Capital Punishment Is Dead Wrong This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 27, 2008
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 472 comments. Post your own now!

browneyedpoet said...
May 7, 2010 at 1:43 am
Couldn't have put it better, doxie. Also, might I add that a LIFE SENTENCE means FOR LIFE. NOT a few years, NOT a couple years, NOT five years, FOR LIFE. NO EXCEPTIONS. Sorry, just thought we needed that straightened out.
Smileyky108 said...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm
I love this. I never really looked at it this way! I personally feel that being in prison for life is much worse than being sentenced to death, therefore it is a better punishment. But, I do think, that in some cases (i.e. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Ladin) death sentence is acceptable because I personally (and I think others can agree with me) would feel safer knowing that they are no longer living. 
TheFaithfulOne replied...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm
accually, its the exact opposite.  Being in prison/jail is much easier than living outside of the prison.  Like you don't have to pay taxes, you get free food, heck, you even get free TV.  But Prison wardens should be harder on the prisoners.  But, I do agree with you on the death sentence issue, like with Osama ect.  But with my Dad being in Iraq curently, I don't want any terrorists around.
patrickj96 replied...
May 9, 2010 at 6:51 am
What?! Being in jail is easier than not? Um... NO! If it's soooooo awesome why doesn't every plead guilty to all there crimes? Because that don't want a punishment, and going to jail is a huge punishment!
MaeFlower replied...
May 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

I understand both points of view here.  Faithful, you are correct in that yes, they do get out of taxes, they do get free food, they do even get free TV.  But Patrick, you're right too, it is a punishment.  The way that it punishes people is that it seperates them from normal people, and it takes away their ability to think and act for themselves.  I personally think that every human wants that abillity, no matter how much we complain about it.  And that when we are d... (more »)

riddle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 8:18 am
death penalty is justice. it is not murder. anyway we have enough people on earth today; killing those who deserve to die can also do the earth a favor. those scumbags should pay for their crimes and nothing is better than capital punishment
ally03 replied...
Apr. 24, 2010 at 11:51 am
So basically you feel that, to use a quote, "society must be cleansed of elements which represent its own death?"
maigo replied...
May 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm
@ riddle, seriously, you sound just like Light Yagami (Death Note). "OMG CRIMINALS MUST DIE!! I AM THE DELIVERER OF JUSTICE!!!" No, Light, you are a hypocrite.
riddle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm
In my country, death penalty has always been legal and will always be legal. I did question it, when I was 12. Then my neighbor was brutally murdered, and the perps are still out there. If they are ever caught, I think they should be punished. They should die  because the girl I knew was in her 20s, had a boyfriend and I can see how her death still pains her parents and even though her boyfriend is with someone, he still cannot get rid of her influence.
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 11:49 am
Who are we to determine who can live and who can die. As is said above, humans make errors! We can't help it! Now tell me that a flawed, error-making HUMAN can tell whether someone DESERVES to be murdered. 
riddle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 23, 2010 at 6:22 am
We cannot decide who should die for their crimes and that is why most countries have a certain thing called the legal system. Human makes mistakes and some of them are unforgivable. And death penalty is not murder; it is something called justice.
Caitlin M. said...
Apr. 5, 2010 at 2:36 pm
I agree we are defined by what we allow our country to do. We are just as good as the murderer if we kill them. Where I live capital punishment is banned. I love your article it is brilliantly written
patrickj96 replied...
May 9, 2010 at 6:54 am
No, we are not just as good as the people who murdered us. Absolutely no. What about 9/11? If we exectued the man who planned it, would that be just as good as what he did to us? No, it wouldn't. He attacked us for no good reason. It's not like we just decide, "hey, you! Come over here! We're going to kill you." That would be just as good as what they did to us, but we are JUSTIFIED!
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 11:52 am
He attacked us because during the entirety of his life, he believed that America was evil (which, I might say, he had right to believe, but not to the extremity he took it) and that God wanted him to do it. If God came to you and told you to be his earthly hand of Justice and destroy the evildoers, you wouldn't?
patrickj96 replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm
You think God was telling him to kill thousands of innocent people? Have you ever read the ten commandments? "Thou Shall Not Murder". Yeah, everyone knows, God loves it when homocidal insane terrorists blow building with thousand of people inside. Maybe I missed it when God said "Go kill everyone" in the Bible. My mistake.
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm
I wish you could try to be less hateful towards everyone who tries to debate with you. Anyway, I wasn't saying that God actually DID tell him to do what he did, but that he thought it was God's wish, and anyway, Islamic people don't adhere to the bible, but their own holy book.
patrickj96 replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 8:04 pm
Hateful words? What exactly hateful words did I use? Hey, I wasn't cussing man! We were just having a debate and I made a point. Nothing wrong w/ that. I respect your opinon and I'm not trying to get into a tit-for-tat battle here.
firstsnowfalls This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:35 pm
great job. completely agreed.
ally03 said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm
Personally, I would rather see my murderer having to rot away in a cell, living with this execrable fact.  That, to me, would be more tortuous and effective.
TheFaithfulOne replied...
Apr. 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm
but putting someone in jail costs a lot of government and city money.  And its better to get those kinds of people off the streets and not be put in jail for like. . .5 years for murdering someone.  They WILL! do it again, and again, and again, until they die.
Site Feedback