Capital Punishment in the United States

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Capital punishment has been a controversial topic in association to ethics all of its existence. Issues pertaining to the execution methods, reasonability in the relationship of punishment to the crime, who receives the death penalty, and innocence have been discussed and researched in great lengths. Capital punishment is still an active form of “deterrence” in the United States for crimes considered the worst of the worst. In this paper I will discuss the history of the death penalty. I will also disclose information on the dynamics of race, method, and court cases valid to the death penalty.


The origination of the death penalty in America stems mainly from the influence of Britain. Capital punishment was a common exercise in British culture and the British brought the practice with them when they settled in America. The death penalty was used as punishment for a variety of crimes, ranging from murder to disobedience of one’s mother or father. In 1612 the Divine, Moral and Marital laws were passed. These laws allowed the punishment of death for petty crimes like stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Native Americans. Executions were a public scene until the 1830’s, but most were eventually moved to the interior of prisons. However, there were some public executions (especially in the South and West) that were done in public until the twentieth century. The laws and regulations pertaining to the death penalty differed from colony to colony (Death Penalty Information Center, 2011).

Though capital punishment was common there were critics of the practice. Some questioned its morality and effectiveness as a deterrent to crime. There were many abolitionists supporting the movement to eliminate th...

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...nity, staff, a spiritual or religious advisor, media, and state selected witnesses (Lethal Injection Procedure, 2010).

Innocent people do end up on death row, some are exonerated and some die waiting for their execution or at their scheduled death. Since 1973 there have been 139 exonerations (Innocence Project, 2011). The criterion that permits exoneration are they were ac-quitted at retrial, all charges were dropped, or they were given an absolute pardon given by the governor based on new evidence of innocence (Death Penalty Information Center, 2011). Individuals on death row typically serve a 13 year average before their exoneration. However, there are those that are innocent to still receive the death penalty. The number is hard to pin down, but most cases where innocence was still lingering are often not looked into after the death of the individual.
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