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Death Punishment Controversy

Death penalty or capital punishment is a very debatable topic in United States. Over the years, both abolitionists and retentionists have come up with various arguments concerning death penalty. However, some opinions brought out are unsupported by statistical studies. this subject will continuously be discussed by the media and the public for several reasons. the issue of death penalty surfaces our media platforms day in day out trying to bring out the issues surrounding the particular subject.

In this essay I will give an overview of the history of the death penalty or capital punishment in the U.S. Moreover, I will be discussing about the reason why death penalty should be allowed and reasons why it should be abolished. The controversial subject has increased confusion because there exists a thin line between facts and non-substantiated views. The articles have critically examined the death penalty from a social science standpoint.

History of capital punishment in U.S.

The first execution ever to be recorded took place in the year 1608, Jamestown. the laws prevailing under death penalty were borrowed from British law. The crimes eligible for capital punishment were more than fifty crimes according to the British law. Such crimes were treason, rape, murder, witchcraft, heresy, and vagrancy. At long last, various American colonies established their lists of crimes. Other crimes in the lists included buggery, bestiality, blasphemy, idolatry, man stealing, in Massachusetts influenced by Puritan. Other colonies like North Carolina included crimes that were a threat to socio economic norms. Such crimes included stealing slaves, circulation of treasonable information among slaves. In Virginia, seventy offenses were listed for blacks and only five offences for whites. (costanzo & white, 1994)

the process of abolishing capital punishment has been an inconsistent and slow process. In 1834, Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish punishment by death. Much later on, in 1846, Michigan demolished death punishment rule for every other offence apart from treason. For the years 1852 to 1853, two states, Wisconsin and Rhode Island became the first states to eliminate execution for every offence respectively. Nevertheless, other states like New Mexico, and, Oregon abolished then later reinstated punishment by death. (costanzo & white, 1994).

As compared to the murders, the number of executions and death penalties have always been trivial. In 1938, the highest number of executions was recorded. The number of executions increased in the 1930s, where 199 individuals were executed in 1935.

In the following three decades, the number of executions gradually decreased and stopped for a period close to half a decade. From 1967 to 1977 there were no death executions that occurred. In that period, the court analyzed the legality of capital punishment. This motion was helped by the public who were not in support of death sentence.

In 1972, the U.S supreme court was convinced that executions dishonored the Eighth Amendment against unusual and harsh penalties. In 1976, the court ruled that capital punishment could be applied. In 1977, executions came to a halt when a murderer, chose to be executed outside court. Since then, execution has occurred to more than 200 people in the states of Georgia, Texas, Florida and Louisiana. (costanzo & white, 1994)

Arguments for capital punishment

Supporters of punishment by death argue that it is a unique method of preventing crime. They argue that individuals resist crime knowing that the final result is execution. This is an act of self preservation of man. Retentionists argue that when individuals are observed they often recourse to the threat of death. Many supporters believe that hardened offenders want the law to take action for their crimes. (Hochkammer Jr, 1969).

Retentionists say that death penalty eradicates sympathy towards the offenders. The courts should address the facts of the situation, rather than the emotional bit of it. The criminal of the capital crime should face the law and be punished for their actions. the only individuals who should receive sympathy are the friends and family of the criminal. Through capital punishment, the law is able to discourage other people from committing crimes.

Most supporters believe that rehabilitation of criminals is not enough to rectify the capital crimes. They argue that capital punishment should be allowed to punish such criminals. In addition to that, capital punishment is believed to save other people’s lives. execution also prohibits the criminal from performing other related crimes. Death sentence lessens the population in prisons.

Supporters of death penalty argue that an individual has no chance to escape but rather face the consequences of their choices. Even when the criminal survives through execution the law allows another shot to be made. If the murderers fail to be executed, there is a chance that others might commit the same crime. This implies that with capital punishment, the accused has no opportunity to escape. (arnit, k. 2020).

The trending method of capital punishment is injection, where the individual dies a painless death. The shortage of drugs in production companies has caused execution become a complicated process every day. (arnit, k. 2020).

Why capital punishment should be abolished

Abolitionists argue that some individuals commit crimes because of their desire to commit suicide. They also believe that execution increases the level of committing a serious offence for those who have committed serious crimes because they feel that they have no reason for living.

Capital punishment eradicates the chances of criminals being rehabilitated. Hardened criminals often prefer not to follow the rules set by an institution. Death sentence suggests that the individual’s behavior cannot be changed and an assumption that there are no reforms that can be done with the criminal. People change their behavior with their willingness to follow the rules especially in nations where less-violent crimes are eligible for capital punishment.

Death penalty does not fully explain the issue of criminal activity in the society. Study has shown that many people do criminal activities for their own pleasure. For example, drug related offenders have been executed for their own leisure activities. The individuals in penitentiaries have a violent behavior from their faith which groups murderers and other people together with those who did not perform any crime.

Some people have been at risk of losing their innocent lives through death punishment. According to research, nearly one hundred and sixty people have been exonerated from death punishment for over four decades. For instance, Carlos DeLuna rebuked Justice John Stevens for using execution as a form of punishment.


Despite abolition of capital punishment for some countries, others still retain the death penalty and prolonged its horizons. Several states have abolished death penalty the recent years. however, I believe that capital punishment is highly suitable for high ended crimes such as serial killers. Considering if the court considers mental stated of the murderers, they could contemplate idea of rehabilitation. Moreover, death punishment should thoroughly be scrutinized before a judge makes the ruling.


Costanzo, M., & White, L. T. (1994). An overview of the death penalty and capital trials: History, current status, legal procedures, and cost. Journal of Social Issues50(2), 1-18.

arnit, k. (2020). Capital Punishment Pros and Cons – Essay Tips. Retrieved 20 January 2022, from

Hochkammer Jr, W. O. (1969). Capital Punishment Controversy, The. J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci.60, 360.


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