Georges Boulos
Saint-Joseph University
Political Science - 1st year- 98/99


1- Introduction
    1-1 Definition of capital punishment
    1-2 Opinion of the Bible
2- Facts
   1500 : in England
   1750 : Reform of death penalty in Europe
   1850: the results of these reform efforts
             Abolition of the death penalty in Michigan, Venezuela, Portugal
    Today: in Western Europe, Latin America
              Is still authorized in Asia, Africa, Middle East (except Israel)
    Methods of inflicting the death penalty
   1967: executions suspended in the U.S.
   1972: Supreme Court: CP "cruel and usual punishment"
   1976: the Supreme Court: not unconstitutional
    Capital statues now
    Today: the only capital crime in the US is murder
   1977: Resumed executions
3- Analysis
   Debate over merits of the CP : still unabated
   3-1 Death is the fitting punishment for murder
         Death increases public safety
   3-2 There is no evidence that murder rate and capital punishment are related
         Lex Talionis is not a sound principle
4- Conclusion
5- Test given
    5-1 Before the oral presentation .
    5-2 After the oral presentation .


1- Introduction:

Capital punishment is the lawful infliction of the death penalty and, since ancient times,  it has been used to punish a wide variety of offenses.
The Bible prescribes death for murder and many other crimes including kidnapping and witchcraft.

2- Facts:

By 1500, in England, only major felonies carried the death penalty:
murder, burglary, rape, larceny, arson and treason

By 1750, reform of the death penalty first began in Europe and was
championed by such thinkers as Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria, the French
philosopher Voltaire, and the English law reformer Jeremy Bertham. They
argued that death penalty was needlessly cruel and defended life
imprisonment as a more rational alternative.

By 1850, these reform efforts bore fruits. In the United States the death
penalty for murder was first abolished in Michigan. Then followed Venezuela
and Portugal.

Today, it is virtually abolished in all of the Western Europe, and most of
Latin America.
Elsewhere, in Asia, in Africa, and Middle East (except Israel) most
countries still authorize death penalty for many crimes and use it with
varying frequency.

Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged from stoning in
biblical times, crucification under the Romans, beheading in France, to
those used in the United States today: hanging, electrocution, gas chamber,
firing squad and lethal injection.

In the United States, beginning in 1967, executions were suspended to allow
the appellate courts to decide whether the death penalty was

In 1972, the Supreme Court in Furman Vs the state of Georgia ruled that the
death penalty for murder or for rape violated the prohibition against
"cruel and unusual punishments". The court argued that death was meted out
with "freakish" irregularities and so, its use was arbitrary and cruel.

However, and in 1976, the Supreme Court in Gregg Vs the state of Georgia
also, held that these were not unconstitutional

Capital status now typically authorizes the trial court to impose sentences
- death or life - only after a post conviction hearing, at which evidence
is submitted to establish which "aggravating" and "mitigating" factors were
present in the crime.

Apart from certain crimes on which the Supreme Court has not ruled, the
only capital crime in the United States is murder.

Since 1977, executions resumed.

3- Analysis:

Debate over the merits of capital punishment continues unabated.
On the one hand, I can defend it mainly on two grounds:
First, death is the fitting punishment for murder, as when somebody murders
another person, he would have killed another soul like him, so a crime like
that shouldn't stay unpunished, that's why, the criminal should receive the
same punishment he inflicted to his victim.
Therefore, for believers, God gave us our life; we don't have the right to
take this away from anybody else.
Moreover, executions increase public safety, because when the country
allows capital punishment, the person about to kill, in my opinion, will
think about his act many times before committing his crime and, maybe, he
will reconsider his action.

On the other hand, I tend to ask that, how can a person, who will be
executed, learn that his action was bad if he won't have the time to
regret, at the contrary, he will be spiteful. In these situations, I am
afraid of errors that are sometimes committed, the person who is accused of
the murder is not the right one, so if he will be executed, and afterwards
it comes up that it was a mistake, an innocent person will have been killed
and there will be no way to correct this mistake. Meanwhile, if he is in
prison, at least the innocent will be released.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the murder rate fluctuates according
to the frequency of the death penalty. And when we judge a person who has
killed to be executed, we would make the same mistake he did. Besides,
nobody has the right to end another person's life.

4- Conclusion:

Finally, we can say that although execution is the legal punishment for
murder, it is not said that it is the right thing to do.
Life imprisonment is more efficient, at least, the person will have the
time to meditate about what he did and will regret it. And if, in prison,
there are group therapy sessions for each group of criminals who killed for the same
reasons, to teach them the meaning of life, souls and persons, they will
learn from their mistakes and they will sincerely regret them, after all they
are human like everyone else…


Axis encyclopedia, coll. Hachette
Collier's Dictionary

5- Test given to Micheline Abou Khater

1-      What's Capital Punishment ?
2-      Do you think it is still going on ?
3-      Where has it been abolished ?
4-      What methods of inflicting the Capital Punishment do you know ?
5-      Do you agree with the idea?

Page Created on May 8th, 1999
Last updated on May 10th, 1999
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