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!

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...
Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm
Please don't tell me what I can and cannot think. I am capable of making decisions for myself, thank you.
RainbowLeprechaun said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 10:54 am
You have a point, but i respectfully disagree. my stepmom's grandfather was murdered in his toy shop in front of his wife. Before the murderer murdered him, he kidnapped and killed a 15 year old girl. After killing my stepmom's grandfather he was only sentenced 12 years, a few years after being freed he killed a mother and suffocated her child in its crib. Sorry if you don't agree, but i don't think that he should be let to live in the comfort of a padded jail ... (more »)
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 11:23 am
Plus, not to mention, death sentence, at this day, is rarely ever used. It is more common for somebody to be convicted life in prison. The death sentence is only used in extreme cases where everybody is positive that the suspect is guilty of an extremely heinous crime. Such as the examples i have given most recently. In the past, yes there were many innocent people sentenced death but it is extremely uncommon now even for somebody who commited especially heinous crimes.
Aspiringauhor replied...
Apr. 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

In response to your first comment...

Wow! I find that story interesting... And a little difficult to believe. But no matter, that's not my point, forget I said that. The man obviously should have been sentenced to life without parole. The trial might have been messed up, you don't know. I do agree, those area all heinous crimes that deserve to be punished. Where my agreeing stops is where you say, "He should die," and I say, "He should go to prison for life." And it is indeed justice, ... (more »)

BabyGirlBrittany replied...
Apr. 19, 2011 at 10:06 am
Im so sorry your family had to experiance that horrible pain. But... How can we sit here and say that what that man did was wrong but then do the same thing back? What he did was wrong, but we have to realize that doing the exact same thing we said was wrong is not making a point, Its just causing my damage and pain to the situation.
RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm
True, yes, but i don't believe it's doing the same thing back, the government is getting rid of guilty people who destroyed innocent lives. I don't believe that's wrong.
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 10:41 am
Taking the life of someone is the same thing. It doesn't matter how it's done, or who did it. It only matters that it happened. So, yes, it is the same exact thing.
forever_an_artist replied...
May 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

My uncle's best friend was kidnapped and murdered as a kid.

an innocent child died a brutal death. His murderer? lived. That is WRONG.

Yes; it's harsh to give the death penalty, but how can you say that someone who has taken someone elses life has the right to his own?

Yes, innocents have been sentenced to death in the past, which is horrible and not to be ignored, but what you have to understand is that today they are extremely hesitant in giving the death penalty. I hav... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Teresa Lewis, a grandmother with an IQ of 72. She was executed in Virginia in 2010 for allegedly murdering someone. After she was executed, evidence popped up - once again - that she was not guilty. The two co-defendants who were truly guilty received life sentences.


Claude Jones of Texas was convicted in 1989 and executed in 2004. David Spence - also of Texas - was convicted in 1984 and executed in 1997. Joseph O’Dell of Virginia was convicted in 1986, and executed... (more »)

forever_an_artist replied...
May 19, 2011 at 10:05 am

I stand corrected. Yes, I should have read up on this topic before commenting, sorry about that. 

I think the death penalty as a punishment is reasonable. But just because I believe in a concept doesn't mean that I fully agree with the way it's carried out. The death penalty should be used with extreme caution; for it is not a light matter. Being falsely accused of a horrible crime and being executed for it, although it's not painful, would be one of the most miserable ways to die... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

First off, I thank and applaud you for being so civil - many people on here are not. 

I'd like to point out that in order to believe in a concept, you must fully believe in it. When you say you don't agree with the way it is carried out, it contradicts your previous statements of strong disagreement. 

Also, you mention that the death penalty is not painful. Although we all assume that it's not painful, there is no proof. After all, the dead are dead. 

<... (more »)
forever_an_artist replied...
May 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

Wait a minute.

You say that it's "okay" to kill multiple criminals in a firing squad

but it's not "okay" to (in a much less disturbing way) execute one criminal?

Umm... interesting argument there.

Do you believe that when a soldier kills an enemy soldier in a battle, that's immoral?

Probably not; for when a soldier goes into battle, he knows that he is taking the risk of death for his country. Same with people; if they commit crimes, they know that they have... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm
I actually never said that it was okay to kill multiple criminals through a firing squad. I said I did not believe his death was a death penalty. Soldiers killing others in war is not the same at all as the death penalty. Those people have not had a trial, or been on death row. The same as Osama bin Laden. And just to let you know, I like to debate the topic of the article, not side topics.
scamp24 said...
Mar. 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I agree with this completly! Why is it right for the government to murder,but when a common folk kills it is ok? This is totally government hypocrisy. And one of the American rights is life, so why are we taking that away.

Good job on this article! You said it well!:)

RainbowLeprechaun replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 10:57 am
Its right because that commonfolk could be killing innocent people, and the government is putting a stop to it. If that commonfolk is a vigalante then i understand but, that "commonfolk" could be a serial killer, a druglord killing people. And you want to let them live?
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 10:44 am
Yes, they could be killing innocent people, but does that give us the right to take their life away from them? It could be a serial killer or a druglord, but we can put them in prison for life instead of killing them. Think of the person who has to inject them with the lethal poison. Or of the person who has to pull the lever to electrocute them. Do we want to make them live with the guilt of also killing someone? There are so many things you have to think about before you say that it's okay for... (more »)
scamp24 replied...
May 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

That's a really good point! I never even thought of that. But now you mention it, I feel bad for the people who have to kill the criminals and I am sure it's hard for them.          But, sometimes, the 'killer' didn't really do it. If the person is executed after their innocence is discovered, it's too late and someone would probaly be killed also.And, if they are, there is still isn't a guarantee that the person is guilty. The execu... (more »)

Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm
Wait... So you agree with me? Sorry, your comment was a little bit hard to follow. :)
Hawthorn said...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 4:49 pm
Yes being killed painlessly is probably one of the "Better" ways to go. I say better because no one WANTS to get killed unless they are crazy and if they are crazy, REALLY crazy, then they are technically not as responsible for their actions. I think that it would be more constructive to try to get the criminals to reform.
alanahlovee said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I disagree, but I do respect your opinion and see where you're coming from. I don't believe you can rehablitate a serial killer, or even a murderer for that matter. A murderer is someone who has thought out and planned taking the life of another, and went through with it. The person who was murdered can no longer live their life and fufill their dreams and wishes; their life has been stolen from them. I don't have sympathy for anyone who takes the life of another out of jealousy, greed, or an... (more »)

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