A Case for Life This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   A wise man once said, "A trial consists of 12 jury members chosen to decide who hasthe better lawyer." Many people would be surprised to learn that this isoften true in death-penalty cases. The death penalty is full of loopholes thatfrequently go unnoticed.

When one thinks of capital punishment, one doesnot think of racism, discrimination or torture; one thinks of justice and libertyfor all. Many are unaware of the injustices that go along with the practice. Thedeath penalty is a violation of our human rights, not only because it isunconstitutional but also because it is immoral. The death penalty violates theFifth Amendment of the Constitution's Bill of Rights, which gives all citizensthe right to proper representation and due process of law. A significant numberof Americans don't have this right because they cannot afford properrepresentation. The wealthy have a huge advantage over the poor. O.J. Simpson,for example, hired a group of defense lawyers who were able to set him free. Thecost was enormous, but without them, he may well have been convicted of murder.The state will provide a lawyer, but the majority lack experience.

It hasbeen suggested that the death penalty is racist. According to a 2000 JusticeDepartment study, blacks were 38 percent more likely to be considered for thedeath penalty than other races. Undoubtedly, discrimination plays a role indeciding who is put to death.

Besides violating the Fifth Amendment, thedeath penalty also violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the governmentfrom administering "cruel and unusual punishment." The death penaltyrequires the government to carry out an act that the law strongly condemns. Notonly is this cruel and unusual punishment, it is torture applied at thegovernment's discretion. The death penalty is a vengeful act to which no oneshould be subjected.

The death penalty also ignores many of society'smoral standards. It is possible for a person to act legally and immorally at thesame time. For example, if an intruder breaks into your home, you could legallykill him, but is that a moral act? One of society's moral standards that haschanged over the centuries is the increasing value placed on life. When theConstitution was written, society thought little of sentencing someone to death,which was the same period when Americans enslaved Africans and hanged people fromtrees. Things have changed a lot since then, and the death penalty also needs tobe scrapped.

False convictions in capital punishment cases are yetanother factor. With the death penalty, there's no room for mistakes, but some dooccur. Every year, people are convicted of murder only to be found innocentmonths or even years later. Last January, Steve Manning became the thirteenthinmate to walk off Illinois' death row when new evidence was revealed. Althoughit has not been proven that an innocent person was executed, there have beendoubts in many cases.

Most Americans would not knowingly execute aninnocent man, but it probably happens. In 1965, England abolished its deathpenalty for murder cases because an innocent man was executed. In 1998, the deathpenalty was banned in all of the United Kingdom. If it happened in England, it isprobably happening here as well. The death penalty has always walked a thin linebetween just and unjust, but now more than ever we need to realize how immoraland unfair it really is.

A state can impose other methods of punishment inplace of the death penalty; life without parole takes a prisoner out of societywithout killing him or her. It also may give the prisoner a chance to payrestitution to the victim's family. This is a wonderful idea, but we have a longway to go. Right now, we need to work to abolish the death penalty.

Askyour friends and family how they feel about the issue. If you feel stronglyenough to voice your opinion, lobby your state congressperson, yourrepresentative, even your governor. They represent you, and would love to hearyour feedback. After all, we can't abolish the death penalty because one personwishes it; there needs to be a consensus. So join the fight, and help abolish thedeath penalty.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

CaseyLeigh This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 8, 2009 at 2:14 pm
I may not agree with this article, but I do think it's very well written. Good job! :]
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback