Case Study On Death Penalty

Written by admin on November 20th, 2011

Death penalty is one of the most controversial legal and social issues in the world today. It is long debated public issue which pits those in support of death penalty and those against death penalty.  Death penalty, otherwise referred to as capital punishment, is process in criminal justice where individuals are punished through death. Therefore it can be described as the process of killing a person through a judicial process as a way of punishing individuals for their crime.  Death penalty is awarded for crimes which are regarded as capital crimes or offenses. Death penalty is a long practiced form of punishment but in the recent past, there has been call for end of death penalty in presumption that it is against human rights.  The call for end of death penalty has taken different dimensions and has been argued for even on religious platform on the assumption that no individuals have the right to take another persons life.

 On the other side are those who feel that death penalty is the proper punishment for capital crimes like death since it would serve as a better means of deterring individuals from committing such crime. In an apparent application of the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ principle, those in favor of death punishment argue that those individuals who have committed capital offenses like murder should not be spared of the similar offence they have caused to their victims.  While a number of countries have abolished death penalty, there are many countries that are not willing to do so. Apparently, death penalty is frequently executed in countries considered to have extreme or radical political regimes like China, Iran, and others. There are many countries which have not abolished death penalty although they have thousands of inmates in the line of waiting for the hangman. Some even die in jail without seeing the hangman.  This is clear indication that death penalty is a debatable issues that may not be solved anytime soon as there are many forces in favor of or against the death penalty.
History of the Death penalty

Death penalty for criminals is not new in the world. Since the time immemorial, historical records show that execution of criminals was practiced in almost all societies. Execution was used as way of punishing criminals and also to suppress political dissent. For example, execution was evident during French revolution were political dissents were publicly executed as a means of punishment. In 1894, anarchists were guillotined in France as a form of punishment (Schabas 27).  However, as a part of criminal justice, death penalty has been used to punish crimes like murder, espionage, treason, military injustices, and in many other places.  In extreme radical societies, execution was awarded for crimes like sexual crimes as well as religious crimes like apostasy, mostly in Islamic nations.

Historical records show that in most early societies, death penalty was used as a punishment for wrong doings. It was a cruel form of punishment that was accorded for crimes that were considered most grave to that particular community (Schabas 2). In some communities, death punishment was just a form of primitive practices that was considered as a form of justice system.

Death penalty was evident in early civilization like Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and even among primitive people. In Babylonians history, it is recorded that death penalty was a feature of the criminal justice system.  During the Hummurabi’s dominion, death penalty was  included in the Hammurabi Code, which is considered the first legal code in the world (Schabas 67). In Roman Empire, the public intervened and punished people for different crimes that ranged from general public order and others, where people faced public execution. Romans developed the Law of the XII tables which shows cruel death punishment like beheading, hanging, drowning, cutting limbs, and others (Schabas 65). In early Egyptians, death penalty was applied for those who broke the Maat, which was a universal law that was strictly observed in Egypt.

Since 1930s, death penalty has been applied in different ways in the United States. It is from 1930 that Bureau of Justices Statistics started keeping records on death penalty and these records clearly shows that death penalty in the United States decreased up to 1970s but peaked up again in 1990s though it has never reached 1930s levels (UAA Justice Center).  Between 1930 and 1967, a total of 3,859 individuals were executed under civil jurisdiction.  Statistics shows that 54% of those executed were blacks, 45% were whites while 1% were other races (UAA Justice Center).  Statistics also shows that there were more executions in the south compared to the North. Three of the five executions took place in the Southern U.S with the State of Georgia showing the highest executions.  Beginning 1990s, 10 states maintained laws authorizing death penalty although there was rising opposition to death penalty and call for its abolishment. Throughout 1970s and 1980s, there were little or not executions at all but most states reinstated it from 1970s. This was a result of enactment of new death penalty laws which defined crimes which were punishable by death. In 1977, the Supreme Courted refined laws on death penalty and since then, death penalty has remained a part of United States criminal justice system despite the many deaths calling for its abolishment (UAA Justice Center).

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