Death to the Death Penalty

January 9, 2008
By Daniel Shur, Fairfield, CT

Capital punishment or the death penalty is the state sanctioned execution of a person convicted of a capital offense. It has been around since the early ages and has always been barbaric. In fact, during King Henry VIII’s reign of power, he executed two of his wives just because they didn’t give birth to a baby boy (they gave birth to girls). Also, executions used to be a form of entertainment. Note the gladiator fights in the Roman Empire and the public hangings and beheadings. Executions were clearly the work of mad men back then so how could we still use it now? How can we possibly justify it?

Many people justify the death penalty by saying that tax-payers shouldn’t pay to shelter and feed prisoners for their whole life, especially when they have committed such terrible crimes. But, the truth is quite the opposite. According to US studies, life in prison only costs $500,000 whereas the entire death penalty process ranges from $1 million to as high as $7 million. It is millions of dollars less to put someone in prison for life than to execute them, and they’ll still never be able to hurt any innocent civilians again. So why make the government commit murder when they can achieve the same goal for a lot less and without having blood on their hands?

Another myth that people use to justify this barbaric act, is that at least the execution is painless. Although we have had many great leaps in execution methods, the lethal injection is not as peaceful and painless as it seems. The lethal injection includes anesthesia that is intended to numb the pain but studies done by the medical journal, “The Lancet” in Texas, have proved that the anesthesia is not effective in all cases. According to these studies, 88% of inmates given the lethal injection had below the required amount of anesthesia for surgeries. Horrifyingly, 43% of them were administered so little, that most likely they were aware during the whole process and felt every ounce of the incredible pain. How could we let these people suffer so much, especially when there are innocent lives mixed into that percentage?

Twenty-three. That many human beings were wrongly convicted of a capital offense and were wrongly executed this century. Twenty-three innocents, people just like you and me had their lives ended because of this unjust law. Even more recently, over 100 people were found innocent and taken off death row in the last three decades. That clearly shows a flaw in our legal system. If, there was no death penalty, then this one mistake in our legal system wouldn’t cause such a final act of ending a life. If a person is sentenced to life in prison, they still have a chance to be proven innocent. But, if they were sentenced to death row and finally proven innocent, it won’t change what happened, because they were already executed. Don’t think this is just a hypothetical situation because it has happened before to Cameron Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Larry Griffin. These aren’t even all of them and it may have happened to more people who weren’t proven innocent yet. Something must be done about it and soon or else these executions will continue.

No one has the right to decide whether a man lives or dies. Somehow that right has been given to the jury, but no one deserves to be burdened with that kind of decision. All of the jury members involved in a case where the death penalty is a possibility must live with the fact that they decided to end a man’s life or, in some worse cases, an innocent man’s life. In fact, two of my older brothers were recently interviewed to be placed on the jury in a case involving sentencing a man to death. Luckily, they were not placed on that jury because otherwise they would have had to live with that man’s death on their conscience. No one deserves to be burdened with something like that. So, we must work towards abolishing this law.

We must do this soon, to save as many lives as we can. Luckily, for those of you who agree with me, the US is making a small movement towards ending capital punishment because over ten states have already abolished it and others are being much more cautious about them. I have already made my decision on this matter, now it’s your time to decide.

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