Death penalty was originated in Babylon and has existed since 18th century AD. “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 Penalty 2011) Many civilizations have followed this example. Until the 5th century the most common methods used were hanging, crucifixion, drowning, burning alive and beating to death.
This method of punishment reached the British Isles in 10th century. William the Conqueror had canceled capital punishment; however Henry VIII made it once again legal. In the 16th century one could get punished by death for crimes such as marrying a Jew, treason or not confessing to a crime. The number of crimes that received the death penalty grew rapidly and reached the huge number of 200 crimes in two centuries. As a result, the jury often refused to convict people of a crime due to the severity of the punishment. Thanks to the reforms in Britain, capital punishment was used a lot less.
The American colonies were greatly influenced by Britain. The death penalty was introduced here just as on the continent. However, each colony had its own laws and soon this practice was abolished.
In the recent years figures show that capital punishment is still used in many countries all over the world, however, many refrain from turning to it. There are some countries that do not want to relook the death penalty. “In 2008, only 25 out of 59 countries that retain the death penalty carried out executions.” (Amnesty International, March 2009). However, the trend is improving. In 2010 Gabon abolished the death penalty and only 23 countries actually used it, although that shows a jump from 19 in 2010.
Steps are being taken all the time to abolish or at least lessen the use of capital punishment. One of the most recent cases is as follows. The United Nations have adopted a number of resolutions to deal with the problem. (Ethics Guide BBC 2011)
1. Amnesty International. 2011. http://www.amnesty.org/en 26.08.2011
2. The Death Penalty. 2001. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/history-death-penalty 26.08.2011
4. Ethics Guide. Capital punishment. 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/capitalpunishment/ 26.08.2011