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.

By
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 436 comments. Post your own!

Smiley12 said...
Nov. 22, 2008 at 1:55 am:
I think you've written a good artical.
However, I agree with Capital Punishment. They first of all shouldn't have committed first degree murder, if they knew committing it they could get sentenced to death. I am enrolled in a criminal justice class in my school so we got to talk about this. And, I know if I would rather get put to death than sit the rest of my life in a small cel.l shared with some weird guy/girl. So were kind of doing them a favor. Just to sum it up, they knew what they ... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
kidmcoy said...
Nov. 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm:
I think it is much more humane to execute violent criminals than allow them to rot away for the rest of their lives in a dangerous overcrowded prison with little activity in their lives. This is cruel and unusual punishment.
 
ckalani replied...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm :
Yes, life in prison isn't exactly the most pleasant idea of punishment but murdering someone isn't really any better. At least life in prison alows you to live, to smell the air, to speak to other human being (even if they are convict), to walk and breath.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Phantasticc said...
Nov. 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm:
this is a good peice. i agree, because its wrong, but i disagree because what goes around comes around :)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Tandem Heartbeat said...
Nov. 15, 2008 at 5:44 pm:
I disagree with this, my dear. I challenge everyone who reads this comment to imagine what it would feel like if your child's killer still lived while your family member rested in the cold embrace of death. I am no mother, I am only a daughter, bu talso imaging if your parents had been killed and their murdered wtill lived. I believe it is unjust and capital punishment should not be abolished completely.
However, I must agree with you. What if a mistake was made. All the judicial system ca... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
anonymous said...
Nov. 8, 2008 at 5:07 pm:
I agree. We, as humans, have no right to take the fate of the lives of other human beings in our own hands. And incidentally, the "eye for the eye" passage was written in the Old Testament, thus Jesus could never have said it. Something Jesus did say: "Judge not, and ye not be judged."
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
kk21794 said...
Nov. 7, 2008 at 2:14 am:
i disagree. it is even stated in the bible that it should be used. jesus even said, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
illtalktojustinsmday said...
Nov. 5, 2008 at 9:53 pm:
this is very well written although still, i disagree and i strongly agree that if you talk someones life and it has been proven that you did you should have to go through what you put that person through besides the only other thing for them to do is sit in jail for a while then if they live out there sentence whose to say they won't kill again?
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
bayfin said...
Nov. 4, 2008 at 9:32 pm:
But...... like YOU SAID; There is NO Excuse for Murder....Period. and you are correct in that thought. Two wrongs don't make a right.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
opinionated teen said...
Nov. 3, 2008 at 8:24 pm:
I disagree. I strongly disagree! If someone murders someone, then I believe that they have the right to be executed. If you had a child, and someone was to kill them, wouldn't it be justice if the person who killed your child was punished to? There is no excuse for murder. Therefore, Capital Punishment, I believe, is the best thing out there. Haven't you taken World History yet? Read up on Hammurabi's Code and let me know if you agree with him. I believe that the crime rate would go down if the ... (more »)
 
Hope_PrincessThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 6:53 pm :
I couldn't have said it any better, and I totally agree with opinionated teen. Thanks for standing up for what is right and just.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Shane_Zeh_Banderbear said...
Nov. 2, 2008 at 6:11 pm:
I absolutely agree. I tried talking to my mum about this a few weeks ago, but she didn't really seem to think about, let alone accept, my arguments. She's for the death penalty in some cases, but some she's not. Still, I'm just surprised that she's a Christian and is fine with it. Ah, good article. You brought up very strong points.
 
SilverQueen replied...
Oct. 1, 2009 at 1:40 pm :
Well, Shane, I just wanted to a mention that actually the Bible supports the death penalty, so I don't think that the fact that someone's a Christian automatically makes them against the death penalty.
 
ckalani replied...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 7:09 pm :
Well, SilverQueen, even if the Bible does support killing murderers and rapists and etc. doesn't make it right! Not that I have sympathy for people who have murdered or raped or abused but they are still people. And when we murder them (and yes it is indeed murder) then we just stoop down to their level. The death penalty is wrong. Period.
 
SilverQueen replied...
Oct. 25, 2009 at 5:20 pm :
I'm not sure if you believe the Bible is true or not, Ckalani, but since it was being assumed so in both my and Shane's comments, let me tell you that the Bible does not merely support the the death penalty. For many crimes, it explicitly demands it (see Leviticus 20:27 and 24:16, Numbers 35:17, and Deuteronomy 22).
 
MountainGirl replied...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 12:25 pm :
Doesn't it also teach us forgiveness?
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback