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The first recognized death penalty laws date back to eighteenth century B.C.

and can
be found in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon. The Hammurabi Code prescribed
the death penalty for over twenty different offenses. The death penalty was also part
of the Hittite Code in the fourteenth century B.C.

Introduction to the Death Penalty
Early Death Penalty Laws
The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code
of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes. The death
penalty was also part of the Fourteenth Century B.C.'s Hittite Code; in the Seventh Century B.C.'s
Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes; and in the Fifth
Century B.C.'s Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets. Death sentences were carried out by such means
as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement.
In the Tenth Century A.D., hanging became the usual method of execution in Britain. In the following
century, William the Conqueror would not allow persons to be hanged or otherwise executed for any
crime, except in times of war. This trend would not last, for in the Sixteenth Century, under the reign
of Henry VIII, as many as 72,000 people are estimated to have been executed. Some common
methods of execution at that time were boiling, burning at the stake, hanging, beheading, and
drawing and quartering. Executions were carried out for such capital offenses as marrying a Jew, not
confessing to a crime, and treason.
The number of capital crimes in Britain continued to rise throughout the next two centuries. By the
1700s, 222 crimes were punishable by death in Britain, including stealing, cutting down a tree, and
robbing a rabbit warren. Because of the severity of the death penalty, many juries would not convict
defendants if the offense was not serious. This lead to reforms of Britain's death penalty. From 1823
to 1837, the death penalty was eliminated for over 100 of the 222 crimes punishable by death.
(Randa, 1997)
The Death Penalty in America
Britain influenced America's use of the death penalty more than any other country. When European
settlers came to the new world, they brought the practice of capital punishment. The first recorded
execution in the new colonies was that of Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony of
Virginia in 1608. Kendall was executed for being a spy for Spain. In 1612, Virginia Governor Sir
Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws, which provided the death penalty for even
minor offenses such as stealing grapes, killing chickens, and trading with Indians.

even though the Capital Laws of New England did not go into effect until years later. that the Eighth Amendment contained an "evolving standard of decency that marked the progress of a maturing society. To this effect. The other 1968 case was Witherspoon v. Under these laws. However. or denying the "true God. offenses such as striking one's mother or father. progressed to a point that its "standard of decency" should no longer tolerate the death penalty. in the early 1960s. 1999) In the late 1960s. The Massachusetts Bay Colony held its first execution in 1630. Jackson (390 U. The New York Colony instituted the Duke's Laws of 1665. Before then. Dulles (356 U. it was suggested that the death penalty was a "cruel and unusual" punishment." were punishable by death. the Court heard two cases in 1968 dealing with the discretion given to the prosecutor and the jury in capital cases. (Randa. the Supreme Court again addressed the problems associated with the role of jurors and their discretion in capital cases. In 1971.Laws regarding the death penalty varied from colony to colony. Jurors could be disqualified only if prosecutors could show that the juror's attitude toward capital punishment would prevent him or her from making an impartial decision about the punishment." Although Trop was not a death penalty case.S. and Fourteenth Amendments were interpreted as permitting the death penalty. the Supreme Court had decided in Trop v. 570). 86). the Supreme Court began "fine tuning" the way the death penalty was administered. In 1958. . Ohio and McGautha v. where the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding a provision of the federal kidnapping statute requiring that the death penalty be imposed only upon recommendation of a jury. The first case was U. in fact. and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.S. v. abolitionists applied the Court's logic to executions and maintained that the United States had. (Bohm. In this case. 510).S. Illinois (391 U. the Supreme Court held that a potential juror's mere reservations about the death penalty were insufficient grounds to prevent that person from serving on the jury in a death penalty case. Eighth. The Court held that this practice was unconstitutional because it encouraged defendants to waive their right to a jury trial to ensure they would not receive a death sentence.S. the Fifth. 1997) Constitutionality of the Death Penalty in America Challenging the Death Penalty The 1960s brought challenges to the fundamental legality of the death penalty. The Court decided Crampton v.

