Transcript: What Is the Death Penalty?

Hi. I’m Evan Mandery. I’m a professor at John jay College of Criminal Justice and I’m the author of Killing Court, a history of the Supreme Court’s treatment of the Death Penalty in the 1970’s.

Information About the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty is the legal execution of defendant’s for cries they have committed. Either by the state or the federal government.Most commonly the death penalty is used as a punishment for murder. With respect to the federal government it’s stll a potential penalty for acts of terrorism or highjacking, or for say, the attempted assassination of the president. But almost everyone executed in the United States is executed for aggravated murder.

Facts About the Death Penalty

And what aggravated means is that there’s a factor present beyond what’s present in the ordinary case. So, for example, the murder of a police officer might qualify someone for the death penalty or the murder of someone particularly old or young. Or, for a murder that is committed in an especially heinous manner.

More Facts About the Death Penalty

There are many people who believe that the death penalty does not deter, and some who believe that it does deter. One leading recent study suggests that th death penalty deters if it’s used very frequently. But, complicating the issue, it also appears that the death penalty encourages murders by desensitizing citizens to violence. So, it may be that a state has to execute many, many people before the deternts effect out weighs what criminologists refer to as the brutalization effect.

Additional Facts About the Death Penalty

The death penalty is on the books in 34 states currently, but it is almost exclusively a southern phenomenon, and really, predominantly a Texas phenomenon, which executes far and away more people then any other state or the federal government. For example in California, California sentences, California juries sentence many, many people to die but almost no one in California is executed. Where as in Texas executions are carried out at almost the rate of one per week.

The United States is one of a handful of nations in the western world which continue to employ the death penalty and it’s really a source that complicates American foreign policy that the United States projects itself as Humanitarian but at the same time retains a death penalty which most nations have long condemned as barbaric.

Executions are almost always carried out in the united States by lethal injection which the Supreme Court approved as a method of execution in 2008. A handful of states still have electrocution and hanging on the books. Generally that can be used as an option by the defendant but almost no one exercises that option. And almost everyone is executed by lethal injection.

Thanks for watching, to learn more, visit us on the web at About.com.



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