The Death Penalty: An Informational Essay The death penalty in the United States stretches back to the earliest permanent settlement in the New World. “Part I: History of the Death Penalty” affirms that “The first recorded execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. ” Just twenty-four years later, in 1632, “Jane Champion became the first woman executed in the new colonies. (Part I: History of the Death Penalty)” As time progressed, the death penalty remained the punishment for crimes in the country.
However, laws became less strict and the death penalty was used fewer and fewer crimes as time moved forward. In the present, capital punishment is a heavily debated topic. The Supreme Court has ruled on several cases related to capital punishment, and groups nationally dispute the validity of the death penalty in a developed country such as the United States. The death penalty has undergone many drastic changes during its long history.
“Part I: A History of the Death Penalty” states that under the early laws, “Death sentences were carried out by such means as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. Since then, the ways of carrying out capital punishment have evolved to more efficient and generally cheaper means. “In the Tenth Century A. D. , hanging became the usual method of execution in Britain. (Part I: History of the Death Penalty)” Since then methods such as death by firing squad, electrocution, cyanide gas, and lethal injection have been carried out worldwide. “Lethal injection is now virtually the universal method of execution in the United States . . .. (Lethal Injection)” Unifying a system, even one such as the death penalty, is very important for those in favor of the death penalty.
A chaotic system is easily argued against, but becomes increasingly difficult to criticize if the system is used everywhere. Increasing tension is mounting in the debate over the death penalty worldwide. Abolitionists began to push for an end to the death penalty. Cesare Beccaria wrote the essay “On Crimes and Punishment” “theoriz[ing] that there was no justification for the state’s taking of a life. (Part I: History of the Death Penalty)” In 1948, “[T]he United Nations adopted the “Universal Doctrine of Human Rights. This doctrine proclaimed “right to life” in an absolute fashion[. ]” (Part II: History of the Death Penalty)However, strong support remains for capital punishment. A poll presented in “Part II: History of a Death Penalty” shows that 50% of Americans still prefer the death penalty over life without parole, which is the preference of 46% of Americans. While not factually based, faith is a key argument point for both sides in the dilemma. Both reference religious texts from various beliefs as rationale for their argument.
This conflict of belief will continue even after a decision is made on the legal and moral standing of the death penalty. The death penalty is an ancient practice that has withstood time, controversy, changes in law, and changes in technology. Although being sentenced to death is now only specific to crimes of murder, and the methods used in execution are far from the ancient ways of Babylon, modern capital punishment is very similar to its archaic counterpart. Both are reserved for criminals that society has given up on and both represent the most primal instincts we as humans possess.
The future is sure to hold more controversy for the death penalty, with more strong arguments continuing to be made for both sides of the debate. Maybe one day, the world will rid itself of capital punishment. However, this will not occur until a way to more adequately contain crime is discovered or a just punishment, agreeable to all, is found for murder. For now, the world waits pending our next stage of social evolution, the final decision on the death penalty. Works Cited “Lethal Injection. ” 12 Apr. 2009 http://www. capitalpunishmentuk. org/injection. html. Melusky, Joseph A. and Keith A. Pesto. Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Rights and Liberties under the Law. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. “Part I: History of the Death Penalty. ” Death Penalty Information Center. 12 Apr. 2009 http://www. deathpenaltyinfo. org/part-i-history-death-penalty. “Part II: History of the Death Penalty. ” Death Penalty Information Center. 12 Apr. 2009 http://www. deathpenaltyinfo. org/part-ii-history-death-penalty. “U. S. Constitutional Amendments. ” FindLaw: U. S. Constitution: Amendments. FindLaw. 12 Apr. 2009 http://caselaw. lp. findlaw. com/data/constitution/amendments. html.
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