After centuries of using this punishment, Virginia becomes the 22nd state in the U.S. to abolish the death penalty. Capital punishment has been around for as long as humanity has. Usually, capital punishment is reserved for the worst of the worst, but it’s no secret that some crimes they considered worth execution are no longer even considered crimes.
In the past, one could be executed for petty theft, treason, and something as harmless as marrying a Jew. In addition, being accused of witchcraft was a death sentence, literally and metaphorically. It was even punishable by death in Britain to cut down a tree that did not belong to the person!
The death penalty, however, has been debated on the ethicality of the punishment. Is it right to take away someone’s life even if they had done the same? Or on a more serious subject, what if they had never committed the crime? A particularly famous case has ended in this way before. David Lewis Lee had been executed after being convicted of murder in the past. Reportedly, his last words before he was executed were, “I didn’t do it! You’re killing an innocent man!” but his life was taken away with no hesitation. His guilt was never proven to be true, nor was it proven to be false.
To qualify for death row, a criminal may have committed murder in the first degree, murder or attempted murder on a juror or witness, assassinations, treason, or by being a spy for opposing lands. A necessary clarification is that assassinations are not the same as murder, as assassinations pertain to the murder of political figures for political or social gain. A plain murderer is anyone who kills for personal gain.
Most criminals on death row are not likely to be executed anytime soon. Lethal injections, which are growing to be an increasingly more popular form of execution, are expensive, so the government isn’t too keen on killing criminals using this form. Instead, they stay on “death row” until they die.
Common forms of execution include stoning, beheadings, drawing, quartering, burning, various tortures, being shot, electric chair, gassing, and lethal injection. Only the last three are still used in the U.S.A. The 8th amendment protects criminals from having cruel and unusual punishments; therefore, torturous and potentially painful executions are no longer in fashion.
Some people may argue that the electric chair, gassing, and lethal injection method is cruel and unusual and that the death penalty is cruel in itself. Virginia seemed to agree with this, and as a result, abolished the death penalty because of it.
Whether or not the death penalty is ethical is a debate with no right answer, but America is slowly abolishing it one state at a time.