Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 467 comments. Post your own now!

PuzzleLuver said...
Nov. 7, 2010 at 11:21 am
I don't like the death penalty, but almost everyone who goes to jail gets on parole. If there was some way to make sure if you murdered someone you should be in jail for life, then I would be so happy to get rid of the death penalty, but you have to realize that probably won't happen unfortunatly. 
Curly_Sue replied...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm
life without parole is already in affect. many people have life without parole. the only example I can think of is from a documentary i had to watch in my government class called "When Kids Get Life" it was really sad and heartbreaking. We also had to watch a video on the death penalty itself and they followed an inmate all the way through death row. There were numerous interviews with the man. It was obvious that he felt very remorseful but even so, he was still sentenced to die and no one coul... (more »)
TheEdgar said...
Nov. 6, 2010 at 7:24 pm
YES. this is true, we have to consider both sides. and when you get down to it. the other may seem right but this is really whats going to help our nation in the future
Himself12794 said...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm
capital punishment is sometimes necessary; ending the life of one who might kill others is necessary; its ending one life to save several others
beach replied...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

a life for a life right

but do we really know what is after death

is that fair?

TheEdgar said...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 9:25 am
also, yeah we make mistakes but are we going to pass murder as a simple mistake?
Brook_little_obbsessive said...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm


YEs, But what if someone who was sentenced to a capitial punishment. killed someone else themselfs? mabye more than one person killed by the person.....Then its okay? Yes. of course it is

TheEdgar replied...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 9:15 am
honestly, yes. now i will say someone wrongly accused does not deserve to die and yes it does seem wrong but think. if someone killed someone you loved.would you want them to walk the streets freely? yes there is jail but at least that murderer is alive still? well in health? a gang fight whatever. they deserve to die.
Sri P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 5:05 am
Our judicial system is not based on the revenge of a single person. It should be impartial and keep emotions of of it so we as a group of people can make LOGICAL decisions. Endorsing a system which kills innocent people is not logical.
TheEdgar said...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 9:56 am
yes and these people are the ones we are talking about! do you want to let a murderer run the streets! i understand sending them to jail but there is always the possibility of them escaping and killing more people! Murder is wrong. i know. but  capital punishment is a biblical truth.
TheEdgar replied...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 9:58 am
sorry this coment was supposed to go to "mskullgirl"
TheEdgar said...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 9:42 am
in the bible it states that if one man takes the life a another. he has the right to die. yes, i do understand murder is wrong. but would you rather let a murderer run about the streets? or break out of jail and live next to you? capital punishment is biblically correct. and im not saying a theif should die because of his wrong doing. im saying if someone kills someone else he has the right to die.
qwertyqwerty123 replied...
Nov. 1, 2010 at 7:40 pm
have you ever seen/read "the lord of the rings"? gandalf says this awesome quote that went something along the lines of "yes some that live deserve death. some that die deserve life. can you give it to them?" i agree with the olivia h. all loss of life is wrong
WritingLoverForever said...
Oct. 10, 2010 at 12:43 pm
This is one of the best opinion articles I've ever read on teenink. You were very forward with your opinions on this issue--and I agree with them 100%. This was a very convincing and moving article. The death penalty is immoral just like you said and I think of it as a sin. It is not our government's decision to choose who and when somebody should be killed. Murder is wrong, but there is no difference between murder and death penalty except that the government supposedly has rights to car... (more »)
Jacki.Siwel said...
Sept. 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

The author obviously has an opinion on this issue, but must be careful not to let her voice drown out the argument.  The argument is very much one-sided.  She only mentions the way someone who is pro-capital punishment would view this once, and that only briefly and in little depth.  She does not address the fact, for instance, that someone who suports capital punishment would not consider execution to be murder, albeit this is precisely what the author calls it.  She does... (more »)

mskullgirl said...
Sept. 6, 2010 at 1:35 pm
I definatley understand your point of view I mean so they killed someone so now we get to kill them? Not the best example but there are so horrible horrible people out there. This one woman left her two children straped in their carseats and let the car drive into a lake. These are children! And she must have heard them scream. If anyone deserves the death penalty it's people like her
Karen C. said...
Sept. 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm
I agree with this article completely. but since many of our state governments seem to like murdering murderers, maybe the convict should have a choice between death and life in prison. This way innocent people would not be killed because they probably won't choose death. If a person picked death, it would be voluntary, and not murder. The death sentence is never the only solution.
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz replied...
Nov. 23, 2010 at 8:07 am
Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? The jails would be overrun with murders if we gave them the choice of jail or death. What idiot in their right mind would choose death instead of life??? All your comment is helping is the murderers. People need to stop thinking about them and think about the families of the murdered and what they want and need.
amybug said...
Aug. 31, 2010 at 6:07 pm
I think that this is false. I think many people that have received the death penalty were guilty. And you said yourself, who are we to decide who gets to live or die. Exactly, we leave that up to the court system. How do you find someone who murdered a little kid, innocent and a victim?
TheEdgar replied...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 9:20 am
YES! we have to consider this, people! There is mercy but there is also devine justice. and we have to bring these murderers to it.
amybug replied...
Nov. 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm
Thanks so much for the agreement! I know people think that a human life should be respected, and not just disposed with. I believe that as well, but we have to keep in mind how we would feel if our brother/sister/mother/husband/boyfriend was murdred. The lat thing on our mind would be mercy.
Site Feedback