If you are about to commit a capital crime in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt or Kassel: Think again! Of course, we do not suspect you of criminal energy but it would be important to know that in Wiesbaden and the whole state of Hesse the death penalty is still in effect. At least since the state constitution was adopted on the 1st December 1946. Article 21(1) states that for extreme offences the death penalty can be given. Hesse is therefore not only the first state that passed its constitution, but the last that has not come around to delete the passage in question. So much for the last shall be the first.
Fortunately from today’s perspective this oddity is invalid. The German federal constitution does not allow the death penalty anymore. But this circumstance shows vividly how certain dynamics that come to be reflected in politics and law are a product of their time and their prevalent situation. What comes off as something reasonable then, might strike us as odd nowadays.
This is beautifully illustrated if we look beyond our own borders and to other countries and their intricacies of law: For example in the United Kingdom Members of Parliament are not allowed to don armor when they go to work. And another relic makes it perfectly legal – except on Sundays – to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow. Naturally, that’s not recommended as no judge would acknowledge this excuse and most Scottish people are awfully nice. Nevertheless it’s always interesting how history casts its shadow!