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n. the sentence of execution for murder and some other capital crimes. (See: capital punishment)
Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
death penaltypunishment by way of killing the offender. The various modes through time and space have been hanging (Anglo-American), guillotine (France) and electrocution and lethal injection (USA). It is extremely popular with the public and the families of victims, but, because it is so easy to make a mistake in any judicial process and this particular legal cock-up cannot be corrected by more paper shuffling, it is going out of fashion. While the framers of the US Constitution could not outlaw it by preventing cruel and unusual punishment (if everybody does it, it is usual and if you do it quickly it's not cruel). Modern human rights lawyers have rather started to eliminate it. The penalty no longer exists for any offence in the UK. The UK ratified Protocol 6 of the European Convention in May 1999, which commits contracting parties to permanently abolishing the death penalty. In December 1999 the UK ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which also abolishes the death penalty. The death penalty for treason and piracy was abolished by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006