Capital Punishment’s History and Types in America


Capital punishment (also called the death penalty) is a punitive strategy used by states to execute offenders who have committed atrocious crimes (Welty, 2012). Most of these crimes punishable by the death penalty include terrorism, espionage, murder, and genocide. The practice has been embraced in the world for very many centuries. Presently, over fifty nations across the world retain this form of punishment. Over 140 countries have presented legal amendments to abolish its use for different criminal offenses (Scherdin, 2016). This analysis shows conclusively that capital punishment is a process that is characterized by controversies. Such issues are caused by political ideologies held by different societies. The argument presented in this paper is that capital punishment is a judicial method that presents both controversies and benefits. Most of the facts and opinions presented by many analysts appear to suggest that capital punishment should be replaced using better alternatives in order to safeguard the rights of every global citizen.

Statistics and Facts

Studies show that many nations have abolished the use of the death penalty. Additionally, the United Nations (UN) has adopted new resolutions to guide and dictate the future of capital punishment. Such resolutions are aimed at addressing the problem and eventually abolish the method (Scherdin, 2016). Unfortunately, the UN indicates clearly that many persons in the world live in regions that permit capital punishment. For instance, the practice is common in nations such as India, Indonesia, the United States, and North Korea (Welty, 2012).

The number of nations coming up with laws in an attempt to abolish capital punishment has been increasing steadily. However, executions take place frequently in nations where the judicial process is still embraced. The other outstanding fact is that the death penalty is usually discriminatory in nature. This happens to be the case because most of the executed individuals are usually from minority groups. African Americans “makeover half of homicide victims in the United States” (Welty, 2012, p. 2). The other important thing to consider is that the death penalty is capable of claiming the lives of many innocent people. Since the 1970s, over 140 death row citizens have been released after wrongful arrests or convictions (Leechaianan & Longmire, 2013). During the same period, over 1,250 people have been executed using the death penalty in the United States. Many scholars have argued that capital punishment is a misinformed legal procedure that does not deter individuals from committing heinous offenses.

The Pros and Cons of Capital Punishment: Is it Necessary?

Proponents of the death penalty have presented several arguments to support their views. To begin with, capital punishment is supported because of its potential to discourage offenders (and would-be criminals) from committing various misdeeds (Scherdin, 2016). In the United States, the use of capital punishment has been associated with the decreasing number of offenses committed by different criminals. Experts have gone further to argue that capital punishment is an ingenious method that can be used by the government to minimize its financial expenditures (Leechaianan & Longmire, 2013). Constitutionally, the use of the penalty does not violate any of the amendments preventing the state from torturing its citizens. The other advantage of the punishment is that it targets individuals who have committed various crimes against their fellow citizens.

Skeptics believe strongly that the death penalty is discriminatory and should be abolished in every nation. The first argument presented by proponents of this idea is that the method targets minorities such as African Americans. Secondly, the use of capital punishment is a practice that does not consider the mental state of the targeted criminal (Leechaianan & Longmire, 2013). Some critics have gone further to indicate that the use of the death penalty costs the government huge resources and finances. This argument is opposed to the idea that capital punishment is used by governments to minimize their expenditures. As mentioned earlier, many innocent citizens are victimized and eventually executed. Poor citizens are usually affected by the use of capital punishment (Welty, 2012). Experts who are against the use of capital punishment believe strongly that “the method is embraced by nations as a form of revenge” (Baldwin, 2012, p. 48).

From this analysis, it is agreeable that the death penalty is erroneous and inappropriate. This is the case because it fails to deliver the intended goals. The fallacy that capital punishment can deter citizens from committing crimes has been challenged by many scholars and theorists. Innocent people and those from minority regions are also affected by this judicial process. It would be necessary for the government to come up with new measures and security implementations to deter more people from committing various crimes (Baldwin, 2012). The government commands huge funds that can be used to cater for the needs of imprisoned criminals. A fair trial that does not cannibalize minorities should be implemented in order to meet the needs of more people in the country.

History of Capital Punishment

The death penalty is not a modern invention (Scherdin, 2016). The ancient world used the method to punish individuals who committed various crimes such as murder and treason (Scherdin, 2016). The Romans and the Ancient Greeks used capital punishment to tackles problems such as political opposition and treason. In ancient China, people were executed using various methods such as decapitation, suicide, or strangulation. Individuals could also “be scourged or truncated to death” (Scherdin, 2016, p. 55). During the medieval ages, many nations in Europe embraced the use of capital punishment to address various criminal offenses. Some of the offenses targeted by the death penalty included sodomy and buggery (Scherdin, 2016).

