Capital punishment is a well established element of the American criminal justice system. The great majority of states have the death penalty as well as many eastern countries.
History was made last year when Karla Fay Tucker was executed through lethal injection. She was the first woman to be executed since the Civil War. Ms. Tuckeris now in the history books. Her death is only one of ten things that I think are important to the history of capital punishment.

Throughout history, the death penalty has been like no other punishment. It is considered to be the most terrible penalty society can inflict. This is because it is the most violent and also the most final and complete. In many ancient societies, death was imposed for all sorts of crimes. In the modern times, however, it is used more sparingly. Many modern nations donít use this punishment at all. Those that do, usually reserve if for crimes the society considers most serious. If you offended society deeply enough, you would die. The death penalty has always been considered especially appropriate for the crime of murder. To many people think that death seems to be the logical and inevitable consequence for murder. Death would after all have the same remorseless outcome as murder itself.

Historically, many countries have cut back on the use of the death penalty, and reserve it for murder cases.
Murder was one of the most capitally punished crimes even back in the ancient times although many minor offenses were also punished with death. For example, under Greeceís draconian code, death was the punishment for every crime. Under Romeís law of the 12 tablets in the 5th century B.C. death was the penalty for publishing "insulting songs" and disturbing the peace of the city at night. In other civilizations where capital punishment wasnít carried out through the legal system, it was left up to the victims or their families to seek revenge. The degree of crime was not only the only factor that went into the decision of whether or not to execute the criminal. Commoners were executed more often than aristocrats and nobles. Minorities were often treated more harshly than others. In fact, in many cultures, clergyman could not tried for anything, much less be put to death.

Beginning in the ancient times and continuing well into the 20th century, exucutions were usually carried out in public. Execution grounds were set up in spacious town squares. Ordinary citizens were allowed and encouraged to watch the wrongdoers pay for their crimes.
Public executions helped the authorities to do their jobs by serving as grisly lessons for potential wrongdoers. Those public spectacles were a great way to strike fear into the hearts of those who might be tempted to take up a life of crime. In some places, corpses of the executed were displayed in public places