"Thou shalt not kill." These four words have echoed throughout the churches, judicial courts, and political meeting places of men and women for time immemorial. Along with their deep religious and political significance, they carry with them a haunting contrast to the current state of mankind: men and women can kill other men and women-legally. In the United States, this "legal" killing, commonly referred to as the "death penalty," traditionally takes place within the confines of the individual state judicial systems, and generally involves the execution of felons tried and convicted of some form of intentional murder.
John P. Cunningham,
Death in the Federal Courts: Expectations and Realities of the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol32/iss3/19