The Death Penalty
The Death Penalty
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The Death Penalty
Definition and History of The Death Penalty
The death penalty is the punishment by death that is usually administered to offenders who have committed various capital offences and is also known as capital punishment. The various crimes and offences that lead to capital punishment in various countries include murder, robbery with violence that leads to one or more dead individuals. Other offences that are punished through death penalty include adultery mostly in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, human trafficking in China. Treason, espionage and desertion are serious offences during times of war that are usually punished by death penalty. Death penalty takes various execution methods that include hanging where a rope is tied around an offender, and he/she is then released from a high height, the electric chair where the offender dies from electricity circulation in their body. Firing squad is another method in which the convicts are shot by some people in a line. Other methods include stoning and the cutting off of one’s head that was mostly used in the earlier periods in many countries. (‘The Death Penalty’, 1955).
The concept of the death penalty has been in existence from as early as the Eighteenth Century B.C where well-known death penalty laws are documented in the era of King Hammurabi of the Babylon Empire. (Deathpenaltyinfo.org, 2015). The King set 25 different offences that required the death penalty. The death sentence was to be done through various means that included beating to death, crucifixion, impalement, drowning and being burned alive. The first recorded case of death penalty involved an Egyptian offender who had been accused of practicing magic in the 16th Century B.C. (‘The Death Penalty’, 1955)
At around the 5th Century BC, the Romans through the Twelve Tablets Law codified the death penalty for offences such as the grazing of a farmer’s crops, perjury, arson, and creating disturbance during the night. The death penalty methods included stoning by death, crucifixion, being buried alive and drowning at sea. The Mosaic Law, which contained laws that were to be observed by the Jews, included a wide range of crimes that were eligible for death penalty. The different execution techniques as per the laws included hanging, stoning of the offenders, beheading and crucifixion. This law was later applied to the death of Jesus Christ through crucifixion by the Pharisees. Crucifixion was later abolished by the Romans as a punishment technique.
The Last Executions
The death sentence has been on the decline around the world, and some countries have completely abolished it with some cases clearly documented as the last executions. New Zealand abolished its penalty in 1961, and Walter Bolton became the last to be executed. He had been convicted of poisoning his wife, Beatrice by putting traces of arsenic in her tea and was subsequently hanged at Mount Eden Prison for his crimes. The execution generated many views regarding the death penalty with some people being of the view that it was ethically wrong to take another person’s life and others cited religion as opposing the death penalty. There was much intrigue in the case with circumstantial evidence showing later that he may have been innocent as the same traces were found in the farm water. The intrigue may have led to the later abolishment of the death penalty. (Nzhistory.net.nz, 1957).
In the UK, the executions of Peter Anthony Allen and Gwynne Owen Evans who were tried and convicted of engaging in the same murder was the last time in which death penalty was applied. The crime took place on April, 7th 1964. John Alan West, the victim, was found dead at his home. His neighbor had been woken up by noise and on looking through his window, saw a car disappear down the street. On calling the police, the victim was found dead with a stab in his chest. A medallion inscribed,” G.O.Evans, July 1961” was found on a cloth in the house. The two suspects had criminal records, and Evans had Allen’s watch. The two were tried in June 1964 at Manchester Crown Court, found guilty and sentenced to hanging. Evans was hanged on 13 August 1964 at Strangeways Prison while Peter was hanged at Walton Prison. (Overington, n.d.)
Influence of The Death Penalty to The Public
Opinion on the justification of the death penalty has always been divided attracting many proponents and critics alike. Various reasons have been given to support the death penalty that contributes to a positive effect on the general Public. The death sentence can act as a deterrence to the existing criminals from participating in any other criminal activities lest they get the same treatment. The situation will lead to an overall reduction in the crime rate in the community. When one by luck escapes from being hanged yet his friends were hanged for a certain crime, he cannot dare engage in any future crime, and it has always been seen that he would change and become one of the cleanest individuals in the community.
The death penalty may on one end lead to a negative effect on the public that may lead to increased crime rate. An affected close relative of a convict who has just seen his relative hanged may result to revenge on the victim’s family or anybody who ensured that their relative was convicted. The revenge may lead to more death in the community and hence increased the crime rate. The situation may also lead to hatred among various families who were on opposite sides of the case.
Deathpenaltyinfo.org, (2015). Part I: History of the Death Penalty | Death Penalty Information Center.
The Death Penalty. (1955). The Lancet, 266(6882), 181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(55)92745-8Nzhistory.net.nz, (1957). The last execution – The death penalty | NZHistory, New Zealand history online.
Overington, C. Last woman hanged.
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