After the French Revolution, several changes have been experienced in different parts of the world. Modern nations have come up with legal systems that acknowledge the rights and liberties of their citizens. The modern era has led to the establishment of new judicial systems and penitential facilities. Theorists such as Karl Marx have presented powerful theories that are presently used to address the ethical issues surrounding the death penalty (Scherdin, 2016). However, capital punishment was preferred by many leaders throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The 20th century has been described by many historians as one of the most violent eras in human history. Genocides were perpetuated by many leaders and races throughout the period. Hitler’s extermination of millions of Jews during the Second War is cited as a classical example of this form of violence. Political opposition has been punished through the use of capital punishment (Baldwin, 2012). This historical development shows conclusively that capital punishment is malpractice that has been embraced by many leaders and thinkers for centuries. Unfortunately, evidence shows that the use of capital punishment might not end any time soon.

Types of Capital Punishment

Capital punishment is a legal process whereby the offender is executed. Different types of capital punishment can be identified depending on the methods used to execute the criminals. Many countries embrace the idea of a firing squad. Several rules are implemented to dictate the manner in which the process is conducted (Scherdin, 2016). The use of lethal injections is embraced in many countries and American states such as Alabama. Another method used is that of electrocution. The targeted offenders can also be executed through hanging. This practice is common in the state of New Hampshire (Leechaianan & Longmire, 2013). In the ancient world, several methods such as truncation, stoning, flogging, and slaughtering were used to execute offenders (Baldwin, 2012).

Is Capital Punishment Used Today?

The above discussion shows conclusively that capital punishment is still in use today. Many people are executed for crimes such as treason in China and India. A similar practice is embraced in North Korea. This nation has remained notorious when it comes to the execution of citizens who oppose the government’s agenda (Scherdin, 2016). In the United States, capital punishment is still in use and targets specific crimes such as espionage, treason, and terrorism.

Other crimes targeted by the legal process in the United States include any form of offense against the nation, drug trafficking, and murder (Leechaianan & Longmire, 2013). China has been executing people who engage in various crimes such as adultery, rape, and economic offenses (Baldwin, 2012). The other countries that still use this penalty include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Iran, Brunei, and Qatar. The death penalty continues to be used in these countries despite the unique controversies surrounding it.

Capital Punishment and the Saint Leo University’s Core Values of Respect

The moral guidelines associated with Saint Leo University can guide communities to recognize the importance of human value, dignity, and gift (Saint Leo University, 2017). The leaders in this institution embrace six unique core values in order to ensure the targeted students receive quality and personalized services. One of the outstanding core values associated with this institution is that of respect. The institution uses this core value to focus on the unique talents and dignities of the targeted learners. The university uses adequate resources in order to remain committed to the needs of its students and community members. With the society characterized by many people from diverse backgrounds, respect can be a powerful approach towards promoting harmony and success.

The value of respect can therefore be applied to the issue of capital punishment. Stakeholders in different countries should use this value to analyze the implication and appropriateness of the death penalty. By so doing, they will acknowledge the fact that human life should be respected. The role of policymakers is to foster human welfare. That being the case, the value has the potential to address the ethical concerns emerging from the idea of capital punishment (Saint Leo University, 2017). This knowledge will ensure more societies respect human life. The societies will borrow the spirit of Jesus Christ and present sustainable policies that support the welfare of the greatest majority (Saint Leo University, 2017). This approach will ensure the death penalty is replaced with a better alternative that supports the dignity of every person.


Baldwin, R. (2012). Life and death matters: Seeking the truth about capital punishment. Montgomery, AL: NewSouth Books.

Leechaianan, Y., & Longmire, D. (2013). The use of the death penalty for drug trafficking in the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand: A comparative legal analysis. Laws, 2(1), 115-149.

Saint Leo University. (2017). The first Florida Catholic University: Mission and values. Web.

Scherdin, L. (2016). Capital punishment: A hazard to a sustainable criminal justice system. New York, NY: Routledge.

Welty, J. (2012). The death penalty in North Carolina: History and overview. UNC, 1(1), 1-6.

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DemoEssays. "Capital Punishment's History and Types in America." February 21, 2022.