Capital punishment

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Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the execution of a convicted criminal by the state as punishment for crimes known as capital crimes or capital offences. Historically, the execution of criminals and political opponents was used by nearly all societies—both to punish crime and to suppress political dissent.

Quotes[edit]

It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.
  • If we could do away with death, we wouldn’t object; to do away with capital punishment will be more difficult. Were that to happen, we would reinstate it from time to time.
  • Many of us do not believe in capital punishment, because thus society takes from a man what society cannot give.
  • The pain was maddening. You should pray to God when you're dying, if you can pray when you're in agony. In my dream I didn't pray to God, I thought of Roger and how dearly I loved him. The pain of those wicked flames was not half so bad as the pain I felt when I knew he was dead. I felt suddenly glad to be dying. I didn't know when you were burnt to death you'd bleed. I thought the blood would all dry up in the terrible heat. But I was bleeding heavily. The blood was dripping and hissing in the flames. I wished I had enough blood to put the flames out. The worst part was my eyes. I hate the thought of gong blind. It's bad enough when I'm awake but in dreams you can't shake the thoughts away. They remain. In this dream I was going blind. I tried to close my eyelids but I couldn't. They must have been burnt off, and now those flames were going to pluck my eyes out with their evil fingers, I didn't want to go blind. The flames weren't so cruel after all. They began to feel cold. Icy cold. It occurred to me that I wasn't burning to death but freezing to death.
  • Yea, such is the law of England, the tenderest law in the world of a man's life. I say again, that no such trial for life is to be found in the world, as in England. In any place but in England, a man's life may be taken away upon two or three witnesses; but in England two or three witnesses do not do it: For there are two juries besides, and you have four-and-twenty men returned; you have one-and-twenty men upon their oaths and consciences that have found you guilty: And yet when you have done that, it is not enough by the law of England, but you are also to have twelve rational understanding men of your neighbours to hear all over again, and to pass upon your life. This is not used in any law in the world but in England, which hath the most righteous and most merciful law in the world.
    • Lord Keble, C.J., Lilburne's Case (1649), 4 How. St. Tr. 1311; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 240-241.
  • Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not to be encountered in private life.
  • A punishment that penalizes without forestalling is indeed called revenge.
  • What will be left of the power of example if it is proved that capital punishment has another power, and a very real one, which degrades men to the point of shame, madness, and murder?
    • Albert Camus, “Reflections on the Guillotine,” Resistance, Rebellion and Death (1961).
  • Capital punishment kills immediately, whereas lifetime imprisonment does so slowly. Which executioner is more humane? The one who kills you in a few minutes, or the one who wrests your life from you in the course of many years?
    • Anton Chekhov, The banker in The Bet, Works, vol. 7, p. 229, “Nauka” <1254>
  • I have reached the conviction that the abolition of the death penalty is desirable. Reasons: 1) Irreparability in the event of an error of justice, 2) Detrimental moral influence of the execution procedure on those who, whether directly or indirectly, have to do with the procedure.
    • Albert Einstein p.83, Albert Einstein-The human side, Princeton University Press 1979.
  • Capital punishment is our society's recognition of the sanctity of human life.

The Cassell Dictionary of Regrettable Quotations (1999)

  • We are concerned here only with the imposition of capital punishment for the crime of murder, and when a life has been taken deliberately by the offender, we cannot say that the punishment is invariably disproportionate to the crime. It is an extreme sanction suitable to the most extreme of crimes.


  • As regards capital cases, the trouble is that emotional men and women always see only the individual whose fate is up at the moment, and neither his victim nor the many millions of unknown individuals who would in the long run be harmed by what they ask. Moreover, almost any criminal, however brutal, has usually some person, often a person whom he has greatly wronged, who will plead for him. If the mother is alive she will always come, and she cannot help feeling that the case in which she is so concerned is peculiar, that in this case a pardon should be granted. It was really heartrending to have to see the kinfolk and friends of murderers who were condemned to death, and among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official caused me to lose sleep were times when I had to listen to some poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his punishment.
  • The Bible identifies 15 crimes against the family worthy of the death penalty. Abortion is treason against the family and deserves the death penalty. Adultery is treason to the family; adulterers should be put to death. Homosexuality is treason to the family, and it too, is worthy of death.

God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven, 1988.

  • In the case of murder, the death penalty - issued by way of putting the culprit to sleep to then apply the lethal injection - is the time delayed procedure of self-defense as carried out by the representatives of the victim(s) who, at the time of the incident and due to the then existing circumstances, was/were unable to defend itself/themselves from the willful murderous attack.
  • I personally have always voted for the death penalty because I believe that people who go out prepared to take the lives of other people forfeit their own right to live. I believe that that death penalty should be used only very rarely, but I believe that no-one should go out certain that no matter how cruel, how vicious, how hideous their murder, they themselves will not suffer the death penalty.
  • No man e'er felt the halter draw,
    With good opinion of the law.



  • Death penalty is the special and eternal sign of barbarism. Where death penalty is applied, barbarism dominates; where death penalty is rare, civilisation reigns.
  • Three things belong to God and do not belong to men: the irrevocable, the irreparable and the indissoluble. Woe to men if they introduce it in their laws!
  • The burning of the house of the offender is not a permissible punishment for arson. The rape of the offender is not a permissible punishment of a rapist. Why should murder be a permissible punishment for murder?
  • The ability of so many people to live comfortably with the idea of capital punishment is perhaps a clue to how so many Europeans were able to live with the idea of the Holocaust: Once you accept the notion that the state has the right to kill someone and the right to define what is a capital crime, aren't you halfway there?
  • The most marked indication of society's endorsement of the death penalty for murder is the legislative response to Furman.
  • After a four-year moratorium on executions in California, multiple proceedings in federal court, a state administrative law proceeding, and state court appeals, it is incredible to think that the deliberative process might be driven by the expiration date of the execution drug.
  • Scroggs, L.C.J: My rule is this, in doubtful cases, when men are upon their lives, I had rather hear what is impertinent, than not let them make a full defence.
    North, L.C.J: I had rather hear things at a venture, than forbid things at a venture.
    • Whitehead's Case (1679), 7 How. St. Tr. 388; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 241.
  • Eddard Stark: "If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you can not do that, then perhaps the men does not deserve to die. [...] A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is."
    • George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (1996), [2]
  • It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.
    • Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot [Book of the Commandments], commentary on Negative Commandment 290, as translated by Charles B. Chavel (1967); also in Defending the Human Spirit : Jewish Law's Vision for a Moral Society (2006) by Warren Goldstein, p. 269

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