Capital Punishment

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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Capital Punishment is defined as the penalty of death for the commission of a crime. It is usually the punishment sentenced for murder and in some states rape, aircraft hijacking, kidnapping, drug trafficking, espionage, perjury, and treason. The ongoing feud of whether capital punishment should be permitted or not will wage on because this issue is cut with a very double edged sword. Many circumstances make it very difficult to enforce such an absolute punishment. However, just as many circumstances come in to play when dealing with people who have, without a doubt, committed heinous, inhuman crimes.

In 1622, the first legal execution took place in Virginia with the execution of Daniel Frank. Frank was hung for theft. Back then, there were 13 crimes punishable by death, including idolatry and witchcraft. During the seventeenth century, a great number of women executed. Between 1608 and 1708, 24% of the executions performed legally in the early American colonies were women.

In the eighteenth century, 48% of the performed executions were African American people. Beside murder, the crime most African Americans were executed for was slave revolt.

Over the next two centuries, the numbers would increase but the percentages would remain about the same. From 1709 to 1808, a total of 1,554 people were recorded as being legally executed. From 1809 to 1908, 6,630 people were legally executed.

Since 1976, 976 convicted murderers have been executed in the United States. Of those executed, 565 (58%) were white and 328 (34%) were black. 10 were female.

Over the years, rules and standards were set for execution but it was never completely prohibited. In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and the Eighth Amendment stated that cruel and unusual punishment was illegal. In 1793, Pennsylvania created degrees of murder to help stipulate which offenses...