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The Costs of the Death Penalty in the United States Capital punishment has existed in the US since colonial times Since then more than 13000 people have been legally executed Today there are only twelve states which do not have the death penalty Alaska Hawaii Iowa Maine Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota North Dakota Rhode Island Vermont West Virginia and Wisconsin as well as Washington DC The locations of these states are important because they illustrate the lack of ideological homogeneity usually associated with geographical regions of the US The methods of execution are as varied as their locations The word capital in capital punishment refers to a persons head as historically execution was performed by cutting off the head Today there are generally five methods of execution used in the US Hanging the gas chamber lethal injection the electric chair and the firing squad are all used some notably less than others In 1930 the Bureau of Justice Statistics began keeping stats on capital punishment nationwide From 1930 until 1967 3859 people were executed in the US 3334 for murder www uaa Thats an average of almost 105 people per year three out of five of which were executed in the South By 1967 all but ten states had laws for capital punishment Nationally strong pressure was steadily placed on the federal government by those opposed to capital punishment which resulted in an unofficial moratorium on executions until 1976 Officially the Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional in 1972 In Furman v Georgia408 US 238 1972 a 5-4 Supreme Court decision ruled that CP laws in their present form were arbitrary and capricious and constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment as well as due process of the Fourteenth Amendment wwwaclu In its decision the Court voted that the death penalty statutes were vague and ambiguous providing little guidance to juries in deciding whether to apply the
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