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.

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This article has 472 comments. Post your own now!

WishfulDoer said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 9:50 am
I pretty much agree with you. Our government uses death to settle its affairs, and that is wrong in so many sad, sad ways. As far as I'm concerned, even if you kill one rapist, there will be more, and if you kill one serial killer, there will be another. We can't exterminate our species for the good of our species; it just doesn't work.
swcricket98 said...
Jun. 27, 2011 at 1:25 am

I believe that capital punishment should be used in extreme cases. For example, if a person goes insane and kills his wife, he should go to prison without parole, and should lead a terrible life. But if someone like the woman in the recent trial about the mother who drowned her helpless child in a swimming pool, deserves to live, than I don't know who does. And I understand what I am saying is picking and choosing which cases should be capitally punished and which shouldn't, but that's what t... (more »)

swcricket98 replied...
Jun. 27, 2011 at 1:25 am
Sorry that it posted twice -_-
rockyraccoon said...
Jun. 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm
I somewhat agree with you killing is wrong and goverments that kill are usualy considerded barbaric but what about serial rapists, serial killers people like that yes there fairly rare but do people like this deserve to live and endure the same punishment as a guy who kills for justifiable vengence or who steals from other.
Emmy88 said...
Jun. 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm
Although there is much written, backed by information, you're article is slightly repetitive. The death penalty is an extremely rare sentencing and in most cases they have much time to repeal. Some may look at the fact that it is easier to get the death penalty rather than rot away in a prison. Perhaps it does bring closure to many families. 
swcricket98 replied...
Dec. 11, 2011 at 6:36 pm
Agree 100%.
glimmer said...
Jun. 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I really agree with what you are saying, and I appreciate that you wrote about this subject- it's really tricky to wrtie about!

I also think that your writing was great! Good job:)

Grace4297 said...
May 18, 2011 at 4:22 am
I see what you mean, and this is a  Are you sure that it is less expensive to keep them in jail for life without parol? I mean, you have to feed them, clothe them, and tend to their needs for decades and their may be trial for error with the death penalty, but some of the people that receive the death penalty are repeat offenders or their crime is targeted at children. These people paid no attention to the well being of others and took something irreplaceable. What if they escaped from pris... (more »)
fredq said...
May 5, 2011 at 7:30 am
I think that they need to be taken cared of if they murdder someone they should be killed I mean that is the fair way.
FOBlover replied...
May 15, 2011 at 5:11 am
if you are going about it that way then you are essentially saying that the people who lived by the phrase an eye for an eye which isnt fair because someone could do more in 20 years than someone else could do in 80
RosePetal519 replied...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm
The ending of a life in EVERY case is not "fair".  If that person has already killed someone hasn't there been enough death already?
scamp24 said...
May 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm
Yeah, I do agree with you. Haha:)
Taylor said...
Apr. 27, 2011 at 6:51 pm
We execute people who lost their right to live because of the atrocities they committed against other human beings. Why should people not be punished for horrifyingly brutal crimes? They had no respect for that innocent person's life, why should they expect any in return? Harsh, yes, but I firmly believe that the death penalty is justified when the nature of the crime calls for it.
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm
I completely agree with you! It's not right letting them live
Nichole N. said...
Apr. 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Well, you have to think of life in gernral first. Life is like  bouncey ball, when you drop it, it will bounce. Yet, you have the will to choose how high it bounces, to what direction it bounces, etc. So, take for instance: a person (drops thier ball of life) kills another humen out of cold blood (they just picked where thier ball is going) and did this knowing there will be punishment possibly death they themselves just screwed thier bouncy ball. Its commen for humens t... (more »)

C.Pearl said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm
I think that this a very well written opinion piece. I agree that the death penalty is inhumane. However, I think that what could have made this piece even stronger, would be to have acknowledged the pros to the death penalty. The best opinion pieces introduce counter arguments. Thus, when you attack these points in your main argument, your thesis becomes all the more stronger. Also, I think you may have been skewing some facts to fit your argument. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because it... (more »)
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 10:38 am
I agree with you on the fact that the death penalty is inhumane. What I disagree about is the "counter argument" thing. If you put that in your piece, it could be conceived as contradictory to yourself. You need to stay strong in what you believe in. I think the only time you could do what you suggested would be if you had a really, really, really strong argument against that counter argument. 
M0429 replied...
Jun. 26, 2011 at 8:34 pm
two words: dnepropetrovsk maniacs
Aspiringauhor replied...
Jun. 27, 2011 at 10:24 am
Okay... I'm sorry, but that had absolutely nothing to do with the comment that I made, or the comment that C.Pearl made. So, tell me, why did you comment about that? Yes, it was slightly on the topic of the death penalty, but from what I know, they did not receive the death penalty. They received life in prison. Do tell.
M0429 replied...
Jul. 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm
wrong, 2 of them recieved, one of them recieved only 5 years, but that is beside the point, which is that no one, not even someone as single minded as yourself, can agree that people who are calous enough to brutaly torture and kill 25 people, among them a pregnant woman, deserve to live.
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