Death penalty

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Template:CrimPro Capital punishment, or the death penalty, is the execution of a convicted criminal by the State as punishment for crimes known as capital crimes or capital offenses. The word "capital" is derived from the Latin "capitalis," which means "concerning the head"; therefore, to be subjected to capital punishment means to figuratively lose your head. Historically, the execution of criminals and political opponents was used by nearly all societies both to punish crime and to suppress political dissent. Among democratic countries around the world, most European and Latin American states have abolished capital punishment while the United States, Guatemala, and most of the Caribbean as well as democracies in Asia and Africa retain it. Among nondemocratic countries, the use of the death penalty is common but not universal.

In most places that practice capital punishment today, the death penalty is reserved as a punishment for premeditated murder, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice. In some majority-Muslim countries sexual crimes, including adultery and sodomy, carry the death penalty, as do religious crimes such as apostasy. In many retentionist countries drug trafficking is also a capital offense. In China human trafficking and serious cases of corruption are also punished by the death penalty. In militaries around the world courts-martial have imposed death sentences for offenses such as cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and mutiny.

Capital punishment is a contentious issue. Supporters of capital punishment argue that it deters crime, prevents recidivism, and is an appropriate retribution for the crime of murder. Opponents of capital punishment argue that it does not deter crime more than life imprisonment, violates human rights, leads to executions of some who are wrongfully convicted, and discriminates against minorities and the poor.


[edit] The death penalty worldwide

[edit] Global distribution of death penalty

Reports from NGOs opposed to the death penalty tend to publicise the view that abolition is a global trend. In 1977, 16 countries were abolitionist, while the figure was 122 for the end of 2005. In more detail, 87 countries have abolished capital punishment for all offences, 11 for all offences except under special circumstances, and 25 others have not used it for at least 10 years. However, Sri Lanka recently declared an end to its moratorium on the death penalty. A total of 73 countries retain it. Among retentionist countries, eight use capital punishment on juveniles (under 18). China performed more than 3400 executions in 2004, amounting to more than 90% of executions worldwide. In China, some inmates are executed by firing squad, but it has been decided that all executions will be by lethal injections in the future. Iran performed 159 executions in 2004.[1]. The United States performed 60 executions in 2005. Texas conducts more executions than any of the other U.S. states that still permit capital punishment, with 359 executions between 1976 and 2006. Singapore has the highest execution rate per capita, with 70 hangings for a population of about 4 million.

In demographic terms, many retentionist countries have large populations and high population growth. When the relative demographic proportion between retentionist and abolitionist countries is taken into account, this may indicate an underlying trend of increase in retentionist population, which is seemingly shifted in favour of the number of abolitionist countries when new countries switch to being abolitionist. However, it is important to note that use of the death penalty is becoming increasingly restrained in retentionist countries, which is often masked by the population growth because it may nonetheless increase the number of executions being carried out. Japan and the U.S. are the only fully developed and democratic countries that have the death penalty. The death penalty was overwhelmingly practiced in poor, undemocratic, and authoritarian states, which often employed the death penalty as a tool of political oppression. During the 1980s, the democratization of Latin America (with its long history of progressive and Catholic tradition) swelled the rank of abolitionist countries. This was soon followed by the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, which then aspired to emulate neighbouring Western Europe. In these countries, the public support for the death penalty varies but is decreasing. The European Union and the Council of Europe both strictly require member states not to practice the death penalty. The only European country to do so is Belarus - this is one of the reasons why Belarus is excluded from the Council of Europe. On the other hand, democratisation and rapid industrialisation in Asia have been increasing the number of retentionist countries that are democratic and/or developed. In these countries, the death penalty enjoys strong public support, and the matter receives little attention from the government or the media. This trend has been followed by partial democratisation in some African and Middle Eastern countries where the support for the death penalty is high.

[edit] Public opinion

Support for the death penalty varies widely. It is a highly contentious political issue in the U.S., seen by some as part of an ongoing culture war over the response to high crime rates. In other democracies, this is not the case. In democracies both in abolitionist Europe and in retentionist Asia, the existing policy in those countries has wide public support and receives little attention by politicians and the media. In some abolitionist countries, the majority of the public supports or has supported the death penalty. Abolition was often adopted due to political change, such as when countries shifted from authoritarianism to democracy, or it became an entry condition for the European Union. In Western Europe, abolition was initially brought in by a moratorium on the death penalty that later become a de facto ban. It is rare for the death penalty to be abolished due to an active public discussion of its validity.

In abolitionist countries, debate is sometimes revived by particularly brutal murders, though few countries have brought it back after abolition. However a spike in serious, violent crimes, such as murders or terrorist attacks, have prompted some countries (such as Sri Lanka and Jamaica) to effectively end the moratorium on the death penalty. In retentionist countries, the debate is sometimes revived when miscarriage of justice occurs, though this tends to cause legislative efforts to improve the judicial process rather than to abolish the death penalty.

A Gallup International poll from 2000 found that "Worldwide support was expressed in favour of the death penalty, with just more than half (52%) indicating that they were in favour of this form of punishment." A break down of the numbers of support versus opposition: Worldwide 52%/39%, North America 66%/27%, Asia 63%/21%, Central and Eastern Europe 60%/29%, Africa 54%/43%, Latin America 37%/55%, Western Europe 34%/60%.[2]

In the U.S, polls show a majority support for the death penalty. A Gallup poll in 2002 found that 64% of the public voted in favour of capital punishment, and 56% preferred the death penalty versus 39% preferring life imprisonment.[3] A Harris Poll in 2004 concluded that 69% of Americans supported the death penalty whilst only 22% were against it. 41% of people believed that it deterred murder, while 53% stated that there was not much effect. 36% of people believed that there should be more executions versus 21% favouring a decrease.<ref>Harris Poll, "More Than Two-Thirds of Americans Continue to Support the Death Penalty" (January 2004)</ref>

[edit] International organizations

A number of regional conventions prohibit the death penalty, most notably, the Sixth Protocol (abolition in time of peace) and the Thirteenth Protocol (abolition in all circumstances) to the European Convention on Human Rights. However, most existing international treaties categorically exempt death penalty from prohibition in case of serious crime, most notably, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, while some provide optional protocols to abolish it.

Several international organizations have made the abolition of the death penalty a requirement of membership, most notably the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe. The EU and the Council of Europe are willing to accept a moratorium as an interim measure. Thus, while Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, and practices the death penalty in law, it has not made use of it since becoming a member of the Council. Other states, while having abolished de jure the death penalty in time of peace and de facto in all circumstances, have not ratified Protocol no.13 yet and therefore have no international obligation not to resort to the death penalty in time of war or imminent threat of war (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Poland and Spain).

Turkey has recently, as a move towards EU membership, undergone a reform of its legal system. Previously there was a de facto moratorium on death penalty in Turkey as the last execution took place in 1984. The death penalty was removed from peacetime law in August 2002, and in May 2004 Turkey amended its constitution in order to remove capital punishment in all circumstances. It ratified Protocol no. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights in February 2006. As a result, Europe is a continent free of the death penalty in practice (all states but Russia, which has entered a moratorium, having ratified the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights), with the sole exception of Belarus, which is not a member of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been lobbying for Council of Europe observer states who practice the death penalty, namely the U.S. and Japan, to abolish it or lose their observer status.

Among non-governmental organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are noted for their opposition to the death penalty.

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[edit] Juvenile capital punishment

The death penalty for juvenile offenders (criminals aged under 18 years at the time of their crime) has become increasingly rare. The only countries still officially supporting the practice are Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and YemenTemplate:Citation needed. Countries that have executed juvenile offenders since 1990 include China, D.R. Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the U.S. Amnesty International has recorded 47 verified executions, in several countries, of both juveniles and adults who had been convicted of committing their offenses as juveniles <ref></ref>. China does not allow for the execution of those under 18; nevertheless, child executions have reportedly taken place <ref></ref>. The United States Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for offenders under the age of 16 in Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), and for all juveniles in Roper v. Simmons (2005). Since 1642, an estimated 364 juvenile offenders were executed by the states and federal government of the US and its ancestral political bodies<ref>Rob Gallagher, Table of juvenile executions in British America/United States, 1642-1959.</ref>. In 2002, the United States Supreme Court outlawed the execution of individuals with mental retardation.<ref>Supreme Court bars executing mentally retarded Law Center. June 25, 2002.</ref>

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids capital punishment for juveniles, has been signed and ratified by all countries except for the USA and Somalia <ref>UNICEF, Convention of the Rights of the Child - FAQ: "The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified this celebrated agreement. Somalia is currently unable to proceed to ratification as it has no recognized government. By signing the Convention, the United States has signalled its intention to ratify. but has yet to do so."</ref>. The UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights maintains that the death penalty for juveniles has become contrary to customary international law.

[edit] The death penalty in specific places

Template:See also Belarus · Canada · People's Republic of China · Denmark · Europe · France · Germany · India · Japan · New Zealand · Singapore · Sweden · United Kingdom · United States

[edit] History

The use of formal execution extends at least to the beginning of recorded history. Most historical records as well as various primitive tribal practices indicate that the death penalty was a part of the communal justice system. Communal punishment for wrongdoing generally included compensation by the wrongdoer, corporal punishment, shunning, banishment and execution. However, it should be noted that within a small community, crimes were rare and murder was almost always a crime of passion. Moreover, most would hesitate to inflict death on a member of the community. For this reason, execution and even banishment were extremely rare. Usually, compensation and shunning were enough as a form of justice.

However, these are not effective responses to crimes committed by outsiders. Consequently, even small crimes including theft committed by outsiders were considered to be an assault on the community and were severely punished. The methods varied from beating and enslavement to executions. However, the response to crime committed by neighbouring tribes or communities included formal apology, compensation or blood feuds.

A blood feud or vendetta occurs when arbitration between families or tribes fails or an arbitration system is non-existent. This form of justice was common before the emergence of an arbitration system based on state or organized religion. It may result from crime, land disputes or a code of honour. "Acts of retaliation underscore the ability of the social collective to defend itself and demonstrate to enemies (as well as potential allies) that injury to property, rights, or the person will not go unpunished."<ref>Translated from Waldmann, op.cit., p.147.</ref> However, it is often difficult to distinguish between a war of vendetta and one of conquest.

Elaborations of tribal arbitration of feuds included peace settlements often done in a religious context and compensation system. Compensation was based on the principle of substitution which might include material (e.g. cattle, slave) compensation, exchange of brides or grooms, or payment of the blood debt. Settlement rules could allow for animal blood to replace human blood, or transfers of property or blood money or in some case an offer of a person for execution. It should be noted that the person offered for execution did not have to be an original perpetrator of the crime because the system was based on tribes, not individuals. Blood feuds could be regulated at meetings, such as the Viking things.<ref>Lindow, op.cit. (primarily discusses Icelandic things).</ref> Systems deriving from blood feuds may survive alongside more advanced legal systems or be given recognition by courts (e.g. trial by combat). One of the more modern refinements of the blood feud is the duel.

