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Capital Punishment: This Piece Shows Both Sides To The Death Penalty. Includes History And Statistics.

2929 words - 12 pages

Capital PunishmentThe death penalty dates back to colonial times, where American colonies inherited this system of law from the British. When European settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment with them. Of course each of the colonies had it's own criminal code. In early Puritan Massachusetts, the list of capital crimes included witchcraft and adultery. While in Pennsylvania limited the death penalty to crimes of treason and murder. In other colonies one could be given the death penalty for minor offenses such as stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians. In a New York colony offenses such as striking one's mother of father, or denying the "true God" were punishable by death.In the Tenth Century A.D., hanging became the usual method of execution in Britain. The number of capital crimes in Britain continued to rise throughout the next two centuries. By the 1700's, 222 crimes were punishable by death in Britain, including stealing, cutting down a tree, and robbing a rabbit warren. The American colonies followed some of what the British did. The American colonies added some to their form of the death penalty by making the hangings public. The one being hung would have a few things to say about how he or she was sorry of committing punishable by death. Those that weren't hung were spies, traitors and deserters who would face a firing squad. Then in 1888 New York built the first electric chair, it was believed the newly harnessed power of electricity would prove a more scientific and humane means of execution. The first execution by means of the electric chair took place in New York in which William Kemmler was put to death. Soon, many other states began to adopt this execution method.In 1924, the use of cyanide gas was introduced, as Nevada sought a more humane way of executing its inmates. Gee Jon was the first person executed by lethal gas. The state tried to pump cyanide gas into Jon's cell while he slept, but this proved impossible, and the gas chamber was constructed. The continuing desire for less painful, error free means of execution led the development of the lethal injection method in the 1970's. This method was passed in Oklahoma and Texas in 1977. The method involves injecting a combination of a sedative and fatal chemical agent into the bloodstream. This form of execution was first preformed in 1982.From the 1920's to the 1940's, there was a resurgence in the use of the death penalty. This was due, in part, to the writings of criminologists, who argued that the death penalty was a necessary social measure. In the United States, Americans were suffering through Prohibition and the Great Depression. There were more executions in the 1930's than in any other decade in American history, an average of 167 per year. In the 1950's, public sentiment began to turn away from capital punishment. Many allied nations either abolished or limited the death penalty, and in the U.S., the number of...

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