Throughout history, statistics have proven that Capital

Punishment or otherwise known as the death penalty, has been

an effective deterrent of major crime. Capital Punishment is the

lawful infliction of death among criminals and has been used to

punish a wide variety of offenses for many years all over the

world (Bedau 16). When the death penalty is enforced, it shows

society that committing a capital crime has deadly consequences.

In early times, many methods of Capital Punishment were

used to deter a variety of crimes. For over a century, the uniform

method for executing persons in America was hanging, although

starvation was very common also. There were exceptions which

included spies, traitors, and deserters who would face a firing

squad. Then in 1888, New York directed the construction of an

"electric chair" (Flanders 11). It was believed that the new

harnessed power of electricity would prove to be a more scientific

and humane means of execution. The first electrocution took place

in New York in 1890.

In the past, capital crimes were much different than they are

now. Robbery and the selling of alcohol to underage customers

was a serious capital crime (McCuen and Baumgart 21). Rape was

also a crime where the criminal was sentenced to death.

In America, only thirty-seven states authorize the death

penalty. In most of those thirty-seven states, murder is the only

capital crime. The Supreme Court requires that two conditions

must be met in order for a specific murder to warrant the death

penalty (Nardo 32). The first condition is that it must be first

degree murder, which is the deliberate and premeditated taking of

life. The second is that one or more aggravating circumstances

must be present. Aggravating Circumstances refer to those aspects

of a crime that increase its severity. An example of an aggravating

circumstance would be torture in conjunction with a murder.

("Capital Punishment" 32).


Every society has faced the problem of what to do with its

most troublesome criminals. Many people in the past have argued

whether or not Capital Punishment is justified and necessary.

Most societies now believe that a criminal should receive

punishment proportional to the crime committed. Most societies

believe that such a severe punishment was necessary to install fear

in others.

While more social structures developed, the crimes

developed into public and private offenses. Public offenses such

as witchcraft and blasphemy, were punished by the state; while

private offenses still were answered by acts of personal


The enforcement of Capital Punishment in the early

twentieth century declined drastically because of all of the

controversy. Today, many more states are taking the death penalty

into consideration.


Methods of Capital Punishment used today are somewhat

different than what was used in the past. The lethal injection

method, which is by far the most common, and the "electric chair"

are the most recently used. The gas chamber is still used but in

very rare cases.

In 1924, the gas chamber was introduced in Utah with a

hope to still find a more humane way to execute the convicted.

The gas chamber method proved itself to be a very inhumane

way of execution. There were many errors while using the gas

chamber. Using too little or too much of the gas was a huge

factor that was constantly argued.

The continuing desire for a less painful, error-free means of

execution led to the development of the lethal injection method in

the 1970\'s. Initially it was approved in Oklahoma and Texas in

1977. This method involved injecting a combination of a sedative,

which is used to make the execution less painful, and a fatal


chemical agent into the condemned prisoners bloodstream. Lethal

injection was first used to carry out the death penalty in 1982.

In 1980, The American Medical Association [AMA] went

on record to oppose the participation of any physician in an

execution by lethal injection. A doctors involvment was seen as a

contradiction of the professional responsibility under the

Hippocratic Oath to save lives. As it now stands, no state that

uses lethal injection, requires a physician to be present. The

deadly solution is normally administered by medically trained


There is much evidence showing that Capital Punishment

is a deterrent of crime. The most persuasive research compared

the homicide rates of states that did and did not prescribe the

death penalty. For instance, Michigan, which abolished Capital

Punishment in 1847, was found to have had a rate higher