Capital punishment began as early as in the 14th century B. C. under the Hittite code. They were also in used by Romans in the 5th century B. C., in Athens under the Draconian code in the 7th century B. C. as well as in Babylon in the 18th century B. C. during the reign of King Hammurabi. Criminals were mostly burnt alive, beaten to death, crucified or beheaded. In Britain, the most commonly used methods for execution were hanging, boiling alive or beheading. In the 16th century A. D, more than 70,000 people were executed in the country during the time of Henry VIII. Crimes included theft, getting married to Jews, treason and many other crimes that added up to 222 by the 17th century A. D. In the mid 18th century A. D., the crimes that were punishable by death were reduced to 120 (Banner (2002). Many nations have abolished capital punishment, but some are still practicing it, with China leading the group of 58 countries, having executed 5000 capital offenders in 2008. Iran and Saudi Arabia were also ranked among the countries with the highest executions though they came after China by far at 348 and 102 respectively. In the United States, 37 offenders were executed. Japan, Indonesia, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia are also applying capital punishment (Hands off Cain, 2008). Abolitionists are still campaigning against death penalty.
Brown (2010) observes that the bible, which is used in many criminal justice systems for swearing convicts and witnesses has many verses such as “Genesis 9:5-6, Numbers 35:30, Num. 35:30 and Num. 35:33-34” among others that support death penalty for various crimes including murder, adultery and incest among others. There are offences in these passages that can only be punished through capital punishment. Some countries such as the US use these verses to justify the application of capital punishment. However, there are usually controversies concerning the sixth commandment that cautions against