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Word Count: 1,995
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 Death penalty laws date back as far as the Eighteenth century BC The Bible prescribes death for murder and many other crimes including kidnapping and witchcraft In the eleventh century William the Conqueror banned execution for any crime except in times of war By 1500 in England only major felonies carried the death penalty Crimes such as treason murder larceny burglary rape and arson By 1800 however the English Parliament had enacted many new capital offenses and hundreds of people were being sentenced to death each year Reform of the death penalty began in Europe by the 1750s and was lead by such thinkers as the Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria the French philosopher Voltaire and the English law reformer Jeremy Bentham They argued that the death penalty was needlessly cruel overrated as a deterrent and occasionally imposed in fatal error Along with Quaker leaders and other social reformers they proclaimed life imprisonment a more rational alternative In the United States prior to the Civil War the death penalty was imposed on slaves for many crimes punished less severally when committed by whites Methods of inflicting the death penalty have ranged from stoning in Biblical times crucifixion under the Romans and beheading in France to the current methods used in the United States hanging electrocution the gas chamber lethal injection and firing squad still legal in Utah and Idaho Thirty of the thirty eight states in which capital punishment is legal favor lethal injection as its manner of execution In the United States in 1972 the supreme court banned capital punishment with their decision on the Furman v Georgia case Four years later the supreme court said that the punishment of death does not invariably violate the Constitution Capital punishment was reinstated with the supreme court decision on the 1976 case
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