In certain part of the world, nations in the form of ancient republics, monarchies or tribal oligarchies emerged. These nations were often united by common linguistic, religious or family ties. Moreover, expansion of these nations often occurred by conquest of neighbouring tribes or nations. Consequently, various classes of royalty, nobility, various commoners and slave emerged. Accordingly, the systems of tribal arbitration were submerged into a more unified system of justice which formalised the relation between the different "classes" rather than "tribes". The earliest and most famous example is Code of Hammurabi which set the different punishment and compensation according to the different class/group of victims and perpetrators. The Pentateuch (Old Testament) lays down the death penalty for murder, kidnapping, magic, violation of the Sabbath, blasphemy, and a wide range of sexual crimes, although evidence suggests that actual executions were rare.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref> A further example comes from Ancient Greece, where the Athenian legal system was first written down by Draco in about 621 BC: the death penalty was applied for a particularly wide range of crimes. The word draconian derives from Draco's laws. Similarly, in medieval and early modern Europe, the death penalty was also used as a generalized form of punishment. For example, in 1700s Britain, there were 222 crimes which were punishable by death, including crimes such as cutting down a tree or stealing an animal.<ref> Almost invariably, however, sentences of death for proerty crimes were commuted to tranposrtation to a penal colony or to a place where the felon was worked as an indentured servant/Michigan State University and Death Penalty Information Center</ref>

The last several centuries have seen the emergence of modern nation-states. Almost fundamental to the concept of nation state is the idea of citizenship. This caused justice to be increasingly associated with equality and universality, which in Europe saw an emergence of the concept of natural rights. Another important aspect is that emergence of standing police forces and permanent penitential institutions. The death penalty become an increasingly unnecessary deterrent and prevention of minor crimes such as theft. As well, in countries like Britain, lsaw enforcment officials became alarmed when juries tended to acquit non-violent felons rather than risk a conviction that could result in execution. The 20th century was one of the bloodiest of the human history. Massive killing occurred as the resolution of war between nation-states. A large part of execution was summary execution of enemy combatants. Also, modern military organisations employed capital punishment as a means of maintaining military discipline. In the past, cowardice, absence without leave, desertion, insubordination, looting, shirking under enemy fire and disobeying orders were often crimes punishable by death. The method of execution since firearms came into common use has almost invariably been firing squad. Moreover, various authoritarian states—for example those with fascist or communist governments, or dictatorships—employed the death penalty as a potent means of political oppression. Partly as a response to such excessive punishment, civil organizations have started to place increasing emphasis on the concept of human rights and abolition of the death penalty.

[edit] Movements towards "humane" execution

Dr. Guillotin

In early New England, public executions were a very solemn and sorrowful occasion, sometimes attended by large crowds, who also listened to a Gospel message <ref>Article from the Connecticut Courant (December 1 1803)</ref> and remarks by local preachers Template:Citation needed and politicians. The Connecticut Courant records one such public execution on December 1, 1803, saying, "The assembly conducted through the whole in a very orderly and solemn manner, so much so, as to occasion an observing gentleman acquainted with other countries as well as this, to say that such an assembly, so decent and solemn, could not be collected anywhere but in New England." Template:Citation needed

Trends in most of the world have long been to move to less painful, or more "humane", executions. France developed the guillotine for this reason in the final years of the 18th century while Britain banned drawing and quartering in the early 19th century. Hanging by turning the victim off a ladder or by dangling him from the back of a moving cart, which causes death by suffocation, was replaced by "hanging" where the subject is dropped a longer distance to dislocate the neck and sever the spinal cord. In the U.S., electrocution and the gas chamber, which were introduced as more humane alternatives to hanging, have been almost entirely superseded by lethal injection, which in turn has been criticized as being too painful. Nevertheless, some countries still employ slow hanging methods, beheading by sword and even stoning, although the latter is rarely employed.


[edit] Public Execution vs. Private Execution in the United States

The last public execution in America was that of Rainey Bethea in Owensboro, Kentucky, on August 14, 1936. It was the last death sentence in the nation at which the general public was permitted to attend without any legally-imposed restrictions. "Public execution" is a legal phrase, defined by the laws of various states, and carried out pursuant to a court order. Similar to "public record" or "public meeting," it means that anyone who wants to attend the execution may do so.

