There have been many controversies in the history of the United States, ranging from abortion to gun control, but capital punishment has been one of the most hotly contested issues in recent decades. Capital punishment is the legal infliction of the death penalty on persons convicted of a crime (Cox). It is not intended to inflict any physical pain or any torture; it is only another form of punishment. It is irrevocable because it removes those punished from society permanently, instead of temporarily imprisoning them. The usual alternative to the death penalty is life-long imprisonment.
Capital punishment is a method of retributive punishment as old as civilization itself. The death penalty has been imposed throughout history for many crimes, ranging from blasphemy and treason to petty theft and murder. Many ancient societies accepted the idea that certain crimes deserved capital punishment. Ancient Roman and Mosaic law endorsed the notion of retaliation; they believed in the rule of "an eye for an eye."
Similarly, the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks all executed citizens for a variety of crimes. The most famous people to be executed are Socrates and Jesus. Only in England, during the reigns of King Canute (1016-1035) and William the Conqueror (1066-1087) was the death penalty not used, although the results of interrogation and torture were often fatal (Kronenwetter 12). Later, Britain reinstated the death penalty and brought it to its American colonies.
Although the death was widely accepted throughout the early United States, not everyone approved of it. In the late-eighteen century, opposition to the death penalty gathered enough strength to lead to important restrictions on the use of the death penalty in several northern states, while in the United States, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island abandoned the practice altogether (Kronenwetter 15). In...