Capital Punishment Is Dead Wrong This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 27, 2008
Murder is wrong. Since childhood we have been taught this indisputable truth. Ask yourself, then, what is capital punishment? In its simplest form, capital punishment is defined as one person taking the life of another. Coincidentally, that is the definition of murder. There are 36 states with the death penalty, and they must change. These states need to abolish it on the grounds that it carries a dangerous risk of punishing the innocent, is unethical and barbaric, and is an ineffective deterrent of crime versus the alternative of life in prison without parole.

Capital punishment is the most ­irreparable crime governments perpetrate without consequence, and it must be abolished. “We’re only ­human, we all make mistakes,” is a commonly used phrase, but it is tried and true. Humans, as a species, are famous for their mistakes. However, in the case of the death penalty, error becomes too dangerous a risk. The innocent lives that have been taken with the approval of our own government should be enough to abolish capital punishment.

According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims.” If there is any chance that error is possible (which ­there always is), the drastic measure of capital ­punishment should not be taken. Also, it is too final, meaning it does not allow opportunity for th accused to be proven innocent, a violation of the Fifth Amendment which guarantees due process of law.

District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ­argued against the death penalty: “In brief, the Court found that the best available evidence indicates that, on the one hand, innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed and that, on the other hand, convincing proof of their innocence ­often does not emerge until long after their convictions. It is therefore fully foreseeable that in enforcing the death penalty a meaningful number of innocent people will be executed who otherwise would eventually be able to prove their innocence.”

As humans, we are an inevitable force of error. However, when a life is at stake, error is not an option. The death penalty is murder by the government. As a nation, we have prided ourselves in our government, its justice and truth. However, can we continue to call our government fair if we do not hold it to the same rules we do its people? Murder by a citizen will have consequences, yet a government-approved ­murder is not only acceptable, but enforceable. What message do we send the American people, and other countries, for that matter, if we continue to be a ­nation that kills its citizens, a nation that enforces the most barbaric form of punishment?

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty states, “We don’t cut off the hands of thieves to ­protect property; we do not stone adulterers to stop adultery. We consider that barbaric. Yet we continue to take life as a means of protecting life.” No person, government-affiliated or not, has the right to decide if another human is worthy or unworthy of life. Our natural rights as humans, which cannot be taken away by the government, include the right to life. Humans are not cold metal coins that lose value; no act, no matter how heinous, can make a person less of a human being. However, for most it is easy to ­forget that each of the 1,099 executed since 1977 are fellow humans, not just numbers.

According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty violates the right to life.” Capital punishment contradicts our moral beliefs and claims of a fair and just government. The U.S. must join its political ­allies – including Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, South Africa, and most of Latin America – that have abolished the death penalty.

The death penalty is favored by some as an effective deterrent of crime; however, it is proven that states with the death penalty actually have higher murder rates than those without. It is proven that our nation does not need this extreme threat of punishment to prevent crime. In 2006, the FBI Uniform Crime Report revealed that the area of the U.S. that was responsible for the most executions (the South with 80 percent) also had the highest murder rate, whereas the Northern areas that had the fewest ­executions (less than one percent), had the lowest murder rates.

It can be said that the death penalty is the most overlooked form of government hypocrisy; we murder people who murder people to show that murder is wrong. It is this contradiction in policy that confuses criminals and undermines any crime deterrence capital punishment was intended to have.

Many people favor the death penalty as reparation for the wrong done to a victim’s family; however, in most cases, closure is not the result. Losing a loved one, no matter how that person is lost, is unbearable, irrevocable, and shattering. Pain like this is shocking and the victim’s family holds onto the hope that the execution of the murderer will bring relief and closure. Nevertheless, when execution day arrives, the pain is not eased. No relief can be gained, for their pain is an unavoidable, natural process of life. Victims’ families have founded such groups as the Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and The Journey of Hope, which oppose the death penalty. They ­believe that they are different from those who have taken their loved ones and they demonstrate their ­difference by refusing to sink to a murderer’s level.

Capital punishment is immoral and a violation of natural rights. It is wrong for everyone involved: the prosecuted innocent, criminals, victims’ families, and our nation. We need to replace the death penalty and capital punishment with life without parole, a safer and more inexpensive option. The death penalty does not guarantee safety for innocent victims, it does not follow the goals and promises of our nation, it does not effectively deter crime, and it does not give closure to victims’ families. Nothing good comes of hate, and nothing good can ever come from capital punishment. It cannot continue to be accepted by a nation that claims to have liberty and justice for all. The death penalty is murder on the sly and it’s dead wrong.

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

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This article has 472 comments. Post your own now!

alanahlovee said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I disagree, but I do respect your opinion and see where you're coming from. I don't believe you can rehablitate a serial killer, or even a murderer for that matter. A murderer is someone who has thought out and planned taking the life of another, and went through with it. The person who was murdered can no longer live their life and fufill their dreams and wishes; their life has been stolen from them. I don't have sympathy for anyone who takes the life of another out of jealousy, greed, or an... (more »)

alanahlovee replied...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 7:58 pm
Also, it is a very rare that innocent people suffer the death penalty. Has it happened? Maybe a few times, but a majority of the time, it is the guilty party who is punished.
TheJust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm
I completly agree! When you kill someone, unless it's in protection of you or your family, you make a choice that is irreversible. You make the choice to take a life, you deserve the same as the person you killed. You didn't care about that person, why should you deserve anything different?
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

To alanahlovee:

There have been over 150 cases reported to the government of innocent people being executed. Only after they had been executed did investigators find evidence leading them to believe they were innocent. Also, a murder does not have to necessarily be thought out. It just has to premeditated. There is a difference between premeditation and planning and thinking about it. Premeditation just means that you thought, "I'm going to kill this person." Planning and thinking abou... (more »)

TheJust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Premeditated and planned are the same thing. You still have an anger built up in your body. With one, you just lose control of that anger and act on it and the other is simply one with more self-control to hold back that anger long enough to plan how to act on it.

Honestly, when you think about it, premeditated is more dangerous than planned, because they have less self-control meaning they could lash out and harm or kill anyone, not just the person they are mad at. So, really, you're ... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm
I'm not replying to anything in that comment because of other rude comments I have received from you. I don't know what it is about me that makes you not like me, but I am personally tired of having my opinion degraded, so I am not replying to any other comments from you.
RedMapleLeaf said...
Jan. 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm
I get your point, but I don't agree with it. Government has to serve the public as a whole. So if there's a serial killer going around and doing what serial killers do best, by not killing him or her, many, many more lives would be lost.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm
It's actually been proved by multiple studies that the death penalty has not made crime rates go down significantly at all.
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 11:06 am
It may not make the crime rates go down, but it gets rid of one more person that has possibly killed many people I respect your opinion, and you are entitled to it. But i just don't agree, by all this you are saying that if a man murders hundreds of people, tortures, rapes, terrifies his victims does things to them that are so heinous it makes you vomit, he deserves to live? Because just maybe, though its unlikely, there might be ONE person in an entire prison that could very unprobably but poss... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm
I beg to differ. If you have read any prison accounts, you will know that prison is by no means comfortable. The guards and warden know what the people have done and don't let them just relax. Everyone in prison has a job they must do. Why should the innocent waste tax money on killing a person they don't know? And if the killer or rapist - or whatever criminal they may be - is locked up, then what's the difference from killing them? We weren't put into this life to take other's away from them.
Jan. 28, 2011 at 9:52 am
ok cool lets spend a ton of tax money on keeping sick serial killers alive... these people need to be removed from the earth, as there is no good purpose for them. our prisons are crowded enough.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm
Yes, prisons may be crowded, but you would spend roughly 6 times more if you were to kill them with the death penalty rather than keeping them alive for the life sentence. Either way it's tax money, but with a life sentence, it's less. 
TxDragon said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm
actually, the definition of murder is not one person taking the life of another.  Killing someone in self defense, or in defense of another person is not murder.  Accidentally hitting someone with a car when they jumped in front of you is not murder, though it can be defined as one person taking another person's life.  Murder is one person killing another person for no reason, in cold blood.  First degree murder is defined as premeditated, and often horrific crimes.  Usu... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 2:27 pm
Actually, not all murderers are child murderers, as you should be aware of. But if you aren't, then now you know. I know that murder has to be premeditated. But what if it was manslaughter, by accident, and not premeditated? If the only eyewitnesses were either killed or put in prison, where nothing they say is believed? Answer me that.
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 11:14 am
I can infer that TxDragon didn't mean all murderers are child murderers its only an example. Just recently i read another of your comments that there has been over 150 cases where an innocent person was convicted of murder. That's sad, but that's comparing to the over 300 million (i may be exaggerating a bit) murderers that were allowed to walk or get the life sentence. Why do they deserve to live? Answer me that. If somebody were to kill my 2 year old brother, out of cold blood, I'd want them d... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Apr. 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm
Please do your research before you comment, as I did. 300 million may indeed be the number, but check your facts first. I can infer what TxDragon meant, as well, but they should have been more clear. Also, your comment was rather muddled. If someone killed my 2 year old brother, I would not want them dead. Yes, I would be grieving and terribly sad, but I would not want another family to be feeling that same way. And so, I have "answered you that," to quote you in so many words.
Aspiringauhor said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Before I say anything, let me just say this. This article was wonderfully written, and don't let anyone misguide you from that. If anyone says that there are problems with it, they obviously didn't read the same article I did. And another thing - I completely agree with you about the death penalty. State governments could be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on preparation for someone on death row, only to find out that they are innocent. A counterargument to the people who say that the ... (more »)
Hawthorn replied...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm
Exactly, we simply don't have the right to decide who lives and who doesn't. Who are we to judge what might drive someone to murder?
Aspiringauhor replied...
Feb. 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm
So you agree with me? :)
heaven_sent_666 said...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hey, I just found this article today and I think it is very well written, but I respectfully disagree.

Though forgivness is important and killing is wrong, the death penalty is necessary. Without it, the jails would become overcrowded (like they are in some states already) and it would cost more to feed the prisoners. It costs money to keep these guys in jail - taxpayers money - our money. And why should we have to waste our money on killers and rapists.

I also feel that th... (more »)

loveofgod replied...
Jan. 25, 2011 at 8:30 am
Yes, it costs money to keep people alive. If you don't want our taxes to be spent on keeping people alive, lets give it to the observance of algae administration! The problem with the death penalty is that hundreds of people in death row are proven innocent by dna testing every decade.
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