The History of the Death Penalty
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has been a part of our judicial system for a very long time. It has been around for longer than people think to acknowledge. Before the United States were founded, even before civilization knew what democracy meant, there has been in some way or some form, capital punishment. There were limited regulations, policies, or liberties that monitored or regulated who would or could be put to death. From where we are today and from where we came from back then, have made a dramatic improvement towards the equality, lawfulness, just, ethical society we have come to know and live upon.
One of the first known and recorded events of capital punishment date back to the 18th Century B.C. under the code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, which labeled 25 crimes in which the death penalty would be given. (Randa, 1997) The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is also an extremely well known case in which capital punishment was given based solely on the belief of that one man. Cruel and unusual punishment was not a factor in who died, how they died, and/or why they were put to death. The ideology behind how society was, education level, and biasness towards the convicted were clear factors in sentencing and the outcome of the accused.
It was in 1972, that the United States of America received an eye opening case which marked the change to the way capital punishment would be regulated. William Henry Furman was convicted of armed robbery and murder in the state of Georgia which, at that time, had a law called the “Felony Murder Rule” making him eligible for the death penalty. (“Felony-Murder Rule”, n.d.) He was found guilty and indeed sentenced to death. An appeal to the Supreme Court however overturned the ruling stating that the sentence given was in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth amendment. (Coenen, 2004) It was at this point that capital punishment was brought to the attention of the people as cruel and unusual punishment and demanded a change to the way capital punishment would be handled by judicial systems.
The case of Furman v. Georgia (1972), in my eyes, made a great impact on the way we conduct justice in the United States today. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were made to preserve our rights as citizens and free us from total government control. That is exactly what this court case proved and now allows us to better understand what was meant and how to interpret cruel and unusual punishment better than what we did before. This court case has possibly saved hundreds to thousands of lives that would now be considered unnecessary to be taken. Another good outcome of this case isn’t the fact that capital punishment cannot be used, but actually the opposite. We now have better guidelines and policies that control how and when capital punishment can be used. These guidelines and policies could be related to the outcome of this trial because of the implementation of the Constitution written hundreds of years ago.
An argument that could be made from people that agree with the death penalty is the lack of justice that could reside from not imposing the death penalty where they thought would be just. They could argue the fact that the Constitution is all based on how the wording is perceived and that capital punishment is not