Capital punishment has been an emotionally charged issue in the United States for over two hundred years. This is easy to understand, since the taking of another human's life, even by court order is irrevocable.
The purpose of this essay is to give you background information so that you can be informed regarding the pro's and con's involved in this issue. Forming an opinion about capital punishment is something you must decide for yourself. The three basic aspects of the issue are: the moral factors; [Is it Just], the legal factors; [Is it administered according to the rules], and the practical factors [Does it prevent Crime].
First we will talk about capital punishment as it took place in early America starting with the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1636. "The Capital Laws of New England," listed these "crimes" as worthy of the death sentence: Idolatry, witchcraft, blasphemy, murder (excluding self defense) assault in sudden anger, sodomy, buggery, adultery, statutory rape (death sentence optional), man stealing, perjury in a capital trial, and rebellion (Worsnop 200).
Executions were public displays until the mid-nineteenth century. It was believed that public display would by example deter crime. In the early nineteenth century, public hangings were occasions for sadistic celebrations where thieves and pickpockets joined the onlookers in merriment (Worsnop 200). Between 1930 and 1950, executions in the U.S. ranged between 117-199. A murderer "lived with the expectation that he might forfeit his own life in return" with a 1 in 25 chance, whereas in 1992 that probability dropped to 1 in 625(Tucker 24). By the latter part of that century it was recognized that such publicity seemed to serve no deterrent effect. Practically speaking, law enforcement officials [today] don't consider the death penalty as an effective deterrent. According to a new national poll of 386 police chiefs and sheriffs, the death penalty was ranked as the least cost-effective way of reducing violent crime (Worsnop 195).