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!

Bush the Liberator said...
Dec. 15, 2010 at 9:00 am
We kidnap people (put them in jail against their will) who kidnap people to show that kidnapping is wrong. Is jail the wrong message? Also, missing from Olivia's argument are those being killed by the murderers who were not killed. Who speaks for them? Will Olivia H.?
Olivia7 said...
Dec. 10, 2010 at 11:48 pm
You are absolutely right. All life is sacred and we shouldn't be deciding who dies and who lives. That should be decided by God. The death penalty is murder and two wrongs don't make a right. How can we deny a living, breathing human being life? Life is precious.
TxDragon said...
Dec. 8, 2010 at 8:22 pm

The death penalty is not wrong.  First of all, not all killing is murder. for example, if you kill someone in self-defense, that's not murder.  For the same reason, putting someone to death because of the horrific crime he or she has committed is not murder.

Second, the death penalty is for people who have committed a gruesome crime.  Why should taxpayers have to pay to support a serial killer's lilfe in prison?

Third, the way criminals are put to death is by leth... (more »)

Sri P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 5:02 am

1. The death penalty costs almost three times as much life in prison:

2. There are plenty of cases where the lethal injection has been botched and caused plenty of pain. Google Angel Diaz. And this study by Lancet shows that many more are like him "A team of medical doctors reported in the British medical journal The Lancet that in 43 of 49 executed inmates (88%) studied, the anaesthetic administered during lethal injections was lower t... (more »)

Jesuisbelle95 said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm
How is wasting away your life in a cell better than ending it? I'm not saying that the death penalty is right, but me personally would rather not suffer my life in a cell, if I murdered many people I wouldn't be able to live with myself. I know that what I did is wrong andI don't want to have to live with that my whole life.
Jakethesnake replied...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm
You are thinking from the viewpoint of a completely sane person. These serial killers and rapists are all sick in the head. They ENJOY killing those people and will continue to do so until stopped by either A- a life changing experience or something that changes their personality or B- Death. It is why I believe in the death penalty.
Sri P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 5:03 am
We kill innocent people with the death penalty. Why do it if we can lock them up and save money doing it? (the death penalty is almost three times more expensive)
Jakethesnake replied...
Jan. 7, 2011 at 4:25 am

It's not about money- it's about keeping incent people safe. Even if they are in jail, it does not stop them from killing. What about the inocent guy that just stole a cd or something? He would just be a target in jail.


Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:15 pm

To Jakethesnake:

Not all murderers enjoy killing the people they kill. You are generalizing, something that cannot and must not be done when debating about the death penalty.

Jakethesnake replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Sri p., we put inocent people in jail for life and sometimes don't find out untill after they have rotted in jail. Plus, even if we do figure it out, we have ruined their life. It will be much harder to get a job when you have to check yes on the "have you ever been convicted of a felony?"


As for you aspiringauthor, I can assure you that I am not generalizing. I know that some murders are crimes of passion or accidental kills. But it is EXTREMELY difficult to get the deat... (more »)

Jakethesnake replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm
I replied but it is sumbmitting
PurpleFeather said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I ocmpletely agree with this article. The death penalty is wrong and it is hypocritical. Plus, it is just illogical. If you want a crime to stop, then wouldn't the best way to that is punish the perpatrators in a way that teahes them a lesson or allows them to think about what tey have done? But with capital punishment, the perp is dead. They can't learn any lesson, and they can't teach any others that lesson. Thus crime continues.

I also have a problem with capital punishment because ... (more »)

TxDragon replied...
Dec. 8, 2010 at 8:12 pm
well, when it comes to learning a lesson, the perpetrators have learned a lesson, and that lesson is that if they kill an innocent person in a gruesome manner, they will die. Also, for your claim that innocent blacks are the victims of capital punishment, I'd like to see some statistics to prove that
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm
To TxDragon: It shouldn't matter to you how many innocent people (that are African-American) are being killed by the death penalty. All that should matter is that it is happening. If it really does matter how many people are being killed, I know of a good psychiatrist you can use.
TxDragon replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 2:11 pm

sorry, I already got a bunch of my own psychiatrists. 

But seriously, the answer to the fact that innocent people are killed accidentally with the death penalty is not to ban the deat penalty.  Update the justice system, get more advanced technology.  You can't get rid of the death penalty because of what MIGHT happen. Besides, those on death row don't actually face lethal injection for years.  In the time between a conviction and the sentence being carried out, don... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Okay, I do not have concrete evidence, but I have read books about it. I'm sure you do have your own psychiatrists. And in response to your comment about innocence being proven somehow... Why would they do that, when the trial has already taken place. The convicted person's lawyer would need to get another hearing, and that alone can take a very long time. Oh, and I almost forgot my last point. Please use the proper capitalization and mechanics in your responses, I might be able to reason wit... (more »)

TxDragon replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 6:13 pm

easy now, let's keep this civilized. Also, I'm sorry I offended you with my errors in capitalization.  To your comment on the "innocents" being proved guilty: because it takes so long for the death sentence to be carried out, death row inmates have years and years for appeals.  Even the guilty ones can sometimes weasel out of their punishment with the help of their lawyers.  Furthermore, these books you've read, are they fact-based, from a credible author? If not I suggest you ... (more »)

PurpleFeather replied...
Jan. 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm

ASpiring Author,

I find it interesting that you have previously harassed me about being negative and mean, yet when TxDragon states his opinion, you tell him that he needs to see a pyschiatrist because of it. This is rather hypocritical.

Just because someone thinks something different from you doesn't mean that they are sociopathic.

Lenah replied...
Mar. 10, 2011 at 11:20 pm
i'll back you up on that!
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm
Actually, I have never harassed you. The way I remember it, you went after me on every single comment I made (for some odd and unknown reason). When I said he needed to see a psychiatrist, I was being sarcastic and kind of making a joke. I am not certified to make any diagnoses, as you should know. I know that when someone thinks something different than me they're not sociopathic. I never said he/she was. I was simply making a counterargument to his/hers argument. I am "on the same side" as you... (more »)
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