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Capital Punishment

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Throughout history, statistics have confirmed that capital punishment has been an effective deterrent of major crime.  Capital Punishment is the lawful infliction of death among criminals and has been used to punish a wide variety of offenses for many years all over the world.  When the death penalty is enforced, it shows society that committing a capital crime has deadly consequences.

        In early times, many methods of Capital Punishment were used to deter a

variety of crimes. Deterrence means to punish somebody as an example and to create fear in other people for the punishment. Death penalty is one of those extreme punishments that would create fear in the mind of any sane person. Ernest van den Haag, in his article "On Deterrence and the Death Penalty" mentions, "One abstains from dangerous acts because of vague, inchoate, habitual and, above all, preconscious fears" (193). Everybody fears death, even animals. Most criminals would think twice if they knew their own lives were at stake. Although there is no statistical evidence that death penalty deters crime, but we have to agree that most of us fear death. For over a century, the uniform method for executing persons in America was hanging, although starvation was very common also.  There were exceptions which included spies, traitors, and deserters who would face a firing squad.  Then in 1888, New York directed the construction of an "electric chair".  It was believed that the new harnessed power of electricity would prove to be a more scientific and humane means of execution.  The first electrocution took place in New York in  1890.

        In the past, capital crimes were much different than they are now. Robbery and the selling of alcohol to underage customers was a serious capital crime.  Rape was also a crime where the criminal was punishable by death. In America, only thirty-seven states authorize the death penalty.  In most of those thirty-seven states, murder is the only capital crime.  The Supreme Court requires that two conditions must be met in order for a specific murder to warrant the death penalty. The first condition is that it must be first degree murder, which is the deliberate and premeditated taking of life.  The second is that one or more aggravating circumstances must be present. Aggravating Circumstances refer to those aspects of a crime that increase its severity.  An example of an aggravating circumstance would be torture in conjunction with a murder.

Every society has faced the problem of what to do with its most troublesome criminals.  Many people in the past have argued whether or not capital punishment is justified and necessary. Statistics show that most people in the United States believe that a criminal’s punishment should fit the crime that he had committed.  Most societies in the United States believe that such a severe punishment is necessary to deter others from committing the same crime. Today most of the criminal offenses are handled by the state. However, far back into the twentieth century the state did not always offer punishment. When the state could not up hold the law, it was up to the person who was affected by the crime to get what they deserved on their own.

        The enforcement of Capital Punishment in the early twentieth century declined drastically because of all of the controversy.  Today, many more states are taking the death penalty into consideration. Methods of Capital Punishment used today are somewhat different than what was used in the past.  The lethal injection method, which is by far the most common, and the "electric chair" are the most recently used.  The gas chamber is still used but in very rare cases. In 1924, the gas chamber was introduced in  Utah with a hope to  still find a more humane way to execute the convicted. The gas chamber method proved itself to be a very inhumane way of execution.  There were many errors while using the gas chamber. Using too little or too much of the gas was a huge factor that was constantly argued. The continuing desire for a less painful, error-free means of execution led to the development of the lethal injection method in the 1970's.  Initially it was approved in Oklahoma and Texas in 1977.  This method involved injecting a combination of a sedative, which is used to make the execution less painful, and a fatal chemical agent into the condemned prisoner’s bloodstream.  Lethal injection was first used to carry out the death penalty in 1982.

        In 1980, The American Medical Association [AMA] went on record to oppose

the participation of any physician in an execution by lethal injection.  A doctors involvement was seen as a contradiction of the professional responsibility under the Hippocratic Oath to save lives.  As it

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