Death Penalty This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     Constant debates rage over whether the death penalty is an accurate illustration of American culture, and if it’s even constitutional. One argument is that the justice system is hypocritical in how it portrays the death penalty. Another is that the death penalty is not morally right, and that morality is the foundation of our Constitution. Perhaps the most shocking argument is that the death penalty has negative repercussions on the American lifestyle.

The government constantly talks about how to make the world better and how to make America more civilized, but then it kills its people. The death penalty is a form of hypocrisy. One can infer that killing is wrong, yet the government’s solution to murder is to engage in its own slaughter. This side of capital punishment is barbaric.

The death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948). We treat prisoners like animals. Committing a violent crime does not make someone any less of a human being, and sadly, it seems a human trait to commit heinous crimes. Some believe it is necessary to execute certain prisoners to prevent them from repeating their crimes. This may be a valid argument, but there is always a risk that someone innocent will be executed. The death penalty will not prevent a person from repeating a crime he or she did not commit in the first place. On the contrary, one study found that the death penalty causes juries to acquit murderers due to the fear of making a mistake that would result in an innocent person being executed.

In addition, our legal system is prejudiced. In Southern states, eight percent of blacks convicted of murder receive the death penalty while only one percent of white murderers get capital punishment. Also, murderers are seven times more likely to get the death penalty for killing a white person than a black person. This strikes me as obvious prejudice. Senator Russ Feingold states, “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims.”

Ruben Cantu is an example of an innocent person who was put to death. Cantu, 17 at the time of his alleged crime, with no previous convictions, was labeled a violent thief, gang member, and ruthless murderer. He was charged with third-degree murder. Soon after his conviction, Cantu wrote a letter to the residents of San Antonio stating, “My name is Ruben M. Cantu and I am only 18 years old. I got to the ninth grade and I have been framed in a capital murder case.” Cantu was executed at age 26, still proclaiming his innocence. Twelve years later, the sole witness who testified against him recanted, saying, “I’m sure the person who shot me was not Cantu. Being an illegal immigrant at the time, I felt pressured by the police to identify the boy as the killer.” He later said, “[Cantu] was innocent. It was a case of an innocent person being killed.” Cantu’s co-defendant, Juan Garza, has signed a sworn affirmation saying he allowed his friend to be falsely accused, and that Cantu was not even with him the night of the killing.

From the hypocrisy of the American judicial system to the sorrowful execution of innocent people, the death penalty is immoral and violates the human right to life. Capital punishment has stolen lives and needs to be stopped. One day, the American government will realize that the death penalty is unethical.

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 52 comments. Post your own now!

FroBro said...
Jul. 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm
Why should a murderer get to live longer than an innocent they've killed? They'll end up costing us more in jail anyway.
user replied...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 11:15 am
because they took someone elses life but if their innocent then its realllly wrong
tikapeek97 said...
Jul. 10, 2011 at 9:00 am
I agree with the death penalty. If someone takes the life of another person why should they get to live. I think the death penalty should be stronger.
freeflow23 said...
Jun. 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm
Nice argument and very well written.
Jasmine7 said...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 11:30 pm
I think the blacks/whites thing has to be investigated further to make a claim such as that.....
T.R.Trevino said...
Mar. 31, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I found your article very interesting.

What was the name of the study, the one that 'found that the death penalty causes juries to acquit murderers due to the fear of making a mistake that would result in an innocent person being executed', and where can I find where you got this information from? I would like to read some more about this.

Once again, very interesting article.

John_L. said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I have to respectfully disagree. Although part of me wants to agree with your argument, I think there is a point where actions become unforgiveable.


Do serial killers deserve Life, a luxury they deprived from dozens of people without any remose? I think not. Among our "unalienable" rights are liberty. Does that mean we should let murderers walk the streets free? No. We have a democracy, not an anarchy. We have to have punishments for crimes.


