capital punishment

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Capital punishment, which is also known as the death penalty, is criminal punishment that takes the defendant’s life as the punishment for the defendant’s crime. The sentence ordering capital punishment is called the death sentence, and the act of carrying out the sentence is called an execution. A defendant sentenced to death and waiting for execution is said to be on death row. In the common law system, capital punishment is only used in a limited number of crimes such as treason, murder, rape, and arson. Even dating back to 1688, despite the extremely rigorous laws that had been established during the reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts, no more than about fifty offenses carried the death penalty. In the eighteenth century, however, their number began to increase. Generally, during the hundred and sixty years from the Restoration to the death of George III, the number of capital offenses had increased by about one hundred and ninety. 

Capital punishment has been abolished in many states in the USA. However, 27 states still have capital punishment: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. The U.S. federal government  and the U.S. Military also retain the death penalty.

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]