Originally used in Germany, Italy, Persia and Scotland (small primitive
versions dating back to the 14th Century), the guillotine as we know it
began with Doctor Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738 - c.1821).
Seeking to reform the French capital punishment system with a 'class-less
and pain-less' method of execution as an interim move towards banning the
death penalty completely, Guillotin developed the classic prototype with
German harpsichord maker Tobias Schmidt.
The "e" at the end of the word
was added by English poets to make the word easier to rhyme.
Simon, Lord Lovat, is recorded as the last person beheaded in England on
April 9th 1747.
Hamida Djandoubi is the last recorded guillotine execution
in France on September 10th 1977, although not until 1981 was it abolished
under Mitterand, even though polls showed that the majority of the French
still favored executions.
Almost forty states in the USA continue to support the death penalty.
For every seven persons executed in the U.S. since 1976, one innocent
person has been sentenced to death. Two American states permit the use of a
firing squad, hanging is an option in four states, and in one
there is proposed legislation to replace the state's electric chair
with the guillotine.
The Philippines was the first country in Asia to abolish the death
penalty in 1987 but was also one of the few countries anywhere to bring it back,
six years later. It has a male Death Row population that, among democratic
nations, is second only to that of the United States. There is no official
Death Row for women, but 18 female convicts are waiting to die. There is
a club of judges, are perceived by the public to be strong advocates of
the death penalty, known as The Guillotine Club.
Studies worldwide have failed to connect the death penalty with drops in
crime. "It's an utter illusion that the problems of society can be solved
by executions," says Phillipino campaigner Father Borres "and the time will
come when executions become ordinary and nobody even notices them going on."