This essay Capital Punishment has a total of 1628 words and 9 pages.
Law&Justice Class Senior Year
Law and Justice
18 March 1995
The theory "a life for a life" is "as old as civilization itself"
(McCiellan 9). The development of civilizations established what we call
justice today. Capital punishment, the execution of a criminal convicted of a
crime, or the legal taking of the life of a criminal, can be divided into three
categories: first, crimes against the person; second, crimes against property;
and third, crimes which endanger the security of the nation (Horwitz 13).
Capital punishment is still in use in the United States today, but has been
abolished by many countries (II 536). The countries that still have the death
penalty on their books, rarely employ it .
The earliest writings on the subject dates as far back as 2000 B. C.,
but it is clear that capital punishment more or less has existed since the birth
of mankind (Szumski 25). Throughout history, it has been exercised in almost all
civilizations as a retribution for severe crimes, but sometimes also for the
thrill and excitement. The Romans put slaves and prisoners in the Coliseum as
lion food while spectators enjoyed the sight (Horwitz 13).
In the early colonial states, the death penalty was applied for a vast
number of crimes, just like in England, the ruler of the states in this era (II
536). In England, in the 18th century, there were approximately 220 offenses
punishable by death. Some of them would today be considered as misdemeanors
and petty crimes (i. e. shooting of a rabbit, the theft of a pocket handkerchief,
and to cut down a cherry tree) (Horwitz 13). The majority of these were crimes
dealing with property. However, transportation became an alternative to
execution in the 17th century. A lot of these criminals were shipped to the U.S.
In the early days of our Constitution, the only segments that showed
that the death penalty existed were two amendments in the Bill of Rights (Landau
11). These amendments deal with protection and rights of the accused. The fifth
amendment prohibits the state from depriving an individual of life without due
process of law. The eight amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment.
The Supreme Court has still not determined what this phrase means. In one case
in the 1890s, the question was if capital punishment violated the eight
amendment. The court relied on the matter that "a definition of cruel and
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