In the olden days, death penalty was perceived to be the most effective means of punishing a criminal. It was also perceived to be an effective way to deter others to commit crimes. However, the record propounded shows otherwise. This paper will draw conclusions from the Massachusetts execution record. Capital Punishment in Boston Introduction During the early days, death was a justified form of punishment. Crime was considered in its strictest sense because severity of crime was not so much of an issue. Physical circumstances of the accused are not even counted in imposing the penalty.
In addition, death penalty itself is not an issue because only a few seem to argue about it. This can safely be perceived from the number of death penalties imposed. General View In a bird’s eye view, it can be observed from the chart that hanging was the foremost form of execution in Boston. Execution by means of shooting and burning had also been used but through time, the government again executed criminals through hanging. Hanging was then followed by electrocution in 1900’s. With regard to gender, it can be noticed from the chart that most perpetrators are male.
There are also a considerable number of female perpetrators. As to race, most executions were imposed upon whites, followed by blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. According to number of crimes committed, the most common was murder, followed by piracy. Murder coupled with robbery came third, followed by witchcraft. Crimes such as arson, burglary, adultery, concealing birth, rape, and desertion were also penalized by execution. With regard to County where the executed belong, most of them came from Suffolk, followed by Middlesex County, Essex County, and then Worcester County.
There are also executions in Plymouth, Norfolk, Nantucket, and Berkshire County. Finally, as to occupation, the pirates came first with regard to the numbers executed, while the seaman, slaves, housewives, and soldiers, among others, tagged along. However, such observation cannot be regarded as final because the record did not reveal the occupation of other criminals. Specific View In scrutinizing the graph further, there are various observations that can be concluded. From the chart, September 20, 1630 can be a remarkable day because it was the very first time that execution was done.
Probably the name John Billington and Bristol County could have left a mark in the history of Boston. In addition, the name of Dorothy Talby from Plymouth County may have been noteworthy in 1600’s because she was the very first female convicted of murder and executed by hanging. The execution of Talby perhaps instilled raging and pitiful emotions among women during those days. Among the Native Americans, Matoonas may have left an example because he was the very first Native American executed through shooting. Moreover, professionals or those respected in the society were not excused from execution.
This was proven by Clarence Richeson, Door William, Frederick Knowlton, Abraham Faber, and John Webster who were all executed for murder. Furthermore, in the olden days, the religious were against witchcraft practices, especially priests, but this was contravened by George Burroughs, a white clergy. Despite being a clergy, the government of Boston still penalized Burroughs by hanging. From the above findings, it can be concluded that the government of Boston punish the people who were found guilty regardless of their profession and influence in the society. Another record maker could be Thomas Graunger, a 17 year-old white male servant.
From the record, the first young offender in Boston was executed for death despite his age. Likewise, John Doe, a 13 year-old white male, was executed for arson. The chart also demonstrates a biased form of execution. This is so because execution through shooting was only employed among Native Americans. After the execution of Matoona in 1656, the government resorted again to hanging in 1659 where the executed criminal was white. In 1676, nine Native Americans were executed for murder by shooting them to death. Eventually, such means was not employed after almost a century.
Shooting as a means of execution was also partially applied among soldiers who committed desertion. The means of execution used by the government of Boston can also be said to be unfair and brutal toward slaves. From the chart, burning as a form of execution was employed against Marja, Phillis and Jane Doe, all black female slaves. Among the forms of execution, burning could be considered atrocious as it diminishes the whole personality of the person executed. It is also prejudicial because only black female slaves were burned while black male slaves were executed through hanging.
In addition, the chart shows that most witchcraft comes from Essex County. The crime was prevalent in 1692 and committed by both male and female. Nevertheless, females are more exposed than male. The chart also illustrates that witchcrafting has already been practiced since 1648 by females in Suffolk County. Sodomy, on the other hand, was committed only by white servant males. Moreover, the crime of piracy was not only perpetrated by pirates but also by seamen. The record shows that 18 seamen were executed for piracy. The crime of desertion was only a crime attributed against soldiers which has been prevalent in 1774.
Furthermore, the crime of housebreaking was committed mostly by white males. This is quite ironic because whites were considered the most privileged during those times. The record further reveals that connection with the church did not stop one from committing a crime. This was evident in the person of Thomas Piper, a 27 year-old white man from Norfolk County. If the records were to be evaluated at the present time, many could have been pardoned or commuted. There are several mitigating circumstances that could have not ended with a death penalty. One factor is age.
From the record, a white male aged 13 was hanged for arson in 1837. In today’s justice system, the boy could have referred to a juvenile court and his case could have been dismissed because the crime was not grave enough to be punished with death. Another juvenile was Bristol, a 16 year-old black male from Middlesex, who was executed for murder in 1763. Some juveniles were Ezra Ross, Stephen Clarke, Benjamin Gourd, Thomas Graunger, Mary Latham, James Nowlin, and William Hackett. Old age could have also mitigated the penalty of Rebecca Nurse, a 71 year-old white female convicted for engaging in witchcraft.
