Standards of Decency in America
Uploaded by thomasintherain on May 01, 2007
"The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
This is a dissertation on the Evolving Standards of Decency in America’s judicial system in relation to capital punishment. The first of three arguments in this abstract show how, when, and why America will come to embrace a complete moratorium on capital punishments.
Evolving Standards of Decency demonstrates that through the history of America (and the world) people have come to understand, appreciate and the value of human life. Even when considering the lives of convicted criminals justice does not always mean an eye-for-an-eye.
State sanctioned executions go back to the reign of King Hammaurabi of Babylon, in the Eighteenth Century B.C. Hammaurabi’s Code allowed for the death sentence for twenty-five different crimes. In Fourteenth Century B.C. the Hittite and, the Seventh Century Draconian Code of Athens, made the death penalty law for any crime committed. Also, written on the Twelve Tablets, Fifth Century B.C. Romans decreed that the death sentence could be carried out by such means as impalement, burning, beatings, drowning and notoriously, crucifixion. America however, gets the majority of its ideology about state executions from England. England is home to some of the world’s most famous proponents’ of the death penalty. Possibly the most notorious was King Henry VIII. During his reign he sought the execution of some twenty-five thousand Englishmen for crimes as menial as hunting on the kings land, delinquent taxes, insanity, witchcraft, hunting of game out of season, adultery, and Judaism.
America’s first encounter with the death penalty occurred when Captain George Kendall was hung for being a spy for Spain, in Virginia during 1608. Four years later Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws which could get you a rope neck tie for the offense of grape stealing, killing chickens, or trading with Indians. It took until 1794 for Pennsylvania to repeal the death penalty for all cases except first-degree murders. Until then Americans were, by court order, being executed for crimes such as adultery, theft, and Indian trading for almost two hundred years. It took until 1846 when Michigan became the first state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes with the exception of treason. Following Michigan’s lead, shortly there after, Rhode Island...