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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!

RainbowLeprechaun said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 10:54 am
You have a point, but i respectfully disagree. my stepmom's grandfather was murdered in his toy shop in front of his wife. Before the murderer murdered him, he kidnapped and killed a 15 year old girl. After killing my stepmom's grandfather he was only sentenced 12 years, a few years after being freed he killed a mother and suffocated her child in its crib. Sorry if you don't agree, but i don't think that he should be let to live in the comfort of a padded jail ... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

First off, I thank and applaud you for being so civil - many people on here are not. 

I'd like to point out that in order to believe in a concept, you must fully believe in it. When you say you don't agree with the way it is carried out, it contradicts your previous statements of strong disagreement. 

Also, you mention that the death penalty is not painful. Although we all assume that it's not painful, there is no proof. After all, the dead are dead. 

<... (more »)
forever_an_artist replied...
May 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

Wait a minute.

You say that it's "okay" to kill multiple criminals in a firing squad

but it's not "okay" to (in a much less disturbing way) execute one criminal?

Umm... interesting argument there.

Do you believe that when a soldier kills an enemy soldier in a battle, that's immoral?

Probably not; for when a soldier goes into battle, he knows that he is taking the risk of death for his country. Same with people; if they commit crimes, they know that they have... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm
I actually never said that it was okay to kill multiple criminals through a firing squad. I said I did not believe his death was a death penalty. Soldiers killing others in war is not the same at all as the death penalty. Those people have not had a trial, or been on death row. The same as Osama bin Laden. And just to let you know, I like to debate the topic of the article, not side topics.
scamp24 said...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I agree with this completly! Why is it right for the government to murder,but when a common folk kills it is ok? This is totally government hypocrisy. And one of the American rights is life, so why are we taking that away.

Good job on this article! You said it well!:)

RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 10:57 am
Its right because that commonfolk could be killing innocent people, and the government is putting a stop to it. If that commonfolk is a vigalante then i understand but, that "commonfolk" could be a serial killer, a druglord killing people. And you want to let them live?
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 10:44 am
Yes, they could be killing innocent people, but does that give us the right to take their life away from them? It could be a serial killer or a druglord, but we can put them in prison for life instead of killing them. Think of the person who has to inject them with the lethal poison. Or of the person who has to pull the lever to electrocute them. Do we want to make them live with the guilt of also killing someone? There are so many things you have to think about before you say that it's okay for... (more »)
scamp24 replied...
May 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

That's a really good point! I never even thought of that. But now you mention it, I feel bad for the people who have to kill the criminals and I am sure it's hard for them.          But, sometimes, the 'killer' didn't really do it. If the person is executed after their innocence is discovered, it's too late and someone would probaly be killed also.And, if they are, there is still isn't a guarantee that the person is guilty. The execu... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm
Wait... So you agree with me? Sorry, your comment was a little bit hard to follow. :)
Hawthorn said...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm
Yes being killed painlessly is probably one of the "Better" ways to go. I say better because no one WANTS to get killed unless they are crazy and if they are crazy, REALLY crazy, then they are technically not as responsible for their actions. I think that it would be more constructive to try to get the criminals to reform.
alanahlovee said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I disagree, but I do respect your opinion and see where you're coming from. I don't believe you can rehablitate a serial killer, or even a murderer for that matter. A murderer is someone who has thought out and planned taking the life of another, and went through with it. The person who was murdered can no longer live their life and fufill their dreams and wishes; their life has been stolen from them. I don't have sympathy for anyone who takes the life of another out of jealousy, greed, or an... (more »)

alanahlovee replied...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 7:58 pm
Also, it is a very rare that innocent people suffer the death penalty. Has it happened? Maybe a few times, but a majority of the time, it is the guilty party who is punished.
TheJust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm
I completly agree! When you kill someone, unless it's in protection of you or your family, you make a choice that is irreversible. You make the choice to take a life, you deserve the same as the person you killed. You didn't care about that person, why should you deserve anything different?
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

To alanahlovee:

There have been over 150 cases reported to the government of innocent people being executed. Only after they had been executed did investigators find evidence leading them to believe they were innocent. Also, a murder does not have to necessarily be thought out. It just has to premeditated. There is a difference between premeditation and planning and thinking about it. Premeditation just means that you thought, "I'm going to kill this person." Planning and thinking abou... (more »)

TheJust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Premeditated and planned are the same thing. You still have an anger built up in your body. With one, you just lose control of that anger and act on it and the other is simply one with more self-control to hold back that anger long enough to plan how to act on it.

Honestly, when you think about it, premeditated is more dangerous than planned, because they have less self-control meaning they could lash out and harm or kill anyone, not just the person they are mad at. So, really, you're ... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm
I'm not replying to anything in that comment because of other rude comments I have received from you. I don't know what it is about me that makes you not like me, but I am personally tired of having my opinion degraded, so I am not replying to any other comments from you.
RedMapleLeaf said...
Jan. 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm
I get your point, but I don't agree with it. Government has to serve the public as a whole. So if there's a serial killer going around and doing what serial killers do best, by not killing him or her, many, many more lives would be lost.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:02 pm
It's actually been proved by multiple studies that the death penalty has not made crime rates go down significantly at all.
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 11:06 am
It may not make the crime rates go down, but it gets rid of one more person that has possibly killed many people I respect your opinion, and you are entitled to it. But i just don't agree, by all this you are saying that if a man murders hundreds of people, tortures, rapes, terrifies his victims does things to them that are so heinous it makes you vomit, he deserves to live? Because just maybe, though its unlikely, there might be ONE person in an entire prison that could very unprobably but poss... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm
I beg to differ. If you have read any prison accounts, you will know that prison is by no means comfortable. The guards and warden know what the people have done and don't let them just relax. Everyone in prison has a job they must do. Why should the innocent waste tax money on killing a person they don't know? And if the killer or rapist - or whatever criminal they may be - is locked up, then what's the difference from killing them? We weren't put into this life to take other's away from them.
Jan. 28, 2011 at 9:52 am
ok cool lets spend a ton of tax money on keeping sick serial killers alive... these people need to be removed from the earth, as there is no good purpose for them. our prisons are crowded enough.
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