The Death Penalty

In this section you will hear and take notes on a two-part lecture given by Jonathan Stack, a filmmaker who has made several documentaries on prisons. Mr. Stack frequently lectures on criminal justice. The title of this lecture is The Death Penalty.



1 Look at the graph below. It shows the number of prisoners executed (put to death) in the United States between 1930 and 2000.

250 200 150 100 50 0

1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Source: U. S. Department of Justice, 2000


Discuss the following questions with a partner.

1 What does the graph show about the death penalty in the United States?

2 What is your reaction to the information in the graph?


Lecturers often present numerical information when they refer to research studies and other examples that support their ideas. It is important to listen to the context of the numerical information so that you understand what the number represents. Here are some examples of what numbers can represent:

• a year (examples: 1983, 1832)

• a percentage (examples: twenty percent, forty-four percent)

• a fraction (examples: one-eighth, three-quarters)

1 Read the following descriptions. Each of them refers to numerical information that you will hear in the lecture.

1 The date the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional (Capital punishment is another term for the death penalty.)

2 The date when capital punishment was reinstated 3 The number of executions that have been carried out since capital

punishment was reinstated

4 The percentage of people in the United Slates who say they favor the death penalty in cases of murder

____ 5 The people in the United Stales who say they favor the death

penalty in cases of murder, expressed as a fraction

____________ 6 The number of murders per 100,000 people per year in the United


7 The number of murders per 100,000 people per year in Japan 8 The number of murders per 100,000 people per year in France


Now listen to excerpts from the lecture. Write the correct numbers in the blanks in step 1. Then compare your answers with a partner.

LECTURE, PART ONE: Arguments Against the Death Penalty


The following items contain important vocabulary’ from Part One of the lecture.

Work with a partner. Using the context and your knowledge of related words, choose the best synonym for the words in bold by circling the correct letters. Check your answers in a dictionary, if necessary.

1 The U. S. Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional,

a illegal b immoral c impossible

2 But later, the Court reinstated it.

a continued to discuss it b put it back in place c repeated its argument

3 Executions are usually carried out by lethal injection or electrocution,

a cruel b deadly c painless

4 States with the most executions are also the states with the highest homicide rates,

a assault b fraud c murder

5 I have another major objection to capital punishment.

a interest in b criticism of c opinion about

6 They were released because they were improperly convicted.

a immediately b angrily c incorrectly

7 There were 26 people on death row, and 13 of them were I’eleased.

a waiting to go to court b waiting to be freed c waiting for execution

8 That should not be in the domain of the state.

a interest b world c power

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