Death Sentence

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The death penalty is a death sentence given on a criminal convicted of a major offense. It is mandated by Congress or any other legislation for serious offences and murder. The penalty is sometimes known as capital punishment (Herrmann 3). Before imposing a sentence, the Supreme Court normally considers a number of issues. These include information on how other criminals are punished by the authorities, the magnitude of the offense, and how other jurisdictions deal with the same crime.  In the eighteenth century, the death penalty that was carried out to criminals included drowning, impalement, burning alive, beating to death, and crucifying, among other means. The felonies that merited such a punishment were capital offences. These included treason, refusing to confess to a crime, and marrying a Jew. The British introduced the sentence to America when the European settlers came to the country. The first execution in the US took place in Virginia in the year 1608. The convicted was some Captain George Kendall declared to be guilty of spying for the Republic of Spain.

The death penalty fast gained popularity in the country, and in the year 1612, it was imposed on minor offences such as killing chickens, stealing gapes and trading with the Indians. The first woman to be executed in such a manner was Jane Champion in 1632 (Herrmann 4).

However, the practice soon became unpopular among many people in America, thus they started forming abolitionist movements. A theorist known as Cesare Beccaria wrote a short essay in 1767 on crimes and punishment, which insisted that there was no justification in any way for the state to take anyone’s life, no matter how bad the crime was. This specific writing fueled the movement with the energy and an authoritative voice leading to the abolition of death penalty in Tuscany and Austria (Herrmann 5).

The essay influenced American intellectuals as well and the first attempt to put an end to the practice came when Thomas Jefferson came up with a bill to modify the death penalty laws. This law suggested that the capital punishment was to be used for the crimes of treason and murder only. It was however defeated by a single vote, thus, at the same time, providing momentum for the abolitionist movements, which were further supported by Benjamin Franklin and William Bradford, the Attorney General in Philadelphia. The latter later became the Attorney General in the US, and in 1794 made Pennsylvania to be the first state to repeal the death penalty for every other offense except for the first degree murder.

Moreover, in 1834 Pennsylvania went a step further by moving the executions away from the public and carrying them out privately in correctional facilities. They felt that the scenes were too much for the ordinary people. The movement continued gaining power and later in the nineteenth century Wisconsin and Rhode Island did away with the death penalty for all possible crimes. The manner in which the punishment was administered proceeded to change over time. The states sought for more humane ways to execute the criminal, for instance by using cyanide gas, and later, the electric chair.

The death penalty should be completely abolished for no one is in the authority to take another person’s life, even by law. Studies have also shown that the practice is not an effective deterrent to the crime (Herrmann 5). A suitable punishment to the convicted of serious crimes would be indefinite imprisonment, without any possibility of taking away their life.

Work Cited

Herrmann, Jacqueline. The History of the Death Penalty in the United States: Presented and Analyzed on the Basis of Selected US Supreme Court Cases. GRIN Verlag, 2008.

May 02, 2023
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