Capital Punishment. Pro or Con?

Essay by iamgeniusHigh School, 10th gradeA+, April 2003

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Capital Punishment

by iamgenius

Capital punishment has been the center of much controversy dating back to its origins. Although the roots of capital punishment can be traced as far back as 1697 BC, arguments over its effectiveness and morality continue in the midst of its existence today. There are many people who have come up with reasonable arguments for both sides of the issue. Most people who believe that the death penalty is a fair punishment use the argument, "lex talionis", meaning, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an arm for an arm, a life for a life." (Hooker, 1996, p.34). While most people who are in opposition use the argument that capital punishment is a cruel and unusual punishment which violates the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution.

In the times surrounding the origins of capital punishment, it was used for a wide variety of crimes.

Capital punishment can also be found in the Bible. The Bible prescribed the death penalty for crimes such as murder, kidnapping and witchcraft. By 1500 AD, in England, only major felonies carried the death penalty: treason, murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson. (Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia, 1989) The United States inherited capital punishment from European settlers in the seventeenth century. They promoted the idea that heinous crimes deserved severe punishment. And this is what brought capital punishment to its present standing. In the United States justice system a proportionate punishment is achieved, in the case of a person who committed a crime, when the death penalty is enforced. (Williams, 2000, p.17-24) By 1800 Parliament had enacted many new capital offenses, and hundreds of persons were being sentenced to death each year. Today, in the United States, there are approximately 3,624 people on death row (as of 2/02). (Pro-death...