The Death Penalty
The death penalty is a form of lawful punishment whereby a guilty person is put to death through a judicial decree by the state. A death sentence is issued by the law courts, and its application is execution of the guilty perpetrator. Capital punishment has been in existence, in the past as retribution for criminal acts either based on political or religious boundaries. Past societies used to perform death sentences in public as a show of power or warning and normally the process would entail torture of the guilty person. The death sentence can only be given to a person who is above the age of eighteen. Worldwide, fifty-eight countries are active in the application of the death sentence. Abolishment of capital punishment has been carried out in ninety-eight nations so far with efforts being made to abolish the practice in other nations. Human rights activists call for the abolishment of the death penalty referring to it as an excessive form of punishment and a denial to human rights.
The death sentence is applicable in a number of capital offences with the U.S federal government’s constitution stating 41 of them. The capital offences include treason, espionage and a range of acts of murder, terrorism and drug related offences. Acts punishable by the death sentence are listed by The Bureau of Justice Statistics that clearly defines the margins of the act state by state. The range of the acts of murder include murder during a kidnapping, murder for hire, murder under influence of drugs and genocide. In the United States, the death penalty is almost only for acts of murder. Justice Anthony Kennedy quotes while writing for the majority in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2007) “As it relates to crimes against individuals, though, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken” (Baird 67). This vividly describes how capital punishment is mostly applied in crimes against individuals that resulted in the death of the victim. Espionage, treason and terrorism, are punishable by death as they pose a threat with the loss of life in high numbers though they are rapidly being faced out as criteria for the death sentence.
The first U.S Supreme Court to apply the death sentence came in 1972 in Furman v. Georgia (1972) where the perpetrator committed murder during a robbery. From the time of the first death sentence until date, many reviews on the law have been made invalidating several crimes under it like the rape of a minor and crimes under the influence of drugs. Examples of death penalty cases that brought about the debate in the U.S include Georgia inmate Troy Davis who was found guilty of shooting a police officer in 1989, Teresa Lewis a woman on death row and the first woman to die by the lethal injection in 2010. She was convicted for paying to have her husband and stepson to be killed in the year 2002. As of 2010, the permitted forms of execution include the electric chair, the gas chamber, death by gunshot, hanging and lethal injection. The various forms of execution are under constant scrutiny with new forms of executions that do not violate human rights being favored. The most favored form of execution in the United States with over 80% of death sentences applying it is the lethal injection.
Capital punishment is commonly seen as an excessive form of punishment with many human rights organizations constantly calling for the abolishment of the act. Some of the nations to have fully abolished the death sentence include China, Venezuela, Canada, France and many others. In the United States, capital punishment is not fully abolished with some states still applying the act. The death penalty was first banned in Michigan State in 1846. The death penalty was later abolished in 1972. Further reviews on the death penalty have been made specifying its applications and vividly expounding on the exceptions of using the act for instance, crimes by individuals with intellectual disability. Currently, eighteen states in the U.S have fully banned the death penalty. Texas State contains the most number of executions over history with California following closely with the highest number of death row inmates.
The death penalty
is in a decline with its applicability being gradually restricted in many
nations worldwide. A trend to abolish the death sentence has been actively
existent since the World War 2 with over 90 nations participating. States in
the U.S that have not banned the practice suspend death penalties with no
executions taking place from 1976. Worldwide organizations such as Amnesty
International have made the fight for the abolishment of the death penalty as
their main goal. Human rights activist rank the death penalty as the biggest
human right violation as it violates the right to life. Supporters of the death
penalty argue that existence of the act lowers crime rates. Different religions
have different approaches to the death penalty depending on the religious
beliefs and time. The United Nations actively supports the suspension of the
death penalty claiming the act lowers human dignity. The international body
calls for a worldwide moratorium on the matter until no religious, racial or
political bias affects the death sentence applicability. The death sentence,
though, remains to be a topic of discussion subject to review.
Baird, Robert M, and Stuart E. Rosenbaum. The Death Penalty: Debating the Moral, Legal, and Political Issues. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 2011. Print.