An Overview of Capital Punishment Essay

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An Overview of Capital Punishment


Capital punishment is punishment by death for committing a crime. Since

the early 1800's most executions have resulted from convictions for murder. The

death penalty has also been imposed for such serious crimes as armed robbery,

kidnapping, rape, and treason. There is much disagreement about

whether or not capital punishment is effective in discouraging crime.

In the early 1990's, 36 states of the United States had laws that permitted

the death penalty. These laws were greatly influenced by a 1972 decision of the

Supreme Court of the United States which had banned the death penalty as it was

then imposed, describing the carrying out of the
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Some of the more vicious methods were stoning, impaling,

boiling in oil, burned alive, and being stretched on the rack.

One of the most notorious ways of executions was being beheaded by a

guillotine. This machine, invented by Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814),

became the official instrument of execution in France during the French

Revolution. It dropped a huge knife that cut off the victim's head. It was

regarded as quick and merciful. The guillotine was used until 1981, when

capital punishment was abolished in France.

The death penalty was a popular method of punishment in England.

Imprisonment was hardly ever used. In the 15th century there were eight capital

crimes: treason , petty treason, murder, larceny, robbery, burglary, rape, and

arson. Other crimes were soon added to the list, so that by the year 1780 there

were 350.

Executions were common enough to require gallows in every district of

London. Bodies were sometimes left hanging as a warning to other would-be

criminals. If the hangman were so inclined, he might give the convicted brandy

to dull his senses or pull on his legs so he would die quicker.

It was estimated that between the years 1805 and 1810, 3,000 death

sentences were handed out. At this time, however, the laws were not strictly

enforced. A large number of criminals were never executed because of royal

pardon or the "benefit of

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