Capital punishment or the death penalty is when a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime, following a legal trial. Public opinion on the hot subject of capital punishment has always been divided. Many reasons have been cited in support and against its practice. Supporters have termed it as a crime deterrent, but those against it claim that it does not deter crime; it only lowers the moral levels of the government. The implementation of capital punishment in the US dates back to 1608, after which it has undergone many reforms over the past two centuries. The application of it is very rare, mostly for aggravated murder, and it has also been abolished in some of the US states and territories.
World Facts about Capital Punishment
- Amnesty International reports that 141 countries have, as of May 2012, abolished capital punishment in law or practice.
- China ranks highest when it comes to the number of executions per year. While official figures are not available, experts estimate a number close to 2000 every year.
- Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and the US carry out the most number of executions per year, apart from China.
- Methods of execution include decapitation, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, lethal injection, shooting (firing squad), and stoning.
- China, India, Indonesia and the US are collectively home to 60% of the world's population. These are also countries that practice capital punishment.
- Capital punishment has been abolished in all European countries, with the exception of Belarus.
- The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which came into being in 1995, banned the death penalty for people who were below the age of 18 when the crime was committed.
- Capital punishment is prevalent in 33 states currently.
- The federal law allows capital punishment for people convicted of treason, espionage, and other homicide-related crimes.
- In 2012, 43 convicts were executed in 9 states across the US.
- In the past century, more than 40 women have been executed here. Figures as of April 1, 2012 tell us that 61 women are on the death row.
- The youngest person executed in the US was George Stinney of South Carolina, in 1944. He was 14 at the time of the execution.
- The US Supreme Court banned the practice of capital punishment in 1972, but it was later reinstated in 1976. The total number of executions since then has crossed the 1000-mark.
- Since 1973, 140 people were off the death penalty for being falsely convicted.
- Since its inception, there have been cases where innocent people have been issued the death penalty. For instance, the controversial Timothy Evans case is regarded as a major miscarriage of justice, which eventually led to the abolition of capital punishment in the UK in 1965.
- Capital punishments come with a hefty price tag, and the expenses that follow are settled using precious tax dollars. Estimates claim that capital punishment is roughly 20 times more expensive than a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
- Most importantly, there is no concrete evidence which suggests that capital punishment actually deters crime.