however. which was a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim. as the jurors in his case were instructed that a first-degree murder conviction would result in a death sentence. Advocates of capital punishment began proposing new statutes that they believed would end arbitrariness in capital sentencing. In 9 separate opinions. argued that capital cases resulted in arbitrary and capricious sentencing.S. which rewrote its death penalty statute only five months after Furman. thereby approving of unfettered jury discretion and a single proceeding to determine guilt and sentence. 183). if it offended society's sense of justice. Thus. Furman. Shortly after. With that holding. Crampton also argued that it was unconstitutional to have his guilt and sentence determined in one set of deliberations. the Supreme Court effectively voided 40 death penalty statutes. and Branch v.S. unlike McGautha.California (consolidated under 402 U. Georgia. however. Georgia (408 U. like McGautha. the Court essentially opened the door to states to rewrite their death penalty statutes to eliminate the problems cited in Furman." Suspending the Death Penalty The issue of arbitrariness of the death penalty was again be brought before the Supreme Court in 1972 in Furman v. the Court held that Georgia's death penalty statute. Reinstating the Death Penalty Although the separate opinions by Justices Brennan and Marshall stated that the death penalty itself was unconstitutional. thereby commuting the sentences of 629 death row inmates around the country and suspending the death penalty because existing statutes were no longer valid. was a challenge brought under the Eighth Amendment. Furman. 34 other states proceeded to enact new death penalty statutes. some states removed all of that discretion by . Georgia. The Court. on June 29. rejected these claims. To address the unconstitutionality of unguided jury discretion. The Court held that the scheme of punishment under the statute was therefore "cruel and unusual" and violated the Eighth Amendment. The states were led by Florida. which gave the jury complete sentencing discretion. The Court stated that guiding capital sentencing discretion was "beyond present human ability. could result in arbitrary sentencing. if it was arbitrary. 1972. or it if was not more effective than a less severe penalty. Texas (known collectively as the landmark case Furman v. With the Furman decision the Supreme Court set the standard that a punishment would be "cruel and unusual" if it was too severe for the crime. Jackson v. 238)). The defendants argued it was a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process for jurors to have unrestricted discretion in deciding whether the defendants should live or die. and by a vote of 5 to 4. and such discretion resulted in arbitrary and capricious sentencing. the overall holding in Furman was that the specific death penalty statutes were unconstitutional.

three other procedural reforms were approved by the Court in Gregg. thus reinstating the death penalty in those states. Through this process. 280 (1976)). Georgia (428 U. to see if it is disproportionate. collectively referred to as the Gregg decision. The ten-year moratorium on executions that had begun with the Jackson and Witherspoon decisions ended on January 17. This landmark decision held that the new death penalty statutes in Florida. in which there are separate deliberations for the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. 262). some of the resulting new statutes include variations on the procedural reforms found in Gregg. The first was bifurcated trials.S. Georgia. Only after the jury has determined that the defendant is guilty of capital murder does it decide in a second trial whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or given a lesser sentence of prison time. 1977. Another reform was the practice of automatic appellate review of convictions and sentence. Therefore. and Proffitt v. North Carolina (428 U. this practice was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Woodson v. the state appellate court can compare the sentence in the case being reviewed with other cases within the state.S. Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection as a means of execution. In addition to sentencing guidelines. Gilmore did not challenge his death sentence. some states wishing to reinstate the death penalty included them in their new death penalty statutes. . The Court. 153). Other states sought to limit that discretion by providing sentencing guidelines for the judge and jury when deciding whether to impose death. Texas (428 U. The guidelines allowed for the introduction of aggravating and mitigating factors in determining sentencing. did not require that each of the reforms be present in the new statutes.mandating capital punishment for those convicted of capital crimes. and Texas were constitutional. The final procedural reform from Gregg was proportionality review. These guided discretion statutes were approved in 1976 by the Supreme Court in Gregg v. The Court also held that the death penalty itself was constitutional under the Eighth Amendment.S. That same year. with the execution of Gary Gilmore by firing squad in Utah. Because these reforms were accepted by the Supreme Court. Florida (428 U. 242). though it would be five more years until Charles Brooks became the first person executed by lethal injection in Texas on December 7. however.S. a practice that helps the state to identify and eliminate sentencing disparities. Jurek v. 1982. However.

