The purpose of this paper is to persuade the reader into understanding the crucial role that capital punishment plays in the advancement and well being of our American culture. By .
When European settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment. The first recorded execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia in 1608. Kendall was executed for being a spy for Spain. In 1612, Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws, which provided the death penalty for even minor offenses such as stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians.
The most compelling argument against capital punishment, however, is based on its actual administration in our society: the risk of killing an innocent person, disproportionate infliction on the poor and minorities, weakness of the deterrence argument, failure to recognize that destructive life histories of criminals may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrongdoing, and so on. .
Putting people to death who have committed certain heinous acts of crime is a practice of ancient standing, but, in the United States, in the latter half of the Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-first Century, it has become a very controversial issue. Changing views on this difficult issue led the Supreme Court to abolish capital punishment in 1972 but later to uphold it in 1977, with certain conditions.
Indeed, restoring capital punishment is the will of the people, as, according to Ernest Van Den Haag in "The Death Penalty: Opposing Viewpoints," over 70 percent of the American populous support the death penalty in one form or another. As Van Den Haag triumphantly declared: "Show no mercy to the merciless." Yet many other voices have risen against it. Heated public debate centers on questions of public safety, sentencing equity, and the execution of innocents, among others issues.