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

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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.




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This article has 438 comments. Post your own!

SilverQueen said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm:
First of all, Olivia, your essay is very well written and you did an admirable job of handling a tough topic. I don't agree with your position, but it was well thought out. However, I've got a question for you: You keep saying that capital punishment is morally and ethically wrong. Where do you get that from? What gauge are you using to decide right and wrong. Is it inferred from the first paragraph, that it is simply something we've been taught from childhood? But if that's ... (more »)
 
SilverQueen replied...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm :
Sorry, I didn't mean to post twice; my computer was acting weird and didn't display that the first post had gone through.
 
olivia replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 11:41 am :
im saying that capital punishment is simply aonther name for murder, which is morally and ethically wrong. capital punishment is murder by the government and we cannot continue to use a crime as a punishment.
 
SilverQueen replied...
Dec. 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm :
But who decides that murder is wrong? I know it seems self-evident that it is, but in order to understand why, or why one type of killing may be permissible but not another, we must first understand what we are basing our opinions upon.
 
olivia replied...
Dec. 14, 2009 at 1:15 am :
it is used in this article as being a fundamental and obvious truth of universal ethics, murder is wrong. we as people decide that murder is wrong, by making a society legitimized by social contract we have made a moral code declaring this to be true. and in this article, my point is that there are no differences between one type of murder and another; all are the same and all are wrong, even if "justified" by the governemnt
 
Jack_Walton replied...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm :
If murder is morally and ethically wrong, why did the murderer murder someone in the first place?
 
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SilverQueen said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 1:36 pm:
First off, Olivia, your essay is well written and well thought out. I don't agree with it, but it is well put to together. However, there is a major point I don't believe you addressed. You keep saying that the death penalty is morally and ethically wrong. How did you come to that conclusion? Where does the gauge you use to measure right and wrong come from?
 
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SeptemberCrew This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 5:50 am:
I can see this issue means a lot to you, and props for sharing your view. There are a few things I would like to remind you of.
- Murder is the act of killing someone with malicious intent. The court of law does not feel malice towards the people it sentences, it seeks to protect the innocent.
- In modern America, criminals are not executed without absolute certainty. They sit on death row for ten to twenty years. At any time, new evidence may be brought forward to clear this person.... (more »)
 
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BellaBarbaric said...
Jul. 28, 2009 at 11:40 pm:
Generally, I don't believe in the death penalty, I live in England and we do not have a death penalty here, but I think the governments need to come up with a practical solution as the penalties are mostly far too lenient and the prisons are over-crowding and wasting money that could be used for hospitals and schools. But when they say "life in prison", murderers and rapists are back on the streets within a few years.
 
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Alliekat said...
Mar. 20, 2009 at 11:31 pm:
I agree with this commentary because it is very convincing. The author has not only her opinion, but many facts as well. She sounds like she actually did some reaserch and took her time to do her best work instead of just smacking something down in two minutes. It sounds thouht out and revised. If I were to grade it, I would give it an A ! Great Job, Olivia! You are a wonderful writer! I would like to read more of your work sometime!
 
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CDM905 said...
Jan. 22, 2009 at 6:24 pm:
I agree that the death penalty should be abolished. Taking the life of a human being does not restore the lives of others who have suffered martyrdom from criminals.
 
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abcdefg said...
Jan. 22, 2009 at 5:41 pm:
i think death penalty is ok because they take up space and money when they have to sit in prison for 80 years.
 
ckalani replied...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 6:49 pm :
But that's rediculous! Killing someone just so you wont have to spend money on them or because they take up space is murder. Period.
 
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Olivia (author) said...
Jan. 8, 2009 at 1:48 am:
Thanks again for the feedback,
I must clarify the object of my paper.
I took a stance on a very, very sensitive and highly debated topic and it is easy to respond to someone who says they are not for the death penalty by saying ridiculous things like, "you must want these horrible murderers to live" or to a politician that they are "easy on crime". However, in all of my paper none of the evidence shows this, does it? Nor would someone acutally want this. These... (more »)
 
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alyssa12 said...
Dec. 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm:
Your argument is strong. Yet, I believe in the death penalty in some cases. I think if a person in their right mind could kill a child, they could kill anybody. I think some cases of murder shouldn't have the death penalty. I think maybe the person needs professional help. Maybe the murderer has had a bad childhood or needs psychological help. It's hard to determine where i stand on this case.
 
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CHC said...
Dec. 17, 2008 at 11:02 pm:
...in response to AlexHadi2014 on December 2nd...

I think you need to differentiate between a person, which is priceless, and a thing, which(in the larger scheme of things) is worthless.If you are worried about tax dollars and money, versus the treatment of a human being... well I am just simply speechless(promises, promises.no such luck, i have more to say). Also, I certanly don't want to be part of a society that kills supposedly in the name of justice, since killing is irrevers... (more »)
 
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tweedle dee said...
Dec. 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm:
i totally agree with kidmcoy, id rather die than rot away in prison. i do agree whith you that it gives the gov. too much power. i guess i really dont know what i think is right, everyone brougt up some good points. i guess i'm 50/50 really... in some cases it is definatly wrong, but im sure there are some cases where it is the only right thing to be done.
 
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NotRight said...
Dec. 14, 2008 at 4:29 am:
It only seem logical to take a life for a life. Beening human, we all make mistakes. But when you take a life, that is crossing the line. What would you want for the pushment for someone who took the life of one you love? Until you have been in that position you really shouldnt judge. Ther are some cases where the death penatly should not apply. Murder, is not one of them.
 
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Jocelia Pease said...
Dec. 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm:
I totally agree with you. The death penalty is WRONG. I was reading something once, and it reminds of the part in your article that said "we murder people who murder people to show that murder is wrong". What i was reading said 'Why do we kill people, who kill people, to show people that killing is wrong?' There is a lot of room for mistakes in cases like that, and you can almost never tell who is the criminal. Great article! I agree 100%
 
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AlexHadi2014 said...
Dec. 2, 2008 at 1:52 pm:
Your crazy. The death penalty is 100% necesary. If we didn't impose the death penalty, all 1099 of those executed people you mentioned would be living off our tax dollars, continuing to drain off society's money. If they decided to take another person'v life, they deserev to have theris taken.
 
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volleyball#2 said...
Dec. 1, 2008 at 12:32 am:
I disagree with your article 100% and I hate to break it to ya sweetie but many of your facts are indeed, false. Your argument is strong, and i'll give you that. To each his own, yes but I don't understand why you want vicious murders to live when they have killed many. It doesnt add up right. Anyways, the statement I have the biggest problem with is, "Humans are not cold metal coins that lose value; no act, no matter how heinous, can make a person less of a human being." You basiclly... (more »)
 
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