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!

MWM958 said...
Jan. 2, 2010 at 11:24 am
So, I'm not sayin' whether or not Capital Punishment is right or wrong...
But, just remember, people who support CP do not believe it is "murder". Murder and Killing are two different things. Murder is the unlawful taking away of a human life. Murder has been divinely defined as immoral. However, "killing" may be justified in some circumstances, therefore it wouldn't be Murder.
Supporters of CP feel justified (I'm not saying whether or not they... (more »)
.... replied...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm
thats exactly what the article is critisizing...the point is that there is no such thing as "lawful" taking away of rights, no matter who does it or why. just because the government does it, does not make it different; one human is taking the life of another, and this is wrong. so youre not actually clearing anything up....
Sassafrax said...
Dec. 28, 2009 at 7:29 pm
you say that we've been taught that murder is wrong from the start. however, the murderer didn't learn that so what are we going to do? and sometimes, murder is more humane than being in jail/tortured for twelve years.
HauntedDancer123 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 28, 2009 at 9:52 am
I disagree with you. Yes, there are innocent people who die because of this, and that's horrible. However, do you really want despicable people who have done something to deserve the death penalty actually alive? Think about it, there is a mass murderer who is thrown into jail. He escapes and kills a hundred other people! Do you really want him being thrown in jail and escaping again and again or just kill him?
madison replied...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 7:57 pm
so, the lives of humans, innocent humans, mean less to you than the condemnation of a killer?
also, the article never states anywhere that they WANT a murderer alive, just that it is morally barbaric to kill them in return
PurpleMoonlight said...
Dec. 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm
I agree with you. We are taught that murder is wrong from the day we can understand what murder is, yet the most influential thing in our lives, our government, allows the thing they say they stand against. "An eye for an eye makes the world blind." Our world is far more advanced then it was 200 years ago, yet we still have this crule, inhumane act of punishment? It's stupid, no offense to anyone who believes in it, but that is what I believe not only as a Christian, but as a human.
cabi816 said...
Dec. 14, 2009 at 1:24 pm
It economically cheaper to stop capital punishment because appeals cost the country more each year than the cost of keeping an inmate incarcerated for their whole life. While some people may think that an eye for an eye is fair and thus justifies capital punishment, does anyone have the right to take the life of another?
SilverQueen said...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm
Just a quick clarification on what the Bible says about forgiveness: God does not say He will forgive people who feel remorse over what they've done. He forgives those who a.) feel remorse, and b.) accept Him as their Lord, which means they promise to obey Him for the rest of their lives.
Christopher K. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm
Thank you for posting this! I agree 100%...well....98%. What I don't agree with is your description of humans and their presence being an error. BUT that is really just pretty picky.
The thought of killing to condemn killing is primitive, and the proverb "an eye for an eye" is strung simply on revenge.
Thanks and good post!
aishogsagsoig replied...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm
it doesnt say their presence is an error, just that we're humans, so we're flawed, we're not perfect which means there will always be a margin of error, and if there is an error there is risk that an innocent life could be taken ( and this has happened) and that this is not a risk anyone should be willing to take
Maddy P. said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 8:12 am
I completely agree, I am from England and we havent had the death penalty in years. If people are still commiting crimes that result in the death penalty it clearly isnt a deterrant, therefore is not working. Also, your point about innocent people is completely true, I think the death penalty is a risk people shoukd not be willing to take
xLokiFoxx This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 9:49 pm
I absolutely agree. After all, to cite a quote that's been tossed around for quite a while now, why do we kill people who kill people to prove that killing is wrong?
While the Bible does say "an eye for an eye," doesn't it also have a message of forgiveness? I'm not an expert on the Bible, but from what I've heard, if you are truly sorry and repent, then God will forgive your sins, please correct me if I'm wrong. I can't imagine someone murdering ano... (more »)
naturelover123 replied...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm
I know it's hard to imagine a murderer not feeling sorry for what they did, but some of these criminals have serious mental issues. After their time in jail, they go back and claim their next victim. Some don't's a vicious cycle, and innocent people are getting hurt.
xLokiFoxx This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 8:53 pm
Good point, but in my opinion, those are examples of cases where the murderer could spend life in captivity with no possibility of parole. I just don't think it's quite necessary to KILL them when there are other ways to keep them from killing.
Dara R. said...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 11:08 am
u are dead wrong, olivia. dead wrong.
LH2010 said...
Nov. 6, 2009 at 5:02 pm
Most say that we are not to choose who lives and who dies, which is right. But the Bible does say, "An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth." i told this to a girl at school and she told me that I misinterpreted that verse. How can you misunderstand that? Does the murderer realize that (s)he took someone's life away? Why send them to life in prison where they'll live a life of luxury, considering the way prisoners are treated today. The murderer not only killed a person, but ... (more »)
Olivia replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 11:54 am
the bible also says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"
we cannot use the death penalty because it is murder. WE are killing someone too. we cannot continue to use a crime as a punishment. this article is not about the criminals its about us, and the fact that we cannot punish someone for a crime(murder), and then commit the same crime against them
StevenH1028 replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm
You are aware that the same person who said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" also took a whip and drove people out of the Temple right?
ckalani said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 7:10 pm
I completely agree with you. You did an excelent job in wording and research. Excelent.
Emmalee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 10:51 am
Eye for an eye. Murder for murder.
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