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Death Penalty

             Introduction: The death penalty is a hot topic on many people's minds these days. From John Lee Malvo to innocent citizens on death row, everybody seems to have an opinion on this touchy subject. Having just returned from a semester studying abroad in Spain, my conversations with people from other cultures has altered my view on this controversial issue. Before these conversations, I would not consider myself an advocate of the death penalty, but I was definitely not against it. In fact, when confronted (unconfrontationally) by foreigners, I would support the federal death penalty, arguing that our streets were safer with these murderers and rapists getting what they deserved. I would argue that children and elderly women were being taken advantage of by these coward criminals and I would point to the instances when a paroled convict would be let free only to commit these inhumane crimes again. But when all was said and done, these people convinced me that maybe our legal system wasn't as fool proof as I had thought. Within this paper, I hope to show some of the factors that influenced my change of opinion.
             Background: The United States federal death penalty was first used on June 25, 1790, when Thomas Bird was hanged for murder in Maine. Since then, according to studies by the Capital Punishment Research Project, 336 men and 4 women have been executed under federal backing. Of these inmates, 134 (39%) were white; 118 (35%) black; 63 (19%) Native American; and 25 (7%) were Hispanic or unknown. .
             The federal government has utilized hanging, electrocution, and the gas chamber to execute these 340 prisoners. The majority of inmates were executed for murder or crimes resulting in murder, but convictions for piracy, rape, rioting, kidnapping, and spying and espionage also yielded federal executions.
             The Questions: As presented in class, sociologists generally use two definitions in the identification of social problems:.

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