Death Penalty

August 14, 1953

Report Outline
Decline of Executions in Legal States
Punishment by Death for Political Offenses
Controversy on Value of Capital Punishment
Special Focus

Decline of Executions in Legal States

Rosenberg Case and New Legal Studies

Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, after conviction on charges of conspiring to transmit atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, was the first application of the extreme penalty as punishment for espionage in the peacetime history of the United States. World-wide attention to the case, both before and after the Rosenbergs were sent to death, has revived public interest in the long-standing debate over the worth of capital punishment as a protection to society.

Question still is raised whether the interests of justice and the nation were best served by execution of the Rosenbergs, despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, the many appeals that gave them the benefit of every protective device of the law, and the recognized fact that much of the “Save-the-Rosenbergs” agitation was carried on for ulterior purposes.

Sentences to life imprisonment would have afforded an extended opportunity to make full confessions which might have safeguarded the country against further betrayal by the espionage apparatus of which the Rosenbergs were a part. Federal authorities hoped, until the last moment, that such confessions would be forthcoming and the President is said to have been ready to halt the executions on the night of June 19 if the Rosenbergs had not insisted upon maintaining their innocence to the last.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Death Penalty
Nov. 19, 2010  Death Penalty Debates
Sep. 23, 2005  Death Penalty Controversies
Nov. 16, 2001  Rethinking the Death Penalty
Jan. 08, 1999  Death Penalty Update
Mar. 10, 1995  Death Penalty Debate
Jul. 13, 1990  Death Penalty Debate Centers on Retribution
Jan. 18, 1985  Emptying Death Row: More U.S. Executions
Jan. 10, 1973  Death Penalty Revival
Jul. 17, 1963  Punishment by Death
Aug. 14, 1953  Death Penalty
Feb. 16, 1943  Treason
Jun. 21, 1927  The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti
Death Penalty
Domestic Issues