The death penalty
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The Death Penalty. Unit 21. Concerns:. Can a system , based on the rule of law , run the risk of killing an innocent person ? Is it acceptable to apply the death penalty when there is an alternative?

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Can a system, based on theruleoflaw, runtheriskofkillinganinnocentperson?

Is it acceptable to applythedeathpenaltywhenthere is an alternative?

Is it humane to keep a person on deathrow for years, notknowingifthenextrdaywillbe his/her last?

Is it acceptable to execute a personwithamentaldisorder?

Canthispunishmentbe applied to a person who was a minor at the time ofthecrime?

Doesthedeathpenaltyserve a real purpose?

Early death penalty laws
Early Death Penalty Laws

  • The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the 18th Century BC in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon

  • It codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes

The code of hamurabi
The Code of Hamurabi

  • “If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death. If it kills the son of the owner, then the son of that builder shall be put to death”

Types of retributive punishment
Types of retributive punishment

  • Lex talionis = retribution; punishment in kind (“an eye for an eye”)

  • Lex salica = punishment through compensation (the principle of substitution)

The torah
The Torah

  • Murder

  • Kidnapping

  • Magic

  • Violation of the Sabbath

  • Blasphemy

  • Sexual offences

Qur an

  • “If anyone kills a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people”

Moses maimonides 12th c
Moses Maimonides, 12th c.

  • “It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death”

Death penalty in english history
Death penalty in English history

  • At Common Law capital punishment was imposed for a few very serious offences such as treason, murder, rape and burning a dwelling-house.

  • As late as 1688 about 50 offences carried the death penalty

  • By 1800 English law had some 200 capital offences (including cutting down a tree or stealing an animal)

John locke 1632 1704
John Locke (1632-1704)

  • A person forfeits his rights (including his right to life) when committing a crime

  • Once rights are forfeited, punishment is justified for two reasons:

  • 1) criminals deserve punishment

  • 2) punishment is needed to protect our society by deterring crime through example

Cesare beccaria 1738 1794
Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)

  • On Crimes and Punishment (1764): the right to life is not forfeitable

  • People do not sacrifice their rights to life when entering into the social contract

Death penalty today
Death penalty today

Progressive restrictionof capital offencces

TheInternationalCovenant on Civil andPoliticalRights (1966): “Incountrieswhichhavenotabolishedthedeathpenalty, sentence ofdeathmaybeimposedonly for the most seriouscrimes”

Restriction of applicable offenders
Restriction of applicable offenders

Theexclusionofchildoffenders, i.e. thoseunder 18 yearsof age at the time oftheoffence

Theexclusionofpregnantwomen, new mothersandpeopleover 70 yearsof age

Theexclusionof “persons who havebecomeinsane” and “personssufferingfrommentalretardation or extremelylimitedmentalcompetence, whether at thestageof sentence or execution”

Procedural safeguards
Procedural safeguards

Therightofappeal to a higher court

Theright to petition for clemency

Death penalty today1
Death Penalty Today

  • In April 1999, the UN Human RightsCommissionpassedtheResolutionSupporting Worldwide Moratorium on Executions

  • Over 90 countriesstillretainthedeathpenalty, including China, Iran andthe US

  • Todayover 60 % ofAmericanssupportthedeathpenalty

Atkins v virginia 2002
Atkins v Virginia (2002)

TheSupreme Court heldthat it was a violationofthe American Constitution to imposethedeathpenalty on a mentallyretardedperson;

Also: a challenge to theconstitutionalityofexecutingpersons who had committed a capital offencewhenunderthe age of 18 – notsuccessful

Capital crimes today
Capital crimes today

  • Premeditated murder

  • Espionage

  • Treason

  • Part of military justice

Abolition of capital punishment in western europe
Abolition of capital punishment in western Europe

Portugal 1843

FollowedbytheNetherlands, Romania, Italy, andNorway

Afterthe first world war: Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland

In 1962: executionswerecarriedoutinwestern Europe inthe UK, France, Greece, the Irish Republic, Spain

Alolition of capital punishment in eastern europe
Alolition of capital punishment in Eastern Europe

Croatia: 1987

Hungary 1988

Poland 1988

Bulgaria 1989

Moldova 1989

Estonia 1991

Armenia 1991

Lithuania 1995

Ukraine 1997

TheRussianFederation: moratorium on all executionssince 1996

European convention on human rights
European Convention on Human Rights

  • Protocol No 6 (1983): abolitionof capital punishmentin time ofpeace

  • Resolution 1044 (1994) linksmembershipintheCouncilof Europe to abolitionofdeathpenalty (theRussianFederation – theonlymemberthathasnotabolishedcapitalpunishment)

  • Protocol No 13(2002): abolitionof capital punishmentin all circumstances

Human rights violation
Human rights violation

Theright to life andtherightnot to besubjectedtocruel,inhumananddegradingtreatment or punishment

theright to a fairtrial

Abolition of the death penalty in the uk
Abolition of the death penalty in the UK

  • 1969 (except for treason)

  • in 1998 the home secretarysignedthe 6th protocoloftheEuropeanConventionof Human RightswhichformallyabolishedthedeathpenaltyintheU.K.


  • Abolitionists – people who are against the death penalty

  • Death penalty does not deter criminals, violates human rights, leads to executions of wrongfully convicted people, discriminates against the minorities and the poor


  • People who support the death penalty

  • Main arguments: prevent (from repeating the crime), deter and avenge (“an eye for an eye”)

Lord kennet s speech on november 9 1961
Lord Kennet’s speech on November 9, 1961

  • outlined main arguments against the death penalty in five verbs:

  • prevent,

  • reform,

  • research,

  • deter,

  • avenge


  • To prevent the same man from doing it again


  • Rehabilitation; a man should be helped with his social function by a rehabilitatory treatment


  • We should find out about the motives, characters and personality structures of criminals, thus finding things that would enable taking measures to reduce the crime rate


  • The evidence proves that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent against violent crime


  • Vengeance is not a proper motive for the State in dealing with convicted criminals

The 14 th dalai lama on the death penalty
The 14th Dalai Lama on the Death Penalty

  • The death penalty fulfils a preventive function, but it is also very clearly a form of revenge... I am optimistic that it remains possible to deter criminal activity, and prevent such harmful consequences of such acts in society, without having to resort to the death penalty.

Legal terms
Legal terms

  • Death penalty

  • Capital punishment

  • Smrtna kazna

  • Poena capitalis

Legal terms1
Legal terms

  • To commit a crime

  • Počiniti kazneno djelo

  • To try

  • Voditi sudski postupak, suditi

  • To convict

  • Proglasiti krivim

  • To sentence

  • Osuditi, izreći kaznu