The death penalty has been enforced for as long as recorded history, but is it morally acceptable? Capital punishment may deter crime, but at the same time, it may also be considered a cruel and unusual punishment. Questions of the constitutionality of the death penalty have reduced executions, but have crowded the death row with inmates. Many people support the death penalty, although it is an extremely controversial issue. Capital punishment creates debate over racial biases, and does not deter crime; it kills many innocent people as well.
Capital punishment has been around for more than three hundred years in the United States. It has been a notorious matter for as long as it has been established. This form of law consists of three phases. First, the Colonial Era, which was the first few years
of the new nation. It was one of the most widespread and unquestioned uses of capital punishment for major crimes (Banner 1). The next phase was the nineteenth century, which consisted of a long period of declining use of capital punishment, and courts abolished all laws pertaining to the death penalty. Finally, the third phase, which was the early and mid twentieth, began with enormous support for capital punishment to be reinstated (Banner 2).
The death penalty has been frequently imposed but rarely enforced. "Between 1967 and 1980, death sentences or convictions were reversed for 1899 of the 2402 people on death row, a reversal rate of nearly 80 percent" (Greenberg 2). "By 1800, more than two hundred capital crimes were recognized, and as a result, 1000 or more individuals were sentenced to death each year, although most sentences were pardoned" (McCuen and Baumgart 38). Reversals of death penalty verdict happen all the time. "One in ten convicted murderers were sentenced to death in 1967, the remainder served prison terms" (Stevens 10).
Since the reinstatement of executions in 1977, there have been a total of 432 executions. Texas leads the way by far with the most executed - 143. "There are currently 38 out of 50 states which allow the death penalty in law" (World Book Encyclopedia 193). By 1990, more than 2000 people had been sentenced to death and were awaiting the outcome of legal appeals (World Book Encyclopedia 194). Of the 365 men on death row, there are 130 blacks; 217 whites; 18 other. There are six women on death row (Creative Ideas 2). "Studies have shown no unusual increase in murders when the penalty is abolished" (World Book Encyclopedia 193).