The harshest and most severe form of punishment of all legal sentences is death. This is referred to as the death penalty, or "capital punishment" in the United States. This form of punishment requires law enforcement officers to actually kill the offender. In the United States, the death penalty is currently implemented in one of five ways: firing squad, hanging, gas chamber, electrocution, or lethal injection. It has been banned in most of the other countries of the world. In the United States, however, it has become more and more commonly used as a punishment for serious offenses, mainly murder. "Lex talionis", as mentioned in the Bible, encourages "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth". We use this principle in the legal system to justify murder through capital punishment. We have a certain privilege in our own lives but should we be allowed to decide on the rights of others as well? If we find someone guilty of murder, we sentence him to death. This makes us murders ourselves. To me, that in itself makes clear the contradiction of terms that exists in capital punishment.
One issue that arises in the debate of capital punishment is that of the constitution. There is strong debate in the question of whether or not the method of capital punishment is even constitutional. The use of the death penalty has declined throughout the industrial western world since the 19th century. In 1972, a movement in America to have the capital punishment declared unconstitutional arose during the landmark case of Furman vs. Georgia, in which the Supreme Court ruled capital punishment as cruel and unusual punishment. Nevertheless, a Supreme Court decision in 1975 in the case of Gregg vs. Georgia stated that capital punishment did not violate the 8th amendment rights, and the executions began again under state supervision. These inconsistencies and indecisions have obviously sparked a debate (Horwitz, 124-127).