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!

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.
shakespeare418 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 28, 2009 at 12:29 pm
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."
Fayrouz This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 10:46 am
Although your article is very well-written, I disagree. The death penalty is FAIR. A killer takes someones life purposely. Anyone that intentionally takes someone else's life while they are in a sound state of mind should be killed as well. Capital punishment is only immoral to those who live in a nice, romantic, "let's-love-everyone" type of world. When you kill someone, you deprive them of having a life, of simple human pleasures and experiences and in turn, you should not ... (more »)
ckalani replied...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 6:45 pm
No. It is not that simple. Who are we to chose who lives and dies? Who are we to chose who is innocent or gulity? I am sorry, but I completely disagree with you, Fayrouz. Life in prison without parole is completely fine, but taking someones life away from them is simply wrong. By murdering someone, in this case a convict, is just as bad as murdering your next dorr neighbor.
I respect your opinion but utterly disagree with it.
hananabear replied...
Nov. 14, 2009 at 7:21 am
i agree with fayrouz. you say who are WE to decide who should die, but who are the MURDERERS to decide who should die? they should be punished for taking the life of an innocent person.
RichelleP replied...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 9:34 pm
If it is wrong for them to choose when someone dies, then it is wrong for us to choose when they die.
olivia replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 11:38 am
"Anyone that intentionally takes someone else's life while they are in a sound state of mind should be killed as well."
If what you say Fayrouz is true, then why does this not apply to the execrutioners and the government? you say its wrong to intentionally take someones life away while they are in a sound state of mind, but this is exactly what you propose our government should condone. a little hypacritical dont you think?
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 9:38 am
Also well written:) Great combination of facts and opinions.
This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 9:36 am
I agree. The death penalty is just plain barbaric. The U.S. is the only first world country to have it. Plus, even if they killed people, there will always people who will love them, and they don't deserve to see their loved ones die. Even if they are murderers, we're still killing someone's child.
PurpleMidnight said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm
I agree with the death sentence for the most vile, henious criminals there are. But by injection, not by electric chair, not by slow and painful torture. Today, texas still uses the electric chair as a punishment. Another country uses live autopsy, and I don't need to go into that. A lot of capital punishment is sick, wrong, and cruelly twisted. OJ Simpson, who was prosecuted for killing his wife, won his case. Shortly afterword, he wrote a book called: If I Killed My Wife, This Is How I Wo... (more »)
ckalani replied...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 6:47 pm
But it isn't humane.
jigjoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 6:53 pm
I would rather die a swift death by lethal injection than be barred from the rest of the world for decades.
StevenH1028 replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 2:40 pm
dude, I hate to break it to you; but I live in Texas, and we use lethal injection, not capital punishment.
JacobR** replied...
Sept. 18, 2010 at 9:49 am
Hate to break it to you but Murder is Murder no matter how it is commited...
SilverQueen said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm
First of all, Olivia, your essay is very well written and you did an admirable job of handling a tough topic. I don't agree with your position, but it was well thought out. However, I've got a question for you: You keep saying that capital punishment is morally and ethically wrong. Where do you get that from? What gauge are you using to decide right and wrong. Is it inferred from the first paragraph, that it is simply something we've been taught from childhood? But if that's ... (more »)
SilverQueen replied...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm
Sorry, I didn't mean to post twice; my computer was acting weird and didn't display that the first post had gone through.
olivia replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 11:41 am
im saying that capital punishment is simply aonther name for murder, which is morally and ethically wrong. capital punishment is murder by the government and we cannot continue to use a crime as a punishment.
SilverQueen replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm
But who decides that murder is wrong? I know it seems self-evident that it is, but in order to understand why, or why one type of killing may be permissible but not another, we must first understand what we are basing our opinions upon.
olivia replied...
Dec. 14, 2009 at 1:15 am
it is used in this article as being a fundamental and obvious truth of universal ethics, murder is wrong. we as people decide that murder is wrong, by making a society legitimized by social contract we have made a moral code declaring this to be true. and in this article, my point is that there are no differences between one type of murder and another; all are the same and all are wrong, even if "justified" by the governemnt
Jack_Walton replied...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm
If murder is morally and ethically wrong, why did the murderer murder someone in the first place?
SilverQueen said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 1:36 pm
First off, Olivia, your essay is well written and well thought out. I don't agree with it, but it is well put to together. However, there is a major point I don't believe you addressed. You keep saying that the death penalty is morally and ethically wrong. How did you come to that conclusion? Where does the gauge you use to measure right and wrong come from?
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