The true significance of the death penalty is as a symbol of man's inability to create a completely peaceful and civilised society. We can blame violent video games and television programmes for the violent crimes that appear in the news every month, but until we abolish a punishment that legally acknowledges violence as a viable means of justice, problems will continue to persist.
Politicised show trials, error-strewn and near-racist courtrooms, mistakes corrected decades after the fact, ethically indefensible overlaps between judicial and medical protocols, ghoulishly botched attempted executions... all these and more are actually fairly typical of the 21st-century death penalty, not rare aberrations.
It's a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month ... and they might survived. I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there's a strong trend toward abolition.