About 1890, a political movement developed in the United States to mandate private executions. Several states enacted laws which required that the executions be conducted within a "wall" or "enclosure" to "exclude public view." (These are significant legal phrases.) For example, in 1919, the Missouri legislature adopted a statute (L.1919, p. 781) which required, "the sentence of death should be executed within the county jail, if convenient, and otherwise within an enclosure near the jail." The Missouri law permitted the local sheriff to distribute passes to individuals (usually local citizens) whom he believed should witness the hanging, but the sheriffs--for various reasons--sometimes denied passes to individuals who wanted to watch. Missouri executions conducted after 1919 were not "public" because they were conducted behind closed walls, and the general public was not permitted to attend.

Present-day statutes from across the nation utilize the same words and phrases, requiring modern executions to take place within a wall or enclosure to exclude public view. Connecticut (CGSA 54-100) requires death sentences to be conducted in an "enclosure" which "shall be so constructed as to exclude public view." Kentucky (KRS 431.220) and Missouri (VAMS 546.730) statutes contain substantially identical language. New Mexico's statute (NMSA 31-14-12) requires executions be conducted in a "room or place enclosed from public view." Massachusetts (MGLA. 279 § 60) requires executions to take place "within an enclosure or building." North Carolina (NCGSA § 15-188) requires death sentences to be executed "within the walls" of the penitentiary, as does Oklahoma (22 Okl.St.Ann. § 1015) and Montana (MCA 46-19-103). Ohio (RC § 2949.22) requires, "The enclosure shall exclude public view." Similarly, Tennessee (TCA § 40-23-116) requires "an enclosure" for "strict seclusion and privacy." Federal law (18 U.S.C.A. § 3596 and 28 CFR 26.3) specifically limits the witnesses to be present at an execution..

Today, there are always witnesses to executions--sometimes numerous witnesses, but it is the law, not the number of witnesses present, which determines whether the execution is "public."

All of the executions which have taken place since the 1936 hanging of Bethea in Owensboro have been conducted within a wall or enclosure. For example, Fred Adams was legally hanged in Kennett, Missouri, on April 2, 1937, within a 10-foot wooden stockade. Roscoe "Red" Jackson was hanged within a stockade in Galena, Missouri, on May 26, 1937. Two Kentucky hangings were conducted after Galena in which numerous persons were present within a wooden stockade, that of John "Peter" Montjoy in Covington, Kentucky on December 17, 1937, and that of Harold Van Venison in Covington on June 3, 1938. An estimated 400 witnesses were present for the hanging of Lee Simpson in Ryegate, Montana, on December 30, 1939. The execution of Timothy McVeigh on June 11, 2001, was witnessed by some 300 people (some by closed circuit television), so some might call it a "public execution," even though federal law does not permit public executions. See 18 U.S.C.A. § 3596 and the federal administrative regulation implementing it, 28 CFR § 26.4. A “public execution” means that all the public has access.

[edit] Abolitionism in different countries

Marquis of Beccaria

Although the death penalty was briefly banned in China between 747 and 759, modern opposition to the death penalty stems from the book of the Italian Cesare Beccaria Dei Delitti e Delle Pene ("On Crimes and Punishments"), published in 1764. In this book, Beccaria aimed to demonstrate not only the injustice, but even the futility from the point of view of social welfare, of torture and the death penalty. Influenced by the book, Grand Duke Leopold II of Habsburg, famous enlightened monarch and future Emperor of Austria, abolished the death penalty in the then-independent Granducato di Toscana (Tuscany), the first permanent abolition in modern times. On 30 November 1786, after having de facto blocked capital executions (the last was in 1769), Leopold promulgated the reform of the penal code that abolished the death penalty and ordered the destruction of all the instruments for capital execution in his land. In 2000 Tuscany's regional authorities instituted an annual holiday on 30 November to commemorate the event.

In 1849, the Roman Republic became the first country to ban the capital punishment in its constitution. Portugal abolished the death penalty in 1867. The last execution had taken place in 1846.

