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The History Of Capital Punishment Essay

2147 words - 9 pages

Capital punishment is the killing of a person by a government as punishment for a crime committed. Typical crimes punishable by capital punishment range from murder related crimes like in the United States (Amnesty International, 2013) to homosexuality in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Uganda (Rupar, 2014) and refusal to renounce Christianity in an Islamic state in Sudan (Dixon, 2014). In the year 2012, 21 countries recorded state sponsored executions, with the total executions in the world in ranging in the thousands, due to the undocumented executions performed in China and about 75% of all executions in the world occurred in the three countries of Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. (Amnesty International, 2013).
The use of capital punishment has been a practice that have been performed as far back as the beginning of human society. According to Michael H. Reggio’s “History of the Death Penalty”, the Code of King Hammurabi in Babylon, in the eighteenth century B.C., defined twenty-five crimes punishable by death, even though murder was not included as one of these crimes. Capital punishment for the fifth century B.C. Romans was used for punishing people who performed libel, burning a stack of corn near a house, theft by a slave, murder of a free man or a parent, among others (Reggio, 1997). Many of these punishments were also cruel and unusual, such as crucifixion and impalement (Biblical Archeology Society Staff, 2011). By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, the British colonies all had laws against crimes like arson, piracy, treason, murder, sodomy, burglary, and rape that were punishable by death (Reggio, 1997). During this time, many philosophers and political figures, like Thomas Jefferson and Cesare Beccaria, introduced the idea that capital punishment was cruel and pushed to reform the laws in the United States and limit capital punishment to be only applied to the crimes of murder and treason (Michigan State University Comm Tech Lab and Death Penalty Information Center, 2001). However, there was not much change in the United States in regards to capital punishment, where lynching of African American slaves as a form of racialized legal executions happened frequently in the late 1800’s (Gibson, 2014)
By the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, the death penalty was proposed in the United States to be a violation of the eighth amendment, as a “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” and many stride towards abolishing the practice were in place. It was not until the 1972 Supreme Court case of Furman v. Georgia that challenged the eighth amendment of the constitution stating that the death penalty was arbitrary and resulted in capricious sentencing. As a result, the Furman case succeeded in voiding 40 death penalty statutes and halting the death penalty for the time being in the United States. However, this period was short lived as the Furman case only said that the deserving crimes were unclear, which led to the individual...

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