against all nationalist Filipinos. He was sentenced to die by public hanging. adopting most of the provisions under the Codigo Penal of 1848. traces the death penalty’s historical roots and context in Philippine society:                 Spanish Period (1521-1898) Spanish colonizers brought with them medieval Europe’s penal system. garrote. and Dr. drowning. Jose Rizal. Between 1840-1857. the death penalty was reimposed as a knee-jerk response to what has largely been seen as rising criminality in the country. 1896. For the most part (from 1848 to 1987). Post-World War II Espionage is added to the list of capital offenses. The following. Brigandage Act (1902). Treason. In recent history.A timeline of death penalty in the Philippines THE imposition of the death penalty in the country has had a repressive history. executed on December 30. decapitation. the native clergies Gomez. However. with help from the Mamamayang Tutol sa Bitay-Movement for Restorative Justice. American Period (1898-1934) The American colonizers. retain the death penalty. hanging. Reconcentration Act (1903). and robbery with homicide were considered capital offenses and warranted the death penalty.703 with 46 actual executions. Capital punishment during the early Spanish Period took various forms including burning. parricide. rape. This is the same justification used for the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. and Flag Law (1907) were enacted to sanction the use of force. including death. including executions. 35 people were executed for offenses that the Supreme Court labeled as “crimes of senseless depravity or extreme criminal perversity. flaying. Capital punishment was enshrined in the 1848 Spanish Codigo Penal and was only imposed on locals who challenged the established authority of the colonizers. The Codigo Penal was revised in 1932. shooting. For the period of 1946-1965. however. stabbing and others. murder. Japanese Occupation (1941-1945) There are no recorded or documented cases of executions through the death penalty during this period simply because extrajudicial executions were widely practised as part of the pacification of the country. piracy. Macario Sakay was one of those sentenced to die for leading a resistance group. to suppress any resistance to American authority. The capital punishment continued to be an integral part of the pacification process of the country. The Anti-Subversion Law called for the death penalty for all Communist leaders. Burgos and Zamora who were garroted in 1872. it was used to curtail the liberties.” The Marcos Years (1965-1986) “Deterrence” became the official justification for the imposition of the death penalty. recorded death sentences totaled 1. Filipinos who were meted the death penalty include Magat Salamat (1587). The Sedition Law (1901). All of them are now enshrined as heroes. freedoms and rights of the Filipino people. no executions were recorded for any captured communist leader. Some crimes which were made punishable by death through laws and decrees during the Marcos period were . The number of capital crimes increased to a total of 24. kidnapping.

embezzlement. Even as executions were set to resume on January 2004. Twelve were executed during Martial Law. and Edgardo Aquino were executed for the gang rape of movie star Maggie dela Riva in 1972. 7659 in December 1993 to address the rising criminality and incidence of heinous crimes. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-present) Arroyo publicly stated that she is not in favor of executions. The last judicial execution under the Marcos years was in October 1976 when Marcelo San Jose was executed by electrocution. arson. the bumper year for executions. The Ramos administration reimposed the death penalty by virtue of Republic Act No. was sentenced to die by firing squad for charges of murder. 8177 mandates that a death sentence shall be carried out through lethal injection.538 (from 71.527 crimes in the previous year). Since then. Nineteen executions took place during the Pre-Martial Law period. including the murder of Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. ironically increased by 15. President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1986-1992) The Death Penalty was “abolished” under the 1987 Constitution. Jaime Jose. subversion and illegal possession of firearm in 1977. Despite prohibitions against public executions. Jr. 25 of these are death mandatory while 21 are death eligible. illegal fishing and cattle rustling. 2003. the execution of the three was done in full view of the public.3 percent or a total of 82. there are now 52 capital offenses.” Arroyo lifted the de facto moratorium issued by Estrada on December 5. President Joseph Ejercito Estrada (1998-2001) Leo Echegaray was executed in February 1999 and was followed by six other executions for various heinous crimes. unlawful possession of firearms. hijacking. With the amendment of Republic Act No. instead of abating. Similar to the reasons for the imposition of capital punishment during the Colonial Periods. the administration has been issuing reprieves on scheduled executions without actually issuing a moratorium. possession of firearms. The Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Due to the rise in crimes related to drugs and kidnappings that targeted the FilipinoChinese community. created public impression that heinous crimes were on the rise. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs act of 2002). this did not push through by virtue of a Supreme Court decision to reopen the Lara-Licayan case. Estrada issued a de facto moratorium on executions in the face of church-led campaigns to abolish the death penalty and in observance of the Jubilee Year. All death sentences were reduced to reclusion Perpetua or life imprisonment. Basilio Pineda. the death penalty during the Marcos Regime was imposed to quell rebellion and social unrest. In 1999. The Death Penalty Law lists a total of 46 crimes punishable by death. In 1988. she announced that she would resume executions “to sow fear into the hearts of criminals.                      subversion. 30 of which are death mandatory and 22 are death eligible. Senator Benigno Aquino. the national crime volume. Republic Act No. 8353 (Anti-Rape Law of 1997) and Republic Act No. the military started lobbying for the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by the CPP-NPA. President Fidel Valdez Ramos (1993-1998) A series of high profile crimes during this period. drug-related offenses. .

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