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A Stark Look at the Death Penalty

A Stark Look at the Death Penalty



18th Century, B.C.: the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes.
FACT: Murder was not one of them.

16th Century, B.C.: first death sentence historically recorded in Egypt.
The 7th Century BC: Draconian Code of Athens made death the penalty for every crime committed. Since then, draconian has come to refer to similarly unforgiving rules or laws.

399 B.C.: Greek philosopher Socrates was found guilty of “refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state” and “corrupting the youth.” and was sentenced to drink poison.

29 A.D.: Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem.

FACT: [You think Texas is tough?] Under Henry VIII of England, as many as 72,000 people were executed, mostly by hanging, the standard method of execution at the time.

#1: The first recorded execution in America took place in 1608, and was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of Virginia, who was convicted of treason.

1930s: The Depression era in the U.S. saw a peak in executions (an average of 160 per year), was followed by a dramatic decrease in the 1950s and 1960s. No executions occurred in the US between 1967 and 1976.

1972: the Supreme Court effectively nullified the death penalty, and converted the death sentences of hundreds of death row inmates to life in prison.

1976: another Supreme Court ruling found capital punishment to be Constitutional.

U.S. Statistics


Alabama Arizona Arkansas California
Colorado Delaware Florida Georgia
Idaho Indiana Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire North Carolina
Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas
Utah Virginia Washington Wyoming
U.S. Gov’t: the Military

13 women have been executed in the U.S. since 1976.


Executions since 1976 by Method Used

Lethal Injection – 1177
Electrocution – 158
Gas Chamber – 11
Hanging – 3
Firing Squad – 3


Cost of the death penalty in California has totaled over $4 billion since 1978:

$1.94 billion–Pre-Trial and Trial Costs
$925 million–Automatic Appeals and State Habeas Corpus Petitions
$775 million–Federal Habeas Corpus Appeals
$1 billion–Costs of Incarceration

$186 million: Estimation of the extra costs to taxpayers in the state of Maryland alone, for death penalty cases prosecuted between 1978 and 1999. Based on the 5 executions carried out in the state, this translates to a cost of $37 million per execution.

California was spending $137 million per year on the death penalty, whereas they were reported to only spend $90 million annually in 1988. It was estimated that a system that sentenced the same inmates to a punishment of life without parole would cost only $11.5 million per year.

$90,000: annual cost of confining an inmate to death row in California. With 700 inmates currently on death row in California, that comes to $63 million a year.

WOW: Since the number of executions in California has averaged less than one every two years since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, the cost for each execution is over $250 million.

In 1988, it was estimated that the costs of the death penalty in Florida were $3.2 million per execution. Based on the 44 executions carried out in Florida from 1976 to 2000, that comes to $24 million per execution.

Sometimes the innocent are set free:

130: Since 1973, the number of people that have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions.

Factors leading to wrongful convictions include:

Inadequate legal representation
Police and prosecutorial misconduct
Perjured testimony and mistaken eyewitness testimony
Racial prejudice
Jailhouse “snitch” testimony
Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence
Community/political pressure to solve a case

What is the purpose of a death penalty (thoughts to ponder)

Is the purpose of the death penalty to remove from society someone who would cause more harm?
Is the purpose to remove from society someone who is incapable of rehabilitation?
Is the purpose of the death penalty to deter others from committing murder?
Is the purpose of the death penalty to punish the criminal?
Is the purpose of the death penalty to take retribution on behalf of the victim?

10 Best Death Penalty Movies

“Paths of Glory” (1957)
“The Thin Blue Line” (1988)
“The Green Mile” (1999)
“Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman” (2005)
“Capote” (2005)
“Dead Man Walking” (1995)
“The Star Chamber” (1983)
“Shocker” (1989)
“True Crime” (1999)
“The Life of David Gale” (2003)


NH clergy call for abolishing state’s death penalty

By PAT GROSSMITH, New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD, November 12, 2013 – New Hampshire church leaders have issued a call to abolish the death penalty and for clergy to discuss the issue with their congregations.

Catholic Bishop Libasci & Episcopal Bishop Hirschfeld

Bishop James Hazelwood of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Right Rev. A. Robert Hirschfield of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, and the Rev. Gary Schulte, conference minister of the N.H. Conference of the United Church of Christ, are encouraging their clergy to discuss their objections to the death penalty during the weekend of Nov. 23-24.

Bishop Hirschfield called on clergy statewide to participate in a “Preach-In” on the death penalty Nov. 24, coinciding with the Feast of Christ the King Sunday, when the lectionary readings focus on Jesus’s own execution.

“When I was informed that our elected representatives would be considering a bill calling for repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire, it seemed fitting to call on church leaders to urge our people to reflect on this legislation through the lens of Scripture and the tradition of Christian teaching,” said Bishop Hirschfield. “Christ the King Sunday, which falls this year on Nov. 24, reminds Christians of the sovereignty of God in all aspects of our lives and society. The execution and resurrection of Jesus remind us of the futility of acts of violence, hatred, retribution and fear as means to establish a just and peaceful society.

Our churches, for too long divided, have a special opportunity this year to reflect and pray together about how Christian teaching leads us to a society that’s closer to the reign of God. It is for this reason that the leaders of so many denominations are joining in this effort,” he said.

Bishop Libasci said the Feast of Christ the King is an opportunity for Catholics and other Christians to support victims of crime and their families, while remembering that those who commit crimes are capable of redemption – of coming to know Jesus as we see in the story of Christ’s own execution.

“The death penalty neither deters others, nor brings this perpetrator to understanding, but instead, in the worst of ironies, publicly validates the very act of taking a human life,” he said.

Bishop Hazelwood said the death penalty has proven to be an ineffective tool for crime deterrence. “In all likelihood it has been applied to persons who later could have been proven innocent and it does not stand the test of the teachings of Jesus. There is no logical, practical or spiritual reason to continue the death penalty in New Hampshire,” he said.

The Rev. Gary Schulte said in the Christian tradition we are taught by Jesus that “an eye for an eye” and a “tooth for tooth” – or life for a life – is not the ethical standard by which we should live our lives.

“I also believe this applies to our collective responsibility as citizens of the state of New Hampshire. While we have a responsibility to protect our citizens, vengeance and state-sponsored violence are not the way we make our society safer for all,” he said.

This effort is a religious and educational response to bipartisan legislation recently filed in the New Hampshire House to repeal New Hampshire’s death penalty. The New Hampshire Council of Churches is an organizational member of the N.H. Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which is spearheading the repeal campaign.

Last week, the Supreme Court’s upheld the state’s death penalty in the case of Michael Addison, convicted of capital murder in the 2006 shooting death of Manchester police officer Michael Briggs. Addison, 33, a former Boston gang member, is the only person on death row in New Hampshire.

His appeal, on the legal issue of proportionality, is still pending before the Supreme Court. 

Link to original article

More information on the November 24 Preach-In