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I remember once coming upon an essay/article which, among other things, mentioned a (not uncommon) word whose technical definition was the state's act of officially removing a guilty person's right to life, prior to execution.

The first word that now comes to mind is condemn, but none of the definitions seems to fit what I remember. The word was not at all obscure. Is there another word more suitable? Or does one of condemn's meanings include this concept?

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3 Answers

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You might want to consider using attaint (to pass judgment of death or outlawry upon) or attainder (the extinction of a person's civil rights resulting from a sentence of death). These aren't very common words, they're legalistic and they're both rather archaic. But I believe they mean almost exactly what you intend to convey.

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This could very well be the answer - I had become familiar with this word through the phrase "Bill of Attainder" in the context of studying the US Constitution. The only caveat is that attaint usually pertains to loss of rights to property and titles. –  Firstrock Apr 25 '12 at 3:16
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Maybe outlawry? (Although declaring someone an outlaw was broader than your definition - it meant that not only the state, but anyone, was entitled to kill the person.)

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Are you thinking of forfeiture of life? See this article entitled, "The Death Penalty and the Forfeiture Thesis" Here is an excerpt:

Death penalty retentionists often attempt to counter this argument by asserting that persons convicted of capital crimes have forfeited their right to life.

I'm not sure if this is an act of the state, though. It is more that, by their actions, those who commit capital crimes do the forfeiting.

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