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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Capital Punishment

The term “Draconian” derives from Draco, the first legislator of Athens. Draco's laws, written in blood, prescribed death for even trivial crimes.

In ancient Rome, the punishment for killing one's father consisted of being drowned in a sack along with a dog, a rooster, and a snake.

The first person recorded to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in England was pirate William Marise in 1241.

Public executions in British history world rife with snobbishness. Nobles were beheaded and the working classes hung. Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, actually rehearsed her own execution the night before.

Louis XV of France survived an assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens in 1757, who later became the last person to be executed in the country by drawing and quartering.

Nobody has been burned at the stake in Britain since 1789.

The first country to ban capital punishment (apart from China for a brief spell in the eighth century) was Tuscany. Tuscany had not put anyone to death since 1769, and on November 30, 1786 Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany, promulgated a penal reform that abolished capital punishment. This code remained in act until Tuscany became part of the unified Italy in 1860. November 30th is now commemorated by 300 cities around the world as Cities for Life Day.

In 1688, there were 50 crimes for which the death penalty could be imposed in England. By 1810 this number had grown to 222. By 1861 the number of capital crimes had been reduced to four: murder, treason (including arson in Royal Naval dockyards), mutiny and piracy.

English counterfeiter Catherine Murphy was the last woman in England to be officially burned at the stake. Catherine and her husband, Hugh Murphy, were convicted for coining at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to death. She and her husband were executed on the morning of March 18, 1789 at Newgate prison along with seven other men who had been convicted of various offences.


Britain's last state-ordered decapitation occurred in 1820. It was meted out to five of the Cato Street conspirators for treason, after they were found guilty of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and his Cabinet. They were to be hanged, drawn and quartered — but the sentence was lessened to hanging and beheading. After the bodies had hung for half an hour, they were lowered one at a time and an a man with a knife decapitated them against an angled block.

The last public hanging in Britain was in 1868.

The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, when 38 Native Americans were executed.

The first person in the world to be executed by the electric chair was Buffalo native William Kemmler, in 1890.

The execution of William Kemmler, August 6, 1890. Illustration from the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien

The first state execution in the United States by gas chamber took place in Nevada on February 8, 1924. A member of the Hip Sing Tong criminal society from San Francisco, California, Gee Jon was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly member from another gang in Nevada. An unsuccessful attempt to pump poison gas directly into Gee's cell at Nevada State Prison in Carson City led to the development of the first makeshift gas chamber to carry out Gee's death sentence.

Mug shot of Gee Jon.By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29457951

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 replaced the penalty of death with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. It was given Royal Assent, formally abolishing the death penalty in the United Kingdom on November 8, 1965.

The 1965 Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act overlooked four other capital offences: high treason, "piracy with violence" (piracy with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm), arson in royal dockyards and espionage, as well as other capital offences under military law. The death penalty was not finally abolished in the United Kingdom until 1998. However the last executions in the United Kingdom were in 1964, for murder.

Ronald Ryan, the last person to be executed in Australia, was hanged in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne in 1967.

Convicted murderer Billy Bailey was the last person to be hanged in the USA. He was executed by the state of Delaware on January 25, 1996 .The gallows in Delaware was later dismantled in 2003, because in that year none of its death row inmates remained eligible to choose hanging over lethal injection.



As of June 2016, 68 different crimes—more than half being non-violent offenses like tax evasion—are punishable by death in China.

Japanese Death Row inmates are not told their date of execution. They wake up each day wondering if it might be their last.

Source The Guardian, Daily Express

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