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- FROM MIDDLE AGES TO TODAY:
In Europe, in the Middle Ages, there´s a great confusion and overlapping of powers, because the feudal system provided many powerful men, the king or the emperor and the feudatories ; so there were many men who could comminate punishments, even the capital one, which was applied for crimes such as murder, theft, sacrilege and high treason, sometimes respecting the laws, but often in arbitrary way. It was applied through beheading, hanging, drowning and torture till death.
There was a long time in the European history when death penalty was applied for delicts that are now considered of opinion. The fusion of politic and religious power caused for many centuries the condemnation of people who were against the Church ideas, in all ranges (political, scientific, etc.), and also there were many women condemned and burned, like witches.
Over the centuries, death penalty was still in use in many countries and new death instruments were frequently added. For example, in the France of the Ancienne Regime it was executed in different and terrible ways according to the social class of the culprit and the committed crime: the hanging was for the countrymen, the beheading for the nobles, the wheel for the heaviest crimes, the stakes for the religious crimes, the quartering for the crimes against the State. During the Revolution, different penalties were abolished and guillotine was introduced for everyone.
Death penalty remained in the largest part of legal systems until the end of the 18th century, when the attempts to oppose it started to be many and important.
From the 19th century, in many States, first in some western one, then in many others, death penalty was abolished, and it was substituted with other punishments like the life imprisonment. During this century it still was used by some dictatorial governments to get rid of the people who opposed them, for reasons of ideology or skin colour, like in South Africa during the apartheid, in Russia in the time of Lenin and Stalin, in Europe in the time of the Nazism.
At the dawn of the 21st century, the death penalty is considered by most civilized nations as a cruel and inhuman punishment. It has been abolished de facto by 106 nations, 30 countries have been abolished it since 1990.
In many States the death penalty is still in use, and the people, in the largest part of cases, agree to this extreme penalty. In many countries, especially the ones which have a dictatorial regime, death penalty is applied quite arbitrarily by the powerful ones, though there have been written laws since many centuries.
The death penalty continues to be commonly applied in other in other nations. China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States and Iran are the most prolific executioners in the world. Indeed, the US is one of 6 countries (including also Iran,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) which executes people who were under 18 years old at the time they committed their crimes.
- SOME EXECUTION-METHODS:
® Lethal injection:
Lethal injection is the most common used means of execution in the United States of America. The condemned is secured on a gurney and receives several drugs intravenous. The saline
intravenous lines are turned off and the thiopental sodium is injected which puts the inmate into a deep sleep. A second chemical agent, procuronium bromide (the generic name for Pavulon), follows. This agent is a total muscle relaxer. The inmate stops breathing and dies soon afterward.
Electrocution produces visibly destructive effects as the body´s internal organs are burned; the prisoner often leaps forward against the restraining straps when the switch is thrown. The body changes colour, the flesh swells and may even catch fire. The prisoner may defecate, urinate or vomit blood. Witnesses always report that there is a smell of burning flesh.
® Gas chamber:
The prisoner is restrained in a hermetically scaled steel chamber below which is a pan. Upon a signal, the executioner opens a valve, flowing hydrochloric acid into the pan. On a second signal, about 8 ounces of potassium cyanide crystals or tablets are dropped mechanically into the acid, producing hydrocyanic gas, which destroys the ability of blood hemoglobin to perform. (The root word of cyanide, cyan, denotes a blue color, descriptive of the body´s hue) Unconciousness occurs within a few seconds if the prisoner takes a deep breath, and longer if he or she holds their breath. Death usually occurs within 6 to 18 minutes. After pronouncement of death, the chamber is evacuated through carbon and neutralizing filters. Gas-masked crews decontaminate the body with a bleach solution and outgassed prior to release. An unwary undertaker could be killed if this is not done.
The prisoner is weighed prior to execution. The “drop” is based on the prisoners weight, to deliver 1260 footpounds of force to the neck. Essentially, the prisoner´s weight in pounds is divided into 1260 to arrive at a drop in feet. This is to assure almost instant death, a minimum of bruising, and neither strangulation nor beheading. Properly done, death is by dislocation of the third or fourth cervical vertebrae. The familiar noose coil is placed behind the prisoners left ear, so as to snap the neck upon dropping.
® Fire squad:
There is reportedly no protocol for the procedure which according to information involves a fife man team, one of who will use a blank bullet so that none of them knows who was the real executioner.
Today, more than 3300 people are on death row. Executions – by hanging, electrocution, lethal injection, and even by firing squad – have become almost commonplace. Regardless of which method is used, the death penalty is a barbaric anachronism and should be abolished.
- Quote paper
- Stefanie Pietsch (Author), 2000, Death Penalty. History and Execution Methods, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/100355