Basically, death penalty or capital punishment is meant to curb crime rates. Thus, in earlier times, it was universally used as a means of punishment. However, gradually, countries started abolishing this practice due to a number of factors.
For instance, criminologists have found that death penalty does not prove effective in reducing crimes.
In fact, according to Norma Shapiro, former legislative lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, states that impose death penalty tend to have a higher crime rate. Hence, it cannot be considered viable for crime control.
Furthermore, there is risk of executing innocent people as there are chances of error. In addition, being arbitrary and irrevocable, it denies the person on death sentence an opportunity to derive the benefit of new laws and amendments.
Cost, too, is another important factor because the death penalty usually costs high due to complicated legal process. It is even considered more expensive than life imprisonment without parole.
Plus, needless to say, it is regarded as a cruel and unusual form of punishment, and a denial of civil liberties. Opposition to death penalty or capital punishment does not show lack of sympathy for the murder victims, though.
It is merely deemed as state-authorized violence or simply, a lack of respect for precious life. In addition, there have been instances of post-traumatic stress in the staff members who carry out the death penalty.
At the American Civil Liberties Union website, there is a detailed description of the various reasons cited for the abolition of capital punishment.
On the other hand, some argue that ideally, the death penalty imposed by authorities acts as a severe punishment for the person convicted of crime so as to reduce and avoid punishment by God that would fall upon him later.
At deathpenalty.org, you can find a statistical account of the different countries that have abolished the death penalty.
This is a significant decline in support of death penalty which was high during the first part of the century.
Coming to death penalty in North Carolina, it has been prevalent in the state ever since it was a British colony. In earlier times, it was executed for a wide array of crimes but later, it emphasized more on capital crimes like murder, rape, burglary, and arson.
However, with the passage of time, the local officials started imposing death penalty unjustly due to racial prejudice. Besides, formerly the death penalty was carried out by hanging but in 1909, it was replaced with electrocution.
In 1917, though, the electrocution of a criminal (Rufus Satterfield) that lasted for about six minutes raised doubts over the use of this method as “cruel” and “unconstitutional”. You can read more about the cases of capital punishment in North Carolina on this page.
Thus, the means of capital punishment was again modified in 1935, as the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to change the official method of execution from electrocution to lethal gas.
As for now, it has been changed to lethal injection and execution by lethal gas has been eliminated, since 1998.
Furthermore, in the recent years, there has been a drop in the number of death sentences and executions due to US Supreme Court’s ruling about death penalty being a cruel and unusual form of punishment.
During 1967-1972, there had been several cases which emphasized that capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment.
If you are wondering as to what constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” as per the Eighth Amendment then, visit this page.