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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 472 comments. Post your own now!

subliminal96 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 19, 2011 at 7:57 pm
I completely agree with you. An eye for an eye makes the world go blind
Raven-Mcdonald replied...
Jan. 15, 2012 at 8:52 am
I agree completely
packers22 said...
Oct. 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Capital Punishment is only the tip of the iceberg


Should capital punishment be completely abolished? Possibly.  But unfortunately there are much deeper problems with the judicial system. Take, for instance, the Casey Anthony Trial.  Regardless of her innocence, was it not absurd to have court on national television?  Some may call this increasing public awareness, which sounds very romantic.  Yet is it really?  Nationally televising a  trial... (more »)

dis kid said...
Sept. 30, 2011 at 1:03 pm

i think if some one kils a nother or raps a kid they should be killed.


lzcelloplayer said...
Sept. 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I very much agree with your opinion that capital punishment is wrong. I think that we should find a different way of punishing those who have committed murder. If we drop down to their level, then who will we be? Just because it is the government doesn't mean that they have the right to murder people themselves. 

I say we abolish capital punishment! 

Great work by the way! :D

Redwriter said...
Sept. 16, 2011 at 9:57 am

The goverment has been given a sword for a reason.

Not to say that you haven't given some good arguments, you have, and this is a very well written article. But, the fact is, capital punishment does deter some crime.

It definitely doesn't deter all of it. But there is a small percentage that will be intimidated by the fact that there will be justice. You say that it's a proven fact that countries with death penalty have higher murder ra... (more »)

swcricket98 replied...
Dec. 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm
I love this comment and agree completely.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jun. 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm
I can state my sources, when I say that it doesn't deter crime in certain states. Just go to They're website that shows stats about the death penalty. And trust me, there are plenty of facts and percentages and any hard evidence you may need to see. So have fun checking out that source!
HeartBreaker2010 said...
Sept. 13, 2011 at 10:42 am
if the person who killed a loved one it doesn't really help the loved one, it just means they wanted the person who killed the loved one to feel the pain, but think again that's someone else's loved one too, its just doesn't make since. but this is so true. GOOD WORK!!!
bombthrower said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm
c.astrate rapistis instead.
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm
Wow. Before I read this article, I thought the death penalty was wrong, but I wasn't sure exactly where I stood on that. Now I am 100% convinced: It's wrong. You're right that it doesn't help the victim's family: their loved one is still gone! It doesn't bring them back to kill the guy that did it. They need love and forgiveness and a second chance. Sure, they should be punished, but killing is irreperable. And what about the innocent souls who are, essentially, murdered, for no reason at all? T... (more »)
spiritiris said...
Sept. 5, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Like that quote:

"Why do we kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong?"

AsIAm This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 5, 2011 at 1:03 pm
I totally disagree with you.  An eye for an eye.  If it is certain that the person was the killer (as in pleaded guilty, caught on camera, dirty ******* sure), then I think they should be killed, and I'm not going to lie - I think it should be in the painfully-evil electric chair.
shapeshifter56 replied...
Sept. 27, 2011 at 12:09 am
I  have to disagree. "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." And two rights don't make a wrong.
shapeshifter56 replied...
Sept. 27, 2011 at 12:10 am
I meant to say two wrongs don't make a right. Sorry about that.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jun. 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm
How will this help us resolve anything? I think that's what the author wants to get across. Let's say - for the sake of arguement - that the death penalty is indeed okay (which it definitely is not). Why use the electric chair? Just to cause them physical pain? You don't think they've been mentally tormented enough? Sitting in jail for years and years, waiting for your sentence to be carried out, is torture in itself. Which leads me back to why the death penalty is necessary. Is it really just t... (more »)
Kafyra This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm
THANK YOU! I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that there's something strange going on with killing people for killing people.
yousaypotato... said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 7:27 am
TOTALLY agree with you, i think. I'm not actually sure bcuz i didnt read the whole thing...but captial punushment is murder. And we can't murder muerderers, because then we will become murderers ourselves. God and only God should have the power to take a life. And everyone deserves to live, no matter what they do.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jun. 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm
Unfortunately, we as a country are already murderers, because we have executed so many. Some are guilty, some are innocent... But they're all people, and they all have rights. It really is sad.
just.always.lexi said...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 1:51 am


I agree, why not just let those who are kept in prison and deserve to be formally and informally rot in a 6' by 11' jail cell anyways? A being higher than themselves will surley punish them, maybe not in this life, but in a higher place anyways. To waste the rest of your years away in solititude...that is a hell on Earth, most definitely.

BorderlineGenius777 said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm
I respect your opinion, but in my eyes, capital punishment is needed. some people are to dangerous to be left alive in this world. Take Charles Manson for example. he was an evil cult leader that persuaded his followers to murder several people, including a pregnant woman! and he is still alive because the "geniuses" in California gov't decided it was wrong to kill people for their crimes. I understand that sometimes it gets mixed up and innocents die, but there are just some people to dangerous... (more »)
Site Feedback