An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot is a well known phrase that means when someone commits a wrongdoing against another person they must be punished the same way. But how far can this statement go, should the government have rights to kill someone if a person kills another? Or does anyone have the right to sentence a person to the death penalty even if they stole grapes or killed a chicken? The death penalty may limit crime, but it is not a positive form of punishment due to the financial burdens on the government, killings of the innocent, and moral and ethical issues.
The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is the most extreme measure of all sentencing (Schmalleger 407). The death penalty has existed since the Ancient Laws of China punishing those who committed crimes. The first documented laws were from the Eighteenth Century BC in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. In the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon there were twenty five crimes that could result in the death penalty; none of them were for murder (Frontline). Hittite Code from the Fourteenth Century BC also included the death penalty. By the Seventh Century every crime that was committed resulted in the death penalty under the Draconian Code of Athens (Death Penalty). The Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets also included the death sentence. A person could be crucified, beat to death, burned alive, impaled, or drowned for the execution (Death Penalty). A few crimes during the Fifth Century BC in the Roman Law that resulted in the death penalty were: perjury, murder of a freeman or parent, theft, cutting or grazing of crops that were planted by a farmer, or burning a house.
By the Tenth Century AD, Britain began using hanging as the primary execution strategy (Death Penalty). In the Eleventh Century, William the Conqueror stated that people cannot be hanged or executed any other way unless it is during a war (Frontline). However, by the 16th Century AD, Henry VIII allowed executions once again. Nearly 72,000 people were thought to have been executed during his reign (Death Penalty). During Henry VIII reign there were different forms of executing people used. Boiling, hanging, beheading, burning at the stake and drowning were used as execution methods (Death Penalty). These executions would occur for reasons such as marrying a Jew, treason, and not confessing crimes that were committed (Death Penalty). By 1700 in Britain there were 222 different crimes that could be punished by death (Frontline). A couple of these crimes were stealing or cutting down a tree (Frontline). But for 1823-1837 the death penalty began to eliminate 100 of the crimes that could cause an execution.
In 1767, Cesare Beccaria wrote an essay, On Crimes and Punishment, which discussed the fact there is no justification for the state to take someone’s life (Death Penalty). This essay resulted in abolishing the death penalty in Austria...