Capital punishment has been a controversial topic in association to ethics in all of its existence. Issues pertaining to the execution methods, reasonability in the relationship of punishment to the crime, who receives the death penalty, and innocence have been discussed and researched in great lengths. Capital punishment is still an active form of deterrence in the United States for crimes considered the worst of the worst. In this paper there will be a discussion on the history of the death penalty. There will also be information on the dynamics of race, method, and court cases valid to the death penalty.
The origination of the death penalty in America stems mainly from the influence of Britain. Capital punishment was a common exercise in British culture and the British brought the practice with them when they settled in America. The death penalty was used as punishment for a variety of crimes, ranging from murder to disobedience of one’s mother or father. In 1612 the Divine, Moral, and Marital laws were passed. These laws allowed the punishment of death for petty crimes like stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Native Americans. Executions were a public scene until the 1830’s, but most were eventually moved to the interior of prisons. However, there were some public executions in the South and West until the twentieth century. The laws and regulations pertaining to the death penalty differed from colony to colony (Death Penalty Information Center, 2011).
Though capital punishment was common, there were critics of the practice. Some questioned its morality and effectiveness as a deterrent to crime. There were many abolitionists supporting the movement to eliminate the practice of the death penalty. In the colonial period, the person who had the most influence was Cesare Beccaria. He wrote the article ‘On Crime and Punishment’, in the article he explains why there is no rationalization for the state to make the...