Capital Punishment Is Dead Wrong | Teen Ink

Capital Punishment Is Dead Wrong MAG

July 27, 2008
By Anonymous

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.

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This article has 473 comments.

julia_elg said...
on May. 20 2010 at 1:19 am
julia_elg, Valley Village, California
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And of course there must be something wrong / In wanting to silence any song." - Robert Frost, "A Minor Bird"

The death penalty is actually not cheaper than keeping a criminal in jail their entire life. (I think this is mostly due to the complex legal processes leading to a death sentence.) But I don't think that's really a valid argument against the death penalty, I was just throwing it out there. I still wouldn't support the death penalty even if it were less expensive than a life sentence.

I agree that the threat of death probably deters some people more than life in jail. However, this is a pretty small percentage. I think most people who commit a crime think they won't get caught, not that the punishment isn't too bad. Either way, though, my point about punishment having two purposes it shouldn't matter *as much* whether people are scared of the punishment as whether the punishment protects society.

On your last point, I don't see how that fits in with your statemtn that the death penalty is "justice, not revenge." I mean, I definitely see where you're coming from - the family of the victim has a right to feel every bad emotion possible towards the criminal. But I don't think they have a right to decide what the punishment is. That's the government and society's job, which is why we have laws and juries. If it were up to the family, they could just do whatever they like to the criminal. I don't think it should be up to just them to decide between a death penalty and a life sentence.

aaa-mister said...
on May. 19 2010 at 7:42 pm
your opinion was good, but you really could use more stats to back up your points. you say things then just BAM next should have proof for everything you say. this is a serious topic and all opinions are welcome obviously but you really should think about the other sides of the story, like if someone gets hanged because they are a murderer to me, that makes perfect sense. but personally i am all for death penalty in CERTAIN situations. well done though.

on May. 19 2010 at 4:46 pm
Destinee BRONZE, Oakville, Other
3 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
Blegh. - Abraham Lincoln

Sorry about replying so late; I've been pretty busy over the past couple of days.

First of all, the death penalty is cheaper than keeping people in prison for their lifetime.

Secondly, you said: "The purpose of a punishment is two-fold - to punish and deter criminals, and to protect society".

The death penalty does both. A lifetime in jail could possibly do both in most cases. However, the fact we don't live in an ideal world where everybody can be deterred by a life sentence is why the death penalty is more effective.

On the other hand, it is my opinion that if the family of the victim is willing to forgive the murderer, s/he should get less of a sentence (ie, not the death penalty). This is simply because the murderer took away something from them and they have a right to either forgive or see justice served.

ZombieL said...
on May. 16 2010 at 8:05 pm
As a matter of fact I would disagree. Killing is killing however you look at it, and it is hypocrisy to punish a killer by committing the very same act. Just because the government approves doesn't make it any less wrong. I can understand killing to save a life, but when all is said and done and you're sentencing a convicted criminal to death, what is the point? Just keep him/her in jail for the rest of their life, don't give them the easy way out. Life is about preserving life--not taking it away. Life is of utmost importance.

on May. 13 2010 at 1:41 pm
suckerlove BRONZE, Mayetta, Kansas
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"None. I think we should send a country some cupcakes. You think some cupcakes would cheer up North Korea? Kill 'em with deliciousness. (when asked what the next country the US would save should be)"
— Gerard Way

just watch it. i agree that capital punishment is wrong, but this makes sense. (:

The_End GOLD said...
on May. 12 2010 at 11:15 pm
The_End GOLD, Ashton, Idaho
10 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Any man can stand adversity. If you truly want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln

Actually, if you want to get philosophical about it, there are those that argue that a life sentence in prison is worse than capital punishment. You are going to sit a cell for the rest of your existence. (Notice I did not say "rest of your life"). Some people say this is THE punishment to use. Honestly, I'm not sure where I stand on this.

maigo said...
on 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.

on May. 10 2010 at 7:49 am
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Why does everyone think that it is the same as killing someone, like what he did? IT IS NOT THE SAME! We were absolutely justified in giving him the death penalty! He absoultely freaking deserved the death penalty and that is what he got.


on May. 9 2010 at 11:03 pm
Hollywog. PLATINUM, Mole Creek, Other
21 articles 23 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all..

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - Ghandi

patrickj96, I guess using Saddam Hussein is a legitimate example, and there is absolutely no way that I am saying that what he did was okay, but killing him is still not right! What harm would it have done to have kept him locked up for the rest of his life instead of killing him? None. It's like we're saying "You killed people - that's wrong. Killing is shoccking and awful and unjust. So we're going to kill you." It's completely hypocritical.

