The death penalty has been an issue of debate throughout the world, from its establishment as a public display, to it’s banning, and through this day remaining controversial. In biblical times the death penalty was widely used in brutal inhumane ways such as crucifixion and stoning. This form of punishment spread throughout the world, eventually leading to Britain bringing this practice to America in the early 1800’s. Scholars such as Voltaire and Montesquieu began to write on the banning of this form of punishment, but during the times of war, capitol punishment opposition was and still is put on the backburner as a major public concern due to more urgent issues, such as slavery, or international terrorism facing countries. The people of the early 1900’s developed new ways of performing the death penalty, such as the electric chair and later lethal injection. This new approach to an old punishment brought the rate in which it was used up. In the 60’s, along with civil rights, humanity focused in on the issue of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and the decline in support began for capitol punishment worldwide. In the United States, limitations on the use of this method of execution began to be instated by the consent of each of the states, one of the first cases being U.S. vs. Jackson. Today the world seems to be split on this issue, grasping for an alternative method of fighting crime. (Randa)
Public opinion is an important part of how our democratic nation makes important decisions. It might therefore be wise to have an in depth understanding of what the American public thinks of capital punishment. As noted from a glimpse at the history of the death penalty, people rely heavily on their moral claims and opinions when dealing with this issue. This may be due to the uncertainty of ‘factual’ evidence that frequently changes with time. (Nice) However, moral claims are complex because they are generally opinion based, which is why they must be thoroughly analyzed. Throughout the history of humanity, race has always been a divisor of opinion. Studies have found that minorities are less supportive for the use of the death penalty because killers of whites are more likely to be sentenced to death than killers of minorities. Blacks consist of 50% of those executed, while only comprising 10% of the population. (Nice) In a study of executions in the United States from 1995-2000, “44% involved African Americans, 20% involved Latinos, and 8% involved Asians and Native Americans,“ (Gallup). Minorities tend to be more concerned with the rights of the criminal and the unfairness of the courts, while whites look more at the effects of the criminals on the victim and tend to be more concerned with getting justice. However, this does not imply that as a whole whites are for this means of punishment. Class, location, beliefs, age, and political affiliations contribute to the difference of opinion for all people.