Utah Bar Journal
Vol. 25, No. 5. 36.
Utah Bar JournalVolume 25 No. 5Sep/Oct 2012Book Review The Death Penalty: Debating the Moral, Legal, and Political IssuesEdited by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum Reviewed by Ralph Dellapiana"In early October 1283, Prince David of Wales was hanged, drawn, and quartered for an attack during the Easter season against the English King Edward." The Death Penalty: Debating the Moral, Legal, and Political Issues, starts with a graphic look at the historical use of the death penalty, and then describes its rapidly declining use in most of the modern world.
The editors, both professors of philosophy at Baylor University in Texas, have compiled a compendium of some thirty articles by a diverse selection of authors on both sides of the issue. The book is divided into six sections, covering topics including: the history and current status of the death penalty, arguments for and against the death penalty, whether lethal injection is cruel or unusual, whether capital punishment may be applied to crimes other than murder, such as the rape of children, how DNA advances have led to the exoneration of innocent people who would otherwise have been executed, and whether obvious racial disparities in the application of the death penalty make it unconstitutional.
Historically, the book notes, the death penalty was the norm. In 7th Century B.C., the Draconian Code of Athens made the death penalty the punishment for all crimes. In Europe people were hanged, drawn and quartered or both, pressed to death under stones, or burned alive. Until almost the 20th Century, "death was a standard punishment for almost any offense against established authority" be it church or state.
Religions, ironically, have been the source of much death. "The Inquisition was a natural Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation, and it demanded death by burning at the stake for many thousand of heretics who refused to bend to the authority of Catholicism." And, seventh-century America saw witch hunts that produced torture and execution on religious grounds. Individuals were executed for murder, burglary, forgery, arson, and theft. Among modern religions (note that the authors discuss only Christian religions), Evangelicals support the death penalty, and Catholic and Protestant oppose it...