The Final Sentence

August 29, 2011
The death penalty. The worst punishment you could ever possibly receive, in some people’s opinions. Being killed without your consent. Having your one sacred life gone in a second. However, say you did something horrible, like murdered three people? Is justice being served by you ceasing to exist? Is it fair, just an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth?

The death penalty, one of the most controversial topics in the United States of America, is also one of the most interesting. There are many different sides and layers that bind together to make this sentence. Some people believe that keeping someone alive who murdered someone is a crime itself. That it is only fair to take the life of someone who had no problem taking another. Others think that it is not the government’s job to decide whether or not you get the chance to live. I believe that since each person only gets one precious life, our society and laws should not have the power to take that away from us because of our mistakes, however horrible they may be.

For one thing, it’s a costly operation. In California, just thirteen executions in the past three decades have totaled up to $308 million dollars (Basset, 6/20/11). Many people believe that this money could be spent on other things, such as helping the families of the victims. In fact, the numerous trials and complications involving the death penalty can extend the pain that the families feel. Studies also show that killing the murderer did not make the family feel any better the majority of the time. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, it can cost up to twenty times more to execute someone than to keep them in prison for a life sentence without parole. Some question whether it’s truly worth it.

We pay valuable money to the government to fund our states and our country as a whole. We cannot afford to do things that only benefit a couple of people, and the death penalty is certainly one of them. It only benefits the members of the family of the victim that was killed. What difference does it make to a random person on the street if a killer is dead or in jail for the rest of their life? With our country already possessing a high deficit, we need to work on spending our money wisely on things that benefit Americans as a whole, not just a select few people that may have had a horrible event in their lives. As a taxpayer, I believe that spending money executing people is a waste. With the unemployment rate rising and so many people homeless and hungry, not to mention the crisis in Libya, we should work to abolish the death penalty in the remaining thirty four states and put our money to better use.

There are many factors that can account for whether or not you get sentenced to the death penalty. Some people face execution for crimes that might not be as bad as others, simply because their trial was different. For instance, if you cannot afford a good lawyer, you might receive the death penalty as a result. Also, race plays a role in it, too. According to an issue of Upfront Magazine published in April, 2011, black people are discriminated against in the death penalty. They only make up 12% of the population, but 42% of death row inmates. The article also said that in California, a 2005 study was conducted that found people who murdered whites were three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks. The death penalty is also against many religions. And, of course, there are always the people who do the absolute worst crimes, but plead insanity. And, instead of being dead for doing a far worse crime than another executed, spend the rest of their life at a mental hospital. You decide which fate is worse.

There’s always the chance, if very slim, that the person is innocent. Since the death penalty was reinstated, there have been at least four cases where those who were executed may actually have been innocent (, 3/31/2009). In a matter as serious as this, there absolutely cannot be any room for error, but it is always impossible to be 100% sure if the person is guilty. This is a person’s life. In my opinion, the government does not have the right to take that away from someone. What if, because that person was black, he was sentenced to the death penalty instead of a white who did a worse crime? What if the person executed was actually innocent, but just had a terrible lawyer provided by the state? Sure, they may have committed murder, but that does not mean that the government has the right to kill them because of it.

Some say that a life in jail is a fate worse than death. So, if you want to avenge the death of a person, put the killer in jail. That, in my opinion, is punishment enough. The eighth amendment outlaws “cruel or unusual punishment” and even though the execution may be done by lethal injection, I believe that it is still cruel. Nobody should get to decide the fate of another human being when it involves life or death.
Say a person killed two people while robbing a store. Does that automatically give the government the responsibility or the right to murder him? He should be put into jail, a danger to no one anymore but himself. Studies also show that just because your state has the death penalty, that does not make the crime rate go down. So are we really killing the people to avenge the death of someone else? Or to make a statement? To show society that murder is not tolerated. But do people listen? Look at the statistics, and you’ll find that the answer is no.
Seven hundred people are in death row, the prison where the guilty live before they are executed, right now in just California alone. Seven hundred lives lost. I bet, mixed in with all of those that are truly guilty, are one or two innocent people, waiting to be executed because of a bad lawyer or prejudice in court.

We only get one life. We were born into a society that already has laws set for us. We make a fatal mistake resulting in the loss of life, and suddenly society has the right to take our one precious life away from us? Justice is not served by the execution of a human being.

Join the Discussion

This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Two-ply said...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 4:03 pm
This was really good, and you are totally right.
SamanthaGiglitze said...
Sept. 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm
This was the BEST article I've ever read about the death penalty! I admire you so much, Margaret! It is so interesting, and written by another teenager too! I am completely against it too! Nobody should die! I would love to read another article by you soon!
MargaretS11597 replied...
Sept. 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm
Thanks so much! I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
Danifer19 said...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 7:33 pm
This is an interesting topic and both sides of the argument were presented well.  I would like to have seen more emphasis on the moral complexities.  This is a promising writer.
MargaretS11597 replied...
Sept. 3, 2011 at 7:39 pm
Thank you! I tried to write about the moral aspect, but I guess I should have focused a bit more on it! Thanks for the feedback.
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