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capital punishment

n. execution (death) for a capital offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has vacillated on the application of capital punishment, ruling in the Furman decision (1972) that capital punishment was a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" in certain cases, and then reinstated it in 1976. New York, which once led the nation in executions, abolished capital punishment but reinstated it in 1995. There is no capital punishment in Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. There have been no federal executions in more than 30 years. Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama have held the most executions in recent years. Means of capital punishment used in the United States include lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. All capital offenses require automatic appeals, which means that approximately 2,500 men and women are presently on "death row" awaiting their appeals or death.

See also: capital offense 

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