| It's not just|
a good idea
“”The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.
|—Eddard Stark, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin|
The name comes from the Latin capitalis, meaning "regarding the head", as early forms of the the death penalty usually involved decapitation or severe injury to the head. This is in contrast to corporal punishment where the aim is to inflict pain to the body (Latin corporalis - pertaining to the body) but without the intention of causing death. Overall the number of executions worldwide is falling but there are exceptions. China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United States are the nations which perform most executions. 
 Death penalty laws
While most cultures have historically used capital punishment, many countries, particularly Western and democratic ones, have moved, or are moving, away from the application of this punishment. Italian philosopher and politician Cesare Beccaria condemned capital punishment in his 1764 treatise On Crimes and Punishments. Early moves towards abolition began in some European countries during the mid 19th century, but the move away from capital punishment gathered momentum a century later, in the years following the Second World War, as human rights became a more significant political issue.
The 1950 European Convention on Human Rights recommended that the death penalty be abolished in European nations or restricted to times of war. This has been ratified within European Union member countries over the following decades, so that capital punishment is now no longer practised in Europe. The United Kingdom abolished the death penalty for virtually all offences in 1969 (although it still remained a theoretically valid sentence for treason until 1998). In December 2007 the United Nations General Assembly approved a moratorium on the death penalty, which calls for a worldwide suspension (not necessarily abolition) of capital punishment. The moratorium is not binding, but established an international consensus against the death penalty.
 United States
The United States is the single exception to the western trend towards abolition, with many states still applying the ultimate penalty for serious and/or repeated crime. In 1972 a moratorium was placed on executions by the Supreme Court, not because capital punishment itself was ruled unconstitutional but because of perceived procedural flaws. After these were ironed out, executions resumed in 1976. Capital punishment is still exercised in 33 states; regions with no capital punishment include Alaska, most of New England and parts of the Midwest.. Even in these regions, however, some federal offenses, such as treason, the murder of federal employees, or in some cases espionage, remain capital since federal law takes precedence; although the only three federal prisoners executed since the moratorium (all under George W. Bush) were from death penalty states, 8 of the 59 current federal death row inmates are from abolitionist states. Sadly, injustices are still regularly discovered, with 140 wrongly convicted people released from death row since 1973.
 Other nations where capital punishment is legal
Capital punishment also remains in most of Asia, numerous African countries and the Middle East. Usage varies from nation to nation. For example, in the United States the death penalty is usually reserved for homicide-related crimes, and in Japan for multiple homicides. Some countries, such as Russia and South Korea, still retain death penalty laws but have stopped issuing death sentences in recent years. In communist China, the death penalty is applied for various crimes against the state, including high levels of embezzlement and tax evasion, murder and child molestation, and killing pandas. Executions happen very quickly in China, so quickly that the government maintains a fleet of "execution vans" that condemned prisoners are hustled into, killed, and popped right out the other end. In India, drug trafficking can be a capital offence. Some self-proclaimed Islamic nations such as Mauritania, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have capital laws against sodomy and sometimes adultery, as well as apostasy (abandoning religion or converting to another faith).
|This section requires expansion.|
In the USA the current main method of execution is by lethal injection. This involves a cocktail of three drugs that paralyse before killing. Although it is claimed by some that this is more humane than gas, electrocution or hanging, the method has the potential to mask pain and is rejected by the American Veterinary Medical Association as inhumane for euthanising sick animals.
In the United States, many Evangelical Christians support the death penalty despite being "pro-life", making the distinction between "innocent" life and "non-innocent" life. Judgment is not, as is often stated, left to God. Of course, without capital punishment, their religion would have had a lot of trouble getting started. Indeed, the Bible lists a vast number of "crimes" which "merit" the death penalty.
Capital punishment is generally supported by conservatives — you know, the ones against abortion because they "hold to the sanctity of life", yet somehow seem to feel that an adult life has no particular sanctity if it is being lived by a person who, for whatever reason, has committed a particular crime.
Thankfully, it's not true of all conservative or religious groups; some people and religious organizations that are anti-abortion, such as the Roman Catholic Church and those subscribing to "consistent life ethic", are also anti-capital punishment and often anti-war, too.
