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

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 462 comments. Post your own now!

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...
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 »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm
That comment was meant for the other comment PurpleFeather made, the one where Txdragon replied. 
TommyOoOoO said...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 8:03 am
The death penalty is in place for a reason. If you're writing this, you've obviously never had a family member murdered in cold blood. If you had then you would know the feeling of wanting justice. The only justice for taking away a life is taking away their life. If you think about it, yeah, they're behind bars and yeah, sometimes they'll never get out again, but what good is that? The muderer is still alive while their sister/brother/mother/father/son/daughter/best friend/grandmother/grandfath... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm
I respectfully disagree. My father was murdered by someone, and that someone is now behind bars for life, which I am grateful for. Now they cannot kill anyone else. However, I wouldn't want their family to have to grieve as I do for my father. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth may indeed be Hamurabi's Code, but it is most certainly not the way we as humans should be living.
PuzzleLuver said...
Nov. 7, 2010 at 11:21 am
I don't like the death penalty, but almost everyone who goes to jail gets on parole. If there was some way to make sure if you murdered someone you should be in jail for life, then I would be so happy to get rid of the death penalty, but you have to realize that probably won't happen unfortunatly. 
abey2012 replied...
Nov. 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm
that is completely true after all James Madison once wrote that "if men were angels, we wouldn't need government" which is the whole purpose of capital punishment to make sure that we understand that all though we live in America, land of the free, we can not just go around killing people unpunished. At the same time we can not give the goverment that much power as James Maidson finshed "if government were run by angels, we wouldn't need to place controls and limitations on government."
Curly_Sue replied...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm
life without parole is already in affect. many people have life without parole. the only example I can think of is from a documentary i had to watch in my government class called "When Kids Get Life" it was really sad and heartbreaking. We also had to watch a video on the death penalty itself and they followed an inmate all the way through death row. There were numerous interviews with the man. It was obvious that he felt very remorseful but even so, he was still sentenced to die and no one coul... (more »)
TheEdgar said...
Nov. 6, 2010 at 7:24 pm
YES. this is true, we have to consider both sides. and when you get down to it. the other may seem right but this is really whats going to help our nation in the future
Himself12794 said...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm
capital punishment is sometimes necessary; ending the life of one who might kill others is necessary; its ending one life to save several others
beach replied...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

a life for a life right

but do we really know what is after death

is that fair?

TheEdgar said...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 9:25 am
also, yeah we make mistakes but are we going to pass murder as a simple mistake?
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