The Death Penalty in America: A Lethal History
In colonial Virginia, authorities could hang settlers for a crime as small as stealing grapes or killing a neighbor's chicken. The penal code in America's first colony was, in fact, so harsh its governor eventually reduced the number of capital offenses out of fear that settlers would refuse to live there. Since then, the number and severity of crimes punishable by death in the United States have fluctuated; today, the death penalty is still legal in 31 states. Here are some of the critical turning points in the history of capital punishment in America.