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Death Penalty Past And Present Essay

1633 words - 7 pages

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, has been around since the early Eighteenth century B.C. Since then the crimes punishable by death has decreased dramatically. The death penalty has been used by countries around the world. The punishment of death has also affected all classes of society from royalty to poverty. The method of the death penalty has also changed with the time. There have been such methods from boiling to hanging to the common choice of method of lethal injection.History of the Death PenaltyThe death penalty was first noted to be used in history by the use of King Hammaurabi of Babylon in the Eighteenth Century. At the time, there were 25 crimes punishable by ...view middle of the document...

During this time, laws punishable by death varied from colony to colony. In 1794, backed by Dr. Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin and William Bradford, Pennsylvania became the first state to repeal the death penalty except for cases of first-degree murder. In the early Nineteenth Century, many of the states in the United States had reduced the crimes punishable by death and had begun building state prisons. "In 1834, Pennsylvania became the first state to move executions away from the public eye and carrying them out in correctional facilities" (D.P.I.C., ¶9). In 1846, the state of Michigan made treason the only crime punishable by death, making it the first state to do so; soon after Rhode Island and Wisconsin revoked the death penalty for all crimes. In 1888, the electric chair was introduced. This method of execution was established by New York and many states followed soon after. By 1917, six states had done away with the death penalty, while three states changed their state legislation to allow only that treason and first-degree murder is punishable by death. Due to current affairs with the Russian Revolution and the U.S. entering into World War I, by the end of 1920, five of the six states reinstated the capital punishment. Cyanide gas was first used in Nevada, in 1924, in an effort to execute convicted inmates more humanely. The first attempt of using cyanide was used on an inmate named Gee Jon. Gas was pumped into Gee Jon's cell while he slept. This method did not work and thus the gas chamber was constructed. During 1920s to the 1940s criminologist wrote, "that the death penalty was a necessary social measure" (D.P.I.C., ¶15). During the 1930s, the average executions in the U.S. were 167, more than any other decade. During the 1950s, the use of the capital punishment decreased dramatically in many allied nations across the world. This number continued to decrease dramatically into the 1960s. In the 1960s, the public support for the use of the capital punishment was polled at 42%. In the early 1960s, the use of the death penalty was challenged to its legality. In prior centuries, the constitution was interpreted as being legal under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment. "However, in the early 1960s, it was suggested that the death penalty was a 'cruel and unusual' punishment, and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment" (D.P.I.C., ¶17). Supreme Court Justices found that the use of the death penalty, "that the Eighth Amendment contained an 'evolving standard of decency that marked the progress of a maturing society'" (D.P.I.C., ¶17). During the late 1960s, the Supreme Court began to refine the way that the death penalty was administered. "On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court effectively voided 40 death penalty statutes, thereby commuting the sentences of 629 death row inmates around the country and suspending the death penalty because existing statutes were no longer valid" (D.P.I.C., ¶18)....

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