The Global Movement to Abolish the Death Penalty

When Was the Death Penalty Banned?

The death penalty has been used for centuries. In fact it is still used in some countries today.

However, there has been a growing movement to abolish it. More than half of the world’s countries have banned it. The Supreme Court has also barred it for certain crimes and groups of people.


In the 1800s, a growing number of people were sentenced to death in the United States. This was mainly due to a series of Supreme Court rulings.

In 1958, the Supreme Court ruled in Trop v Dulles that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment should be read in light of “evolving standards of decency which mark the progress of a maturing society.”

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Furman v Georgia that the death penalty violated the constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The court also ruled that courts should not exclude potential jurors who oppose the death penalty, and that non-bifurcated trials were unconstitutional. These rulings led to a decade-long moratorium on executions. During this time, Amnesty International was able to secure a stay of execution for Hafez in Yemen by sending him a text message.


The death penalty is the most severe punishment that a state can impose on its citizens. It is generally considered to be cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

During the late 1700s, abolitionist movements began to gain momentum in the United States and other countries. Cesare Beccaria, Charles Dickens, and Karl Marx wrote that there was no justification for taking a life.

Several nonprofit organizations work to end the death penalty, including the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Innocence Project. The latter focuses on providing legal assistance and DNA testing to wrongfully convicted prisoners in hopes of exonerating them. The Innocence Project has thus far succeeded in exonerating 173 people.


Supporters of the death penalty argue that it serves several social purposes, including deterrence and retribution. They argue that the execution process is fair because judges determine whether a death sentence is warranted on the basis of all relevant evidence. They further assert that racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system are not a sufficient reason to abolish capital punishment.

The Supreme Court has rejected these arguments. In the 1976 case of Gregg v. Georgia, the Court ruled that while mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional, capital punishment laws that allow judges some discretion could be constitutional. Since then, the number of innocent people freed from death row has declined and public support for the penalty has sunk to its lowest level in decades.


Opponents of the death penalty argue that it violates human rights and undermines fundamental values. They point to the many cases of wrongful convictions and executions. They also point to the high cost of appeals and the fact that executions cannot be reversed.

They also claim that the death penalty has not proven to be an effective deterrent and that it is often imposed in disproportionate ways against the poor, minorities, and members of political or racial minority groups. Finally, they argue that the killing of convicted murderers cheapens all lives and that society has a duty to abolish it.

Nonprofit organizations, such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Innocence Project, work to end the death penalty through mass organization and legal assistance.


The Supreme Court ruled in Furman that the death penalty as practiced violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Stewart and Thurgood Marshall feared that states were using the death penalty as a legal form of lynching of African American men, in particular.

The Court also ruled that executing people with mental illness, or who are otherwise mentally disabled, violates the Eighth Amendment. This is due to the fact that they lack the degree of culpability that characterizes most serious adult criminal conduct.

Between 1911 and 1917, seven additional states abolished the death penalty for murder, including Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa, Oregon, Arizona, and South Dakota. Some of these laws were later reinstated, but not all. Many more states still have the death penalty for murder and other crimes.

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