Death Penalty Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Death Penalty, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Death Penalty?

capital punishment; its judicially ordered execution for some exceptionally serious crime (which then is called capital crime,

History and Meaning of Death Penalty

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, has been practiced throughout human history, but its exact origins are unclear. The first known death penalty laws date back to the eighteenth century B.C. and were implemented in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. The attitudes towards the death penalty have changed over time generally reflecting societal conditions and beliefs. In modern times, capital punishment continues to be a controversial topic due to concerns over its effectiveness, morality, and fairness.

The death penalty is the most severe punishment that can be imposed for a crime. It involves the legal execution of a person by the state, as ordered by the court. The crimes that can be subject to the death penalty, also known as capital crimes, vary by jurisdiction, but often include murder, treason, and espionage.

Examples of Death Penalty

  1. In 2020, the United States government executed thirteen individuals as a result of implementing the federal death penalty, which many consider a controversial practice.

  2. Countries such as Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia have high numbers of executions per year.

  3. Gary Gilmore was the first person executed in the United States following the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

  4. In 2019, the governor of California abolished the state's death penalty, commuting the sentences of over 700 individuals on death row.

Legal Terms Similar to Death Penalty

  1. Capital Crime: Also, known as a capital offense, it refers to a crime that is punishable by the death penalty.

  2. Lethal Injection: The most common method of execution in the United States, in which a person is injected with a combination of chemicals that causes death.

  3. Felony Murder: A crime in which an individual is responsible for the death of another person during the commission of a felony, which can result in the death penalty.