Abolish the Death Penalty Essay

This essay has a total of 1442 words and 6 pages.

Abolish the Death Penalty







Death Penalty

The death penalty is a major issue that brings up a lot of arguments in our society.
The most important question concerning the death penalty is whether it should be
abolished or not. I think that the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It
violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is
the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment. Race, social and economic status,
location of crime, and pure chance may be deciding factors in death sentencing. In
addition, prosecutors seek the death penalty far more frequently when the victim of the
homicide is white than when the victim is black. The actual cost of an execution is
substantially higher than the cost of imprisoning a person for life.
Death was formerly the penalty for all felonies in English law. In practice the
death penalty was never applied as widely as the law provided, as a variety of procedures
were adopted to decrease the harshness of the law. Many offenders who committed
capital crimes were pardoned, usually on condition that they agreed to be transported to
what were then the American colonies; others were allowed what was known as benefit of
clergy(Ploski 2). The beginning of benefit of clergy was that offenders who were
established priests were subject to trial by the church courts rather than the non-religious
courts. If the offender convicted of a felony could show that he had be ordained, he was
allowed to go free, subject to the possibility of being punished by the ecclesiastical courts.
In medieval times the only proof of ordination was literacy, and it became the custom by
the 17th century to allow anyone convicted of a felony to escape the death sentence by
giving proof of literacy(Ploski 4).
In 18th-century England concern with rising crime led to many statutes either
extending the number of offenses punishable with death or doing away with benefit of
clergy for existing felonies, which as a result became capital(Black 2). By the end of the
18th-century English criminal law contained about 200 capital offenses. Many offenders
who were convicted of capital crimes escaped the gallows as a result of reprieves and
royal pardons, usually on condition of transportation, and many others who were charged
with capital crimes were acquitted against the evidence, because the jury was unwilling to
see the death penalty applied in a minor case(Black 5).
The unpredictable application of the death penalty in the late 18th and early 19th
centuries led to demands for humanitarian reform. Between 1820 and 1840 most capital
statutes were repealed, and by 1861 only murder, treason, arson in a royal dockyard, and
piracy with violence retained the death penalty. Until the mid-19th century executions in
England were public, and throughout the 18th century great crowds attended the regular
executions in London and other cities(Ploski 6). Often an execution was followed by
scenes of violence and disorder in the crowd. Public opinion eventually turned against the
idea of executions as spectacles, and after 1868 executions were carried out in private
prisons( Black 7).
The earliest recorded execution committed in the U.S. under state authority was in
1864. During 1864-1890, 57 persons were executed under state authority( Kasper 8).
Since the 1960’s, 100% of the executions performed under civil authority have been state
executions(Mello 7). The power for local governments to perform executions, however,
greatly dropped during this century. Perhaps the transfer of death penalty power from
local to state governments was partially due to increased technology. Improved
communications made it easier to centralize the decision-making about executions with
state governments(Black 9).
The legal killing of a criminal by carrying out a death sentence is a type of
punishment called “capital punishment”. By taking away a criminal’s life, capital
punishment is the ultimate penalty. From 1930 to 1933, 4,085 prisoners were executed in
the United States(Haines 3). In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that laws regulating the
death penalty in various states were defined as being unconstitutional in the form in which
that existed at the time. This ruling prevented any executions from taking place period. In
1976, however, the Supreme Court upheld revised state laws regarding capital
punishment, which made it legally possible again for states to carry out death sentences.
From 1977 to 1993, 226 prisoners were executed(Kasper 2).
Capital Punishment offenses differ between the states, and not all states have a
death penalty. Most states with the death penalty choose first-degree murder as a capital
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