Capital Punishment

Blue= Abolished, Green= Abolished for most crimes, Orange= Abolished in practice, Red= Legal

Capital Punishment, also commonly known as the death penalty, is the execution of a person by the state as punishment for a crime. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originally comes from the Latin caput, meaning head. Hence, capital crime originally was to be punished by the loss of the head.

Capital Punishment has been around since the beginning of recorded history. Most primitive tribe’s historical records indicate that the death penalty was a huge part of their justice system. Other major forms of punishment were torturing, shunning and banishment. As methods of capital punishment got worse, tribe members would try not to kill fellow tribesmen because they greatly feared the consequences. As a result of this, capital punishment was used less banishment and shunning was more common.
The first codified laws regarding the death penalty were made by King Hammurabi of Babylon. The death penalty was also part of the Fourteenth Century B.C.'s Hittite Code; in the Seventh Century B.C.'s Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes; and in the Fifth Century B.C.'s Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets. Death sentences were carried out by such means as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement.
By the tenth century B.C, hanging became the most popular form of Capital Punishment, especially in England. When William The Conqueror invaded England, he applied the death penalty to murderers alone. But this did not last for in the 16th century, under the reign of Henry VIII, 72,000 people total were executed. Some common methods of execution at that time were boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and drawing and quartering. Executions were carried out for such capital offenses as marrying a Jew, not confessing to a crime, and treason.
America was first influenced to use the death penalty by Britain. When European settlers landed on American soil, they brought with them the system 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. Since then, more than 13,000 people have been legally executed in the United States alone. 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.
In present day, capital punishment still has a huge effect on culture in the US. Individual states can decide whether they want capital punishment or not. There is currently a major conflict in the supreme court about whether the methods used to execute people (lethal injection, electric chair) are humane.

Countries with/without death penalty. This graph shows that the majority of countries around the world have outlawed the death penalty completely. Although that number is big, there are still about 70 countries that allow the death penalty to operate. A few countries have outlawed the death penalty for simple crimes such as theft.

Race of people executed- This graph shows that 48.02% of people executed are Caucasian. Behind that, 40.75% of people executed are black. Asian and Native American people are hardly ever executed and have a combined total of 2.03% of all the deaths.

10 States with most total executions- This graph shows that Texas has the most deaths by capital punishment with 405. Texas has 300 more than any other state. This brings forth a pretty interesting statistic.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama expressing his views on the Death Penalty


B.A Robinson, “Part 1- Data and Trends”, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, August 8th 2007,

“The Death Penalty Worldwide” 2007 Pearson Education

Death Penalty Information Center, “Searchable Database of Executions” The Death Penalty Information Center, 2007,, “Capital Punishment”,”