And what ... (more »)

LoudDreamer replied...
Nov. 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

I'm afraid I have to agree with you, John_L., if a little reluctantly. The thing that makes a government a government is the abillity govern and protect the people by awarding the death penalty to individuals who serously endanger the lives and safty of the general public, and by extention, all lesser penalties for lesser crimes.

This bieng the case, Life, Liberty and the Persuit of Happiness are inalienable in the sense that they can never be taken away, NOT that... (more »)

jesscosse replied...
Aug. 23, 2012 at 12:56 am
I like how you worded this John.
Kleetus7 said...
Dec. 1, 2010 at 9:27 pm
I wouldn't say that the death penalty is morally wrong. Locking someone up alone for what they have left of their life is, in my opinion, worse. However, I read a study once that said most criminals were much more afraid of spending life in prison than being killed. What that means is if we were to eliminate the death penalty, the amount of crime in this country would probably drop due to the fear factor. If we were to eliminate the death penalty, one might ask about prisoners who escape and com... (more »)
writer-in-pearls said...
Apr. 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm
I agree, I am completely opposed to the death penalty. Those that commit violent acts should be placed in prison to protect the public, but it is not up to us to punish them. Each person will have to face their own conscience, and the judgement of their God.
jazzledazzle replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 12:18 am
Do you really believe that a life in solitary confinement is more humane than the death penalty?
StandardToaster replied...
Aug. 12, 2010 at 12:33 am
I agree.  Being killed quickly is much better than decades of ostracism.  Personally, if I were given the choice of being killed, or forever confined in a small cell, i would choose death.
writer-in-pearls replied...
Aug. 12, 2010 at 1:39 am
but people who recieve the death penalty are those who commit the most violent and discusting acts, why should we give up basic principles of humanity to make their lives easier. So what if life in prison is more unpleasent, the reasons for not killing people are not because it's cruel, but because its inhumane and its not up to us to go around killing people :)
sly07 said...
Jan. 5, 2010 at 8:19 am
i think that death penalty should be totally abolished. because it's discriminating and against the christian doctrine. if a criminal committed murder, let him not be killed by his mistakes! but rather let him learn from his mistakes. if Jesus is there would Jesus pull the switch? i think Jesus would forgive him for what he has done. as Jesus said "whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me". death penalty can't solve to stop heinous crimes. an eye f... (more »)
MaeFlower replied...
Apr. 10, 2010 at 8:34 pm
I get where you're coming from, because Jesus did let that woman go.  But he can see the HEART, we can only see the appearence. 
DayofRain50 replied...
Jun. 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm
Personally, not everyone is Christian, so I don't think people should be living under christian based laws because it is offensive. It's okay if you believe in Jesus, just don't use him in this type of argument.
MaeFlower replied...
Jun. 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

Before I say this, I have to say that I apologzize if I offend anyone, but this is what I believe, so I'm going to stand up for it.

 Our nation was founded on Christianity, we are one nation UNDER GOD, and everyone seems to forget that. I  know it seems "offending" to some people, but how is it that everyone is "offended" by me because of my religion, but no one is offended by Islam, Buddhism, Athiesm, or any other religion that you don't believe in?

 I understand... (more »)

jazzledazzle replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 12:32 am

MaeFlower, I also don't intend to offend you or any readers, but I don't feel that your statement is really valid.  America was NOT founded on Christian value; the phrase "under God" was added in the 50s; and yes, I damn well am offended by religions in which I don't believe.  If a Satanist decided that my dog would make a nice mantelpiece (forgive me if I'm misinterpreting their doctrines which, as I understand, permit anything that furthers the believer's pleas... (more »)

krhinesly said...
Dec. 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm
wow. okay, so you're saying that death penalty is being hypocrite by killing someone who killed or brutally hurt another? that's hypocritical? so what, you just want that physco killer to be put in jail for 2 years or so, then be let back on the streets? are you insnae?! the death penalty is the best thing we have! look at other countries whom don't have the freedom we have, & they are the ones with the most problems. i'm just saying, the death penalty should be enforced ... (more »)
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