"Historically, the death penalty always has been with us in some fashion. In ancient times, it was meted out of those who propagated radical ideas that threatened the political establishment. The death penalty has existed throughout the course of our nation's history and always has been a staple of our judicial system. In 1695, Captain George Kendall became the first adult to be executed in the Jamestown colony of Virginia. He was executed for being a spy for Spain." (Manning, Rhoden-Trader 23) The Supreme Court halted executions in the United States in 1972. Four years later in 1976, the Court authorized their resumption deeming the death penalty constitutionally permissible. Between 1977 and 1999, 596 prisoners were put to death, most of them in the 1990s as the pace of executions picked up with a record of 96 in 1999. The nation's death-row population now numbers more than 3, 335 inmates. Capital punishment, or the death penalty, has again become a basic fact of American criminal justice. In essence, capital punishment is the lawful taking of a person's life after conviction for a crime. (Henderson 3) "Despite some two-hundred years of debate, capital punishment remains one of the most hotly contested and widely discussed topics of bother public and academic discourse. Scarcely a week goes by without a new political or legal issue, murder case or impending execution fuelling the fires of controversy." (Smith 235) The death penalty has been the subject of many debates over its ethics, practicality, and legality. In order to understand how the left-wing abolitionist views the issue of capital punishment, one must have knowledge of how the opposition defends the death penalty. .
To conservatives, the punishment of death is a fear that needs to be known. More specifically, it is that fear that deters criminal activity. For the families of victims, the death penalty symbolizes justice by serving retribution on the murderers of loved ones.