But Hussein was a VERY extreme case. Most people charged with the death penalty have murdered one or two people, under extreme circumstances, and the process for charging someone with the death penatly is very complicated with a lot of things to take into consideration. But there is a VERY big risk that once this person is put to death, that he will be found innocent. And the government will have killed an innocent man.

That is reason enough to abolish the death penalty.

I won't go on, but the death penalty is a completely unjust way of teaching people right from wrong. I mean, killing people who kill people to show that killing is wrong?

So, essentially, I agree with J. Rae.

But this is an amazing piece.. well done to whoever wrote this! Five stars!

Love and Sunshine,



on May. 9 2010 at 6:47 pm
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments
No, the ultimate punishment is death. I mean, you cannot honestly sit there and not tell me that he deserves to die and burn in hell for what he did!

J. Rae said...
on May. 9 2010 at 5:16 pm
Seriously! He was raised to think bad of us, and that it was a good thing to kill us. Like those people who jump out of airplanes with bombs on their backs. They do not value life, no even their own. What he did was tiwsted and wrong, but if we wanted to give him a real punishment, jail for life would be it. Capitol punishment just stopped his life. Being in a cold jail cell with no windows, not those cooshy jails with yoga classes,  would have been the ultimate punishment.

on May. 9 2010 at 3:34 pm
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments
Oh, c'mon man. He was raised thinking that was okay? Everyone knows deep down inside that killing and murdering is WRONG. And yes, we do indeed have the justified right to execute him, because he would probably find another way to have the next 9/11!

J. Rae said...
on May. 9 2010 at 3:16 pm
Hussein did many awful things, but sadly he was raised learning it was okay. No matter how bad someone's crimes are, do we really have the right to kill them?

MaeFlower said...
on May. 9 2010 at 11:31 am
MaeFlower, Aurora, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments

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 deprived of that ability, that in and of itself is a punishment. 

 Being in jail is EASIER, but I don't think anyone really wants to be cut off from almost everyone, or to be forced to follow specific rules and not make choices themselves. 

on May. 9 2010 at 6:54 am
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments
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!

on May. 9 2010 at 6:51 am
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments
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!

on May. 9 2010 at 6:49 am
patrickj96 BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 21 comments
Well, you could say that capital punishment is murder. However, it is justified because of what they did to us. Take Saddam Hussein for example: the murder of 148 innocent people, the torture of helpless and innocent women and children, and the illegal arrests of 399 people? And in his last letter back to Iraq, he wasn't even sorry about what he did. He said that he was kind and just! He wasn't sorry in the least. We absoultely did know that he did these things, and you are telling me that we don't have the justified right to give him the capital punishment?

on May. 7 2010 at 9:03 pm
MojoStealer95 BRONZE, Amherst, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Sitting in an English Garden waiting for the sun, if the sun don't come you get a tan from standing in the English rain. I am the eggman, they are the eggmen, I am the walrus! Goo goo g'joob.

I'd agree with you if the little buggers who actually create those crimes were held up in little cells with one window, and no priviledges. They're not though, it's disgusting.

julia_elg said...
on May. 7 2010 at 1:43 am
julia_elg, Valley Village, California
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And of course there must be something wrong / In wanting to silence any song." - Robert Frost, "A Minor Bird"

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.

julia_elg said...
on May. 7 2010 at 1:30 am
julia_elg, Valley Village, California
0 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And of course there must be something wrong / In wanting to silence any song." - Robert Frost, "A Minor Bird"

We're not talking about "a couple years in jail," we're talking about life without parole, which people (even minors) can get for less than murder. I'm not saying bad people don't exist. What I'm saying is that the purpose of punishment is twofold - to punish and deter criminals, and to protect society - not just to punish convicts and scare would-be-criminals.

Think of this way. If we had the death penalty just to make a point to other criminals, that'd be pretty horrible. There are better ways to make a point, and they are used in civilized socities. But, because the government also needs to protect society, they sometimes think certain criminals are dangerous enough to warrant the death penalty. It's not that the criminals "deserve it," it's that society deserves to be protected.

Now, I personally disagree that society isn't protected by putting a criminal in a jail cell and throwing away the key. (Not literally, but since there's no chance of them getting out, that's essentially what they're doing.) I also disagree that it's okay to kill a person who might be innocent, no matter how slim the chance. Maybe if, in a philisophical fantasy world, the justice system were 100% perfect, I'd have to think about whether I supported the death penalty. What I do know is, since in the real world our legal system's not perfect, and the death penalty doesn't do a better job of protecting society and isn't cheaper, I don't support it.