In the present legal system, the old and young are considered as a mitigating circumstance to lower the penalty of the crime committed. However, in the government of Boston, age was not a factor in determining the penalty. The second factor that could have mitigated the penalty is mental illness. However, in Boston, it was not considered as a mitigating factor. Instead, the mental patients were executed for murder. This was clearly proven by Joseph Sheppard, 25 year-old, and Donald Millard, 19 year-old, both white male. In a criminal investigation, intent is a material to establish murder.
However, in Boston, intent was not an essential element to execute a murderer. From the chart, it is clear that the degree of crime and the personal circumstances surrounding the accused were immaterial in the imposition of death penalty. The only justification for execution is the fact that the accused have committed a crime. The record reveals that annually, there are criminals executed. However, most executions were conducted in 1692. According to the record, there were 20 executions mostly through hanging. All of the executed were witchcrafts.
From there, the execution was mostly conducted on the 22nd of September, 1692. Following the record was the 14 executions in 1676. Notably, in 1692, a new form of execution was imposed. On September 16, 1692, pressing as a means of execution was enforced upon Giles Corey, a white male witchcraft. There could have been reason which was attributable to the personality of Corey which influenced the imposition of such means of execution. Particularly, death penalty was believed as a means to deter others from committing crimes, but the record reveals otherwise because executions were prevalent during those times.
From the chart, a trend of improvement can be observed. Since 1630, the government had been using hanging as a means of execution. However, at the beginning of 1900’s, the government resorted to electrocution as a new means to punish the criminal. In addition, the trend of crime also changed through time. In the early 1600’s, there had been several crimes committed, some of which includes, murder, adultery, sodomy with burglary, witchcrafting, and others. The following years, there were also rape and piracy. By 1700’s, there were recorded crime of desertion, housebreaking, and concealing birth.
For the succeeding years, murder was the most widespread crime subjected to execution. Furthermore, the chart discloses that practices of witchcraft ended in 1692 after the mass execution of 20 witchcrafts. The very first crime of concealing birth was in 1696 which was committed by Susanna Andrews. In addition, the crime of piracy by seamen was prevalent in 1835. Most of the seamen were Hispanics. Other race executed for murder in Boston also included three tong member Asians. Moreover, based on the record, most of the executions were done in Suffolk County.
Ironically, carpenters and servants were tasked to create and take care of the house. However, the record shows otherwise because the crime of arson was committed mostly by carpenters and servants. From here, it can safely be drawn that the crime was committed against their employer. Surprisingly, murder was also committed by a female by virtue of Dorothy Talby in 1638. With regard to places of commission, the record exposes that most crimes of piracy was committed in the County of Suffolk. Even the crimes of sodomy and arson were common Suffolk.
Witchcraft, on the other hand, was customary among people in the County of Essex. Duke County has only one record of witchcraft executed in 1692. Thus, as the record presents, Suffolk can be concluded to be a bailiwick of criminals. Next to Suffolk was Middlesex County and Essex County. Surprisingly, the recorded professions of the criminals were those not related to illegal activities, except pirates. Seamen held the first position as to the number of criminals executed according to profession. They were followed by housewives, servants and soldiers.
From the record, it can be inferred that during 1720’s and 1830’s, sufferings was experienced in the sea. The record also reveals one gambler who committed murder. Conclusion By evaluating the record propounded by the government of Boston, it can be concluded that these days are better than the olden days. The record is an evident of the brutality of the criminal system during those years. The transition to a more humane death penalty took more than three centuries. The acts cannot also be said to be justified, as the people then felt that justice was being served when the criminal was killed regardless of the gravity of the crime.
Likewise, during those days, death penalty was an accepted method of punishment. Today, the issue of death penalty has incited a grueling debate because life is considered precious. Basing from the record, life was of no worth because of the massive executions that had occurred almost yearly. Furthermore, the status of the criminal such as the age, gender, mental capacity, occupation, among others, was ignored in sentencing the crime committed. At present, these factors are essential in deciding about the penalty to be imposed.
There are mitigating circumstances that lessens the gravity of punishment. There are also aggravating circumstances that raise the gravity of the penalty imposed. However, these were not considered during the early days. The record also shows that after 1947, there were no more executions done. This may be inferred to have been influenced by the changes after the World War. However, the significant result of the transition was the execution only of murderers through electrocution which has been accepted as more humane since the 20th century.
Finally, seeing the chart or record propounded, it can be inferred that the source can be reliable. Although some of the information about the accused is missing, conclusion can still be safely made by looking into some of their record like, race, gender, and place. The missing information did not materially affect the inferences made. Thus, the source is reliable. References Before the Needless. (2008). Massachusetts Executions. Retrieved August 10, 2008, from http://users. bestweb. net/~rg/execution/MASSACHUSETTS. htm