In the United States, the state of Michigan was the first state to ban the death penalty, on March 1, 1847. The 160-year ban on capital punishment has never been repealed, and as such the state is considered to be the first democracy in recorded history to have eliminated capital punishment. Currently, 12 states of the U.S. and the District of Columbia ban capital punishment.

[edit] Religious views


Execution by hanging in Kuwait. Doctors examine the bodies to confirm death.

The official teachings of Judaism technically approve the death penalty in principle but the standard of proof required for application of death penalty is extremely stringent, and in practice, it has been abolished by various Talmudic decisions, making the situations in which a death sentence could be passed effectively impossible and hypothetical.

Although some interpret that John 8:7 of the Bible condemns the death penalty, Christian positions, as on many social issues, vary. The Roman Catholic Church traditionally supported capital punishment as per the theology of Thomas Aquinas (who accepted the death penalty as a necessary deterrent and prevention method, but not as the means of vengeance), but under the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, this position was reversed. His encyclical Humanae Vitae denounced abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia as murder (see Consistent Life Ethic). The Catholic Church holds that the death penalty is no longer necessary if it can be replaced by incarceration.<ref>The Catholic Church actually states that capital punishment should be avoided unless it is the only way to defend society from the offender in question, and that with today's penal system such a situation requiring an execution is either rare or non-existent, Papal encyclical, Evangelium Vitae</ref>. The Lambeth Conference of Anglican and Episcopalian bishops condemned the death penalty in 1988. In Protestantism, both Luther and Calvin followed the traditional reasoning in favor of capital punishment, and the Augsburg Confession explicitly defends it; the Mennonites and Friends, among other, smaller groups, opposed it. Both proponents and opponents derive their own stance from the Bible itself Until recently, however, the retentionist position was held by all but a relatively few groups.

Scholars of Islam hold it to be permissible but the victim or the family of victim has the right to pardon. The teachings of other religions also tends to discourage death penalty as the means of vengeance but accept it as the means of deterrent and prevention, while the question of the effectiveness of incarceration as a substitute remain outside of theological debate.

[edit] Capital Punishment in arts and media

File:Francisco de Goya y Lucientes 023.jpg
Executions of the Third of May by Goya.

As an incidental plot element, the arts are replete with scenes of capital punishment. In many stories, the villain is ultimately executed, or the hero is threatened with execution. In such cases, the execution itself often occurs "off stage." In certain works, though, capital punishment forms a more important thematic element. Many of these works are abolitionist in nature, but sometimes capital punishment is used as a metaphor for ome other theme, such as sacrifice or mortality.

The Gospels describe the execution of Jesus Christ at length, and these accounts form the central story of the Christian faith. Depictions of the crucifixion are abundant in Christian artistry.

Valerius Maximus' story of Damon and Pythias was long a famous example of fidelity. Damon was sentenced to death (the reader does not learn why) and his friend Pythias offered to take his place.

Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities ends in a climactic execution, and the image of a man going to the guillotine has become synonymous with the novel.

Victor Hugo's The Last Day of a Condemned Man (Le Dernier Jour d'un condamné) describes the thoughts of a condemned man just before his execution; also notable is its preface, in which Hugo argues at length against capital punishment.

Anaïs Nin's anthology Little Birds included an erotic depiction of a public execution.

William Burroughs' novel Naked Lunch also included erotic and surreal depictions of capital punishment. In the obscenity trial against Burroughs, the defense claimed successfully that the novel was a form of anti-death-penalty argument, and therefore had reedeming political value.

In The Chamber by John Grisham, a young lawyer tries to save his Klansman grandfather from being executed. The novel is noted for presentation of anti-death penalty materials.

Capital punishment has been the basis of many motion pictures including Dead Man Walking based on the book by Sister Helen Prejean, The Green Mile, and The Life of David Gale.


See List of protest songs for a list of protest songs about capital punishment.

[edit] Methods of execution


[edit] External links

[edit] Resources opposing capital punishment

[edit] Resources favoring capital punishment

[edit] Religious views on the death penalty

[edit] Notes

<references />


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