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Report No. 35

Topic Number 8

Abolition move in United States of America and Central and South America

36. Abolition move in U.S.A.-

There has been a fluctuating tendency towards abolition in the United States. Most of the States have retained it, but in some States it has been abolished, either totally or for all offences except for treason.

37. The following extract from one work1 shows the position in detail in the United States of America, in 1950.

"The States where death and death alone is the penalty for murder are Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. Among other crimes punishable by death alone are: treason in Delaware2, Maryland and New York; arson in Delaware3, Maryland, and North Carolina, rape in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; and burglary in Delaware and North Carolina. It is to be observed, however, that the death penalty is rarely, if ever, inflicted for these crimes.

Death or imprisonment are alternative punishments for murder in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming; for treason in Alabama, Arizona Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and West Virginia; for arson in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia; for rape in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia; for bulglary or robbery in Alabama, Lousiana, and Virginia.".

1. Scott, History of Capital Punishment, (1950), p. 71.

2-3. Delaware abolished the death penalty (See U.N. Publication Table II, p. 74), but, in 1961, it re-instated it. See Clarence H. Patrick The Status of Capital Punishment, (1965 December), 56 J.Cr. L. Criminology, 397, 411.

38. A brief summary of the existing position regarding capital crimes in the United States of America is given in one article1 as follows:-

"There are six capital crimes under Federal law (murder, rape, bank robbery, kidnapping, treason, espionage) and some thirty under state laws (e.g., aiding a suicide in Arkansas or burning a railway bridge in Georgia), but in practice the death penalty is seldom carried out in the United States for offences other than (1) murder and (2) rape committed by a Negro in the South. Of the 97 men executed in the United States in 1958-59 under State laws, 81 were convicted of murder, 15 of rape (14 Negroes, one white, all in southern states), and one of armed robbery (a Negro, in Texas).".

1. "Capital Punishment-A fading practice" published in "Time" dated 21st March, 1960, reproduced in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), pp. 24 and 25.

39. The overall position regarding capital punishment in the United States as in 1961 is summarised in one article1 as follows:-

"The death penalty may now (February 1956) be imposed by forty-two States, the District of Columbia and the Federal Government. Of these, thirty-five States and the United States provide that the jury shall determine when the death penalty is to be imposed; four States provide that the jury may recommend the death penalty, but the Judge is not bound by the recommendation; and three States require capital punishment.

Twenty-six of the thirty-five States (and the Federal Government) that allow the jury to determine punishment, divide murder into degrees and allow the death penalty only in the case of first-degree murder. Nine States abolished the death penalty but later restored it, with life imprisonment as an alternative. One State, Maine, abolished, restored and again abolished the death penalty.".

1. Younger Capital Punishment-A Sharp Medicine Reconsidered, reproduced in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 14.

40. The deliberations of the Royal Commission in England also led to a renewed move for abolition in the United States. The Society of Friends and the League to abolish Capital Punishment led to a number of interested groups which began to press for legislative action1.

1. Bedau Death Penalty Today, Christian Century, March 18, 1959, reprinted in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 99.

41. In the year 1958, abolition Bills were introduced in 18 States of the U.S.A. and the State of Delaware abolished capital punishment on 24th March, 1958. That was as the result of the recommendation of a Committee of the Delaware Legislature, which recommended abolition1.

1. McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 37. Reasons given by the Delaware Committee are summarised at pp. 41 to 43.

42. In the State of Massachusetts, a Commission of the Legislature was appointed in 1957 to study the subject. By a majority report, it urged abolition1. But the proposal for abolition seems to have been rejected2.

1. Bedau Death Penalty Today, Christian Century March 18, 1959, reprinted in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 99 (For minority Report, McClellan, see p. 72).

2. U.S. News & World Report, 1960, March 7, pp. 48 to 52, cited in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 11.

43. In the State of Oregon, the Legislature passed an abolition Bill which was endorsed by the Governor. Under the Constitution, a public referendum was required before abolition could be effected, and the Bill was placed on the ballot in the November 1958 election, but the proposal was defeated by 10,240 votes-about 2 per cent. of the tota11-2.

1. Bedau Death Penalty Today, Christian Century, March 18, 1959 reprinted in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 11.

2. Later, however, some States including Oregon seem to have abolished or limited it. See Clearances S. Patrick Status of Capital Punishment-A world Perspective, (Dec. 1965) 56 Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 397, 411, foot-note.

44. In the State of New Jersey, Bills were introduced to abolish capital punishment in 1956, 1957 and 1958, but "died in Committee" by adjournment of the Legislature1.

1. Bedau Death Penalty Today, Christian Century, March 18, 1959 reprinted in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 101.

45. In the State of California, a special Commission was established for investigating and studying the abolition of the death penalty in capital cases1. Interest in the subject was accentuated by the famous case of Caryl Chessman, whose execution was stayed for 12 years before he was finally executed on 2nd May, 19602.

1. House Report No. 2575 (California).

2. Article in "Time", 21st March, 1960, "Justice: The Chessman Affair", reprinted in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 115; also see ibid., pp. 120 and 121.

46. The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, California, it is stated1, held a hearing of the witnesses for and against capital punishment for 16 hours. The proposal of the Governor of California (Mr. Brown) to abolish the death penalty2 was rejected by eight votes against seven.

1. Joyce Right to Life, (1962), p. 33.

2. The Governor's Message is printed in the "Californian", May, 1960, pp. 1, 11 and 12, reproduced in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 112.

47. In 1963, Michigan abolished the death penalty1.

1. See Clarence H. Patric The Status of Capital Punishment-A World Perspective, (December 1965), 56 Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 397, 405, foot¬note 4.

48. In 1959 or 1960, besides the States mentioned above, the States of Connecticut, Florida, New York, and Ohio also seem to have considered moves for abolition1.

1. U.S. News and World Report, 1960, March 7, pp. 48 to 52, cited in McClellan Capital Punishment, (1961), p. 11.

49. It is understood, that recently the States of Oregon, Iowa, West Virginia, Vermond, and New York have abolished or limited the death penalty1.

1. Clarence H. Patrick Status of Capital Punishment: A world Perspective, (1965 December) 56 Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 397, 411, foot-note 12.

50. Central and South America and Mexico.-

While several countries in Central and South America abolished capital punishment towards the end of the 19th century, a few returned to it in the present century. Thus, Mexico, after abolition in 1928, re-introduced the death penalty in 1943 for crime arising from highway banditry1. Peru also, after abolition, re-introduced it in 1949, for crimes arising from highway banditry1.

1. Joyce Right to Life, (1962), pp. 76, 78 and 79.

51. Amongst the other countries in Central and South America which abolished the death penalty (except for military offences or very unusual crimes) are Argentina (1922), Dominican Republic (1924), Brazil (1946), Colombia (1863), Venezuela (1864), and Uruguay (1877)1.

1. Based on Joyce Right to Life, (1962), pp. 76, 78 and 79.



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