Coralie St. Surin
Coralie St. Surin
Government & Law
The Origin of Capital Punishment
There are several forms of punishment that incarcerated people are prosecuted with. One of the harshest punishments would be capital punishment, which is also known as the death penalty. According to collinsdictionary.com, capital punishment is a punishment which involves the legal killing of a person who has committed a serious crime such as murder. Some methods of capital punishment include hanging, guillotine, electrocution (electric chair), lethal injection and euthanasia.
The origin of capital punishment goes as far back as the Ancient Laws of China. According to pbs.org, In the 18th Century BC, the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon codified the death penalty for twenty five different crimes, although murder was not one of them. The first death sentence that took place occured in 16th Century BC Egypt where the criminal, a member of integrity, was accused of magic, and ordered to take his own life. During this time period, non-nobility was usually executed with an ax. If you were not a member of honor, someone else kills you which is pretty crucial, being as though it would be more relieving to just take away your own life.
Some of the rulers of these law codes were really strict on how they punished others. The 7th Century BC Draconian Code of Athens made death the only punishment for every crime that was committed. The man in charge of these written law codes went by the name Draco. According to ancient-origins.net, in his Life of Solon, if you stole an Apple or a cabbage, you would be put to death. When Draco was asked why he made execution the punishment for most crimes he replied that “Small ones deserve that (death) and I have no high for the greater crimes. Draco’s codes were so strict and brutal that his laws were written in blood.
The first recorded execution in the English American colonies took place in Jamestown Virginia. In 1608, officials executed George Kendall of Virginia for plotting to betray the British to the Spanish. (PBS.org) Kendall was then executed by firing squad, which is a method that is composed of military members shooting the felon in the heart. The reason for his death was because he committed treason, which according to google.com, is the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government. Overall, Kendall was pretty much disloyal to the British due to him being a spy for Spain.
In fact, there is evidence that Jews used many different techniques including stoning, hanging, beheading, crucifixion (copied from the Romans), throwing the criminal from a rock, and sawing asunder. (PBS.org) The deaths were slow and painful, it even included an elephant crushing you to death. The most infamous execution of history occurred approximately 29 AD with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ outside Jerusalem.
Fast forward to 1974, where defendant Ehrlich Coker escaped from a Georgia prison. Ehrlich had been serving time for committing a variety of heinous crimes such as rape, murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault. The night of the escape, Coker entered the home of Allen and Elnita Carver. Coker threatened both of them, tied up Mr. Carver, took his money, keys and a knife from the kitchen. Coker then proceeded to rape Mrs. Carver, and then drove her away in Mr. Carver’s car. Luckily Mr. Carver was able to free himself and contact the police. Lastly, in 1977, Coker was sentenced to the death penalty by electrocution.
The case of Roper v. Simmons (2005) raised an interest in me. At the of 17 years old, Simmons planned and committed a capital murder. He was sentenced to death after he had turned 18. According to Law.Cornell.edu, The Court then held in Atkins v. Virginia that the Eighth Amendment relevant to the States through the 14th amendment, prohibits the execution of a mentally retarded person. Simmons filed a new petition for state postconviction relief, arguing that Atkins’ reasoning established that the Constitution prohibits the execution of a juvenile who was under 18 when he committed his crime. The Missouri Supreme Court approved of this and pushed his death sentence aside in favor of life imprisonment without eligibility for release.
As a juvenile, it makes a lot of sense not to go forward with the death penalty right away due to the fact that he was probably not in the right state of mind. The life sentence makes much more sense because since he took away another person’s life, he deserves to suffer as well.
One of the modern day methods of capital punishment would be done by lethal injection. According to deathpenaltycurriculum.org, when carrying out death by lethal injection, the condemned person is usually bound to a gurney and a member of the execution team positions several heart monitors on his/ her skin. What happens next is, they take two needles, the first one is a harmless saline solution that gets it started. Then the prisoner is injected with an anesthetic called sodium thiopental, which puts the inmate to sleep. Finally pavulon starts to flow which paralyzes the entire muscle systems and stops the inmate’s breathing, leading to the potassium chloride which stops the heart.
Some prisoners really have no sense of remorse knowing that they’ve committed such heinous crimes, Clayton Lockett happens to be one of those people. On June 3, 1999, Stephanie Neiman was dropping off a friend in her new Chevy truck. That same evening, Lockett and two accomplices decided to pull a home invasion robbery. Lockett attempted to take the keys to Stephanie’s truck, but she fought back. The men beat her and used duct tape to bind her hands and cover her mouth. (Tulsaworld.com)
Lockett was dealing with a girl that would not back down, her parents always taught her to stand up for what was her right and for what she believed in. But, not every person who stands up for their rights is successful in doing so, which is what lead to her getting shot and killed by Lockett. Stephanie’s parents asked jurors to give Lockett the death penalty for taking the life of their only child. Stephanie had graduated from Perry High School just two weeks before her death. Lockett, showing no remorse whatsoever, told the police, “I decided to kill Stephanie because she would not agree to keep quiet.” The state announced it planned to use a new combination of drugs to kill the men: midazolam, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Finally, Lockett suffered a heart attack from the lethal injection on April 29, 2014.