, the death penalty is not considered murder, but a fair dealing. As stated by Ed Koch, a former US Government official, "the execution of a lawfully condemned killer is no more an act of murder than is legal imprisonment an act of kidnapping" (Capital Punishment Essays). The death penalty should be seen as justice for the killer, not murder. If you murder someone you should expect the same to happen to you. Why should murderers get to sit in a jail cell, with a bed and three meals a day, while their victim is lying in a coffin, does that seem fair? Why is it that our justice system rewards cold blooded killers by keeping them alive? The death penalty is also seen as revenge and closure for the victim's family. Knowing that the killer has no way to get back on the streets and commit another murder gives the victims family a sense of relief and closure.

In any country the number of prisoners is increasing day by day, causing overcrowding and overpopulation in prisons. In America and for instance, over one million people have been imprisoned for past five years and have become a major financial and controversial problem in these areas (Kavalu). The overcrowding in population is becoming a financial problem. Think about it, every prisoner receives three meals a day, has to have guards watching over them, clothing, and they have a jail cell to stay in. Who is paying for all of this? Is the overcrowding in prison one of the reasons America is so much in debt? The United States imprisons considerably more people than any other nation in the world. In fact, the Pew Center on the States reported in 2008 that an astounding one in every 100 adults in the U.S. now lives behind bars (Bursting at the Seams). When you abolish the death penalty, the criminals with a life sentence must stay in jail for life, this adds to the overcrowding in prisons. Prisons throughout America have become so crowded that they are running out of jail cells to house prisoners. These prisons are finding any space they can use for make shift jail cells, including old cafeterias. Living in such close quarters, prisoners join gangs, just for protection from other gangs. At any point in time, a fight can break out, which may lead to the death of an inmate. Can't we find a solution to this problem? In Nebraska alone there are 4,505 prisoners, it costs $294,672 per day to house these prisoners (Bursting at the Seams). In other words, we are spending a major amount of money to house prisoners, when some of them don't even deserve to be living.

The main reason people don't support the death penalty is because they believe that innocent people could be sentenced to death. America now uses DNA testing to help ensure that innocent people are not executed. DNA testing was first seen in the late 1980's (Romano). DNA testing can provide exact matches between suspects and crime-scene evidence such as blood, semen, and hair, even years after a murder, and it can also prove that a suspect -- or a convict -- did not commit the crime in question (Sangillo). Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence (Death Penalty Information Center). DNA testing helps our judicial system rule out innocent from the non innocent. It helps prove who is innocent on death row before they are wrongly executed.

There are many people that believe that the death penalty is inhumane. They believe that it is the denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state (Amnesty International). They think that every life is precious, so what about the victim's life, are they not precious? The death penalty today is not inhumane. Yes, every life should be viewed as precious, but not when you take someone else's life. The death penalty is seen as the denial of human rights, by murdering someone you are denying them the right to live. Today, we have lethal injection, this process does not hurt the prisoner, only stops their heart. The first drug that is injected into the body during lethal injection is called Pentothal, this causes a coma. The second drug that is used is called Tubocurarine; this causes everything in the body to become paralyzed, except for the heart. The last injection is called potassium chloride. This chemical is given last because the prisoner would feel unbearable pain if they were conscious. Potassium chloride stops the heart. Lethal injection is humane because the prisoner is unconscious before the chemical potassium chloride is injected into their veins, therefore, they do not feel pain during this process.

Sangillo, Gregg. "Death and Innocence." National Journal 39.17 (2007): 36-40. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

Romano, Lois. "When DNA Meets the Death Penalty." Truth in Justice. 12 Dec. 2003. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. <>.

Agnew, John R. "Cold Facts of Execution Lead to Scary Conclusion." Lethal Injection. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. <>.

"Capital Punishment Essays - An Eye for an Eye." 31 Jan 2011


Kavalu, Nzomo. "Overcrowding in Prisons." Free Articles Directory | Submit Articles - Web. 31 Jan. 2011. <>.

"Death Penalty: Death Sentences and Executions in 2007 | Amnesty International." Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights. Web. 02 Feb. 2011. <>.