On the flip side, individuals such as pundit Bill Maher espouse views which could be said to amount to a "consistent death ethic", with Maher humorously referring to himself as being "pro-death" due to his support of abortion and euthanasia as well as the death penalty.
The Roman Catholic Church is now relatively consistent in its pro-life stance, opposing both abortion and most cases of capital punishment, although some American Catholics don't seem to have noticed. 
Opponents of capital punishment usually cite a number of reasons for their position, from the view that it creates a moral vacuum at the heart of society wherein the only body with the authority to legitimately and with premeditation kill is the State, that it is institutionalized barbarism, and pointing to the small but significant number of cases where the death penalty has been enacted and the accused has been subsequently demonstrated to be innocent of the crime for which they suffered the ultimate penalty. There are many examples of innocent people being executed — see below for a list. There is (in the U.S.) currently a program funding DNA testing of evidence to exonerate potentially wrongly convicted inmates on death row, which is producing a steady trickle of freed prisoners.
There is also the rather abstract concept that a state is subservient to its people, and may never take their lives for any reason. And the United States, after all these years, still has one of the worst murder rates in the developed world. Something's definitely not working.
Another issue for the U.S. and its continued use of the death penalty is the evident racial bias in its application. Black males are far more likely to be sentenced to death for similar or even lesser crimes than white males, and the death penalty is more likely to be imposed when the victim is white. A gender bias is also evident, with very few women receiving the death penalty, even in light of the disparity in criminal incidence. Both of these biases indicate to outside observers that in spite of the protestations of its supporters that the death penalty is all about deterrence, it has a much murkier rationale that puts the whole process on a very dubious footing. This effect is attributed to the US practice of having the death penalty requested by the prosecution during and after conviction, rather than by a more impartial source such as a judge. Of course, judges aren't free of bias, and may impose harsher penalties during an election year.
 Deterrent effect
The supposed deterrent effect is also dubious as it doesn't deter against the main motives for murder; passion, compulsion and profit. The first two cannot be deterred against practically by definition. In the case of the third no one commits a crime anticipating that they will be apprehended and punished - those who do anticipate such scenarios usually have plans to get away with it; be it destroying the evidence, framing someone else, hiding from law enforcement, or getting a good lawyer to beat the rap. Additionally there is the "might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb" effect — once someone is subject to the ultimate penalty, there is nothing to hold them back. Once the "point of no return" has been reached (i.e. rape, murder, etc.), there is no longer a deterrent to further crimes to avoid capture and punishment. (Admittedly this holds true whatever the ultimate penalty is — be it lifelong imprisonment, death or deportation!) FBI data shows that over the last 20 years, the murder rate has, on average, been higher in states which retain the death penalty than those which do not.
Also - how come homicide rates in the USA skyrocket while countries without capital punishment (in which there supposedly isn't anything that would give crime that much deterrent effect) have considerably lower ones?
Death penalty proponents often complain that taxpayer dollars would have to be used to support criminals in jail. (So off with their heads, eh?) In fact, the death penalty actually costs more in the US due to increased investigative expenses, appeals, and the cost of the execution itself.
 See also
- Essay:Against the Death Penalty
- Human sacrifice
- Actions which demand the death penalty in the Old Testament
- Troy Davis
- Consistent life ethic
- ↑ George R.R. Martin Quotes
- ↑ Death penalty 'becoming thing of the past', says Amnesty
- ↑ http://web.amnesty.org/pages/deathpenalty-index-eng
- ↑ See WP: Image: Death penalty statutes in the United States.svg.
- ↑ http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/federal-death-row-prisoners
- ↑ See the Wikipedia article on Use of capital punishment by nation.
- ↑ One might argue that these non-innocent individuals should have their
lives takenafterlives fast-tracked so that God can deliver the verdict sooner. That however conflicts with denominations which promotes sola fides, because if they convert at the correct moment they will not be punished for those sins in their afterlife, and they will reap whatever rewards result from their timely conversion.
- ↑ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/angel/procon/popestate.html retrieved Aug. 26 2008
- ↑ Using the Death Penalty to Get Re-Elected
- ↑ Death Penalty Cost, Amnesty International