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Death penalty is just plain wrong

A strong case can be made for the death penalty.

The list of reasons that society should kill some of its most despicable convicted
criminals includes both intellectual and emotional justifications.
An even stronger case can be made against the death penalty.
The list of reasons that society should not murder individuals who have perpetrated
heinous crimes against society is even longer than the pro-death-penalty list, and it also
includes both intellectual and emotional justifications.
But after all is said and done, there is one compelling, overriding reason that Connecticut
(and the United States) should ban the death penalty:
Plain and simple, it is wrong to kill people.
End of story.
That is the central and overwhelming reason that the Connecticut Legislature needs to
pass a proposed bill that would repeal the death penalty and substitute life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole.
And that is why Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, unlike former Gov. M. Jodi Rell when she had the
chance, needs to sign the bill into law.
Nearly every one of us was brought up to believe that killing another individual is wrong.
And yet we live in a state and in a country in which the government hypocritically puts
people to death.
We have all heard the arguments in favor of the death penalty -- an eye for an eye,
closure for the family of the victim, possible deterrent impact, a bargaining chip for
And who among us has not felt a surge of anger and a compulsion to seek revenge
when hearing details of the most horrific crimes, such as those perpetrated in 2007 in
Cheshire on the family of Dr. William Petit?
But it is still morally wrong to take the life of an individual, no matter how despicable that
individual may be.
We have all heard the arguments against the death penalty -- it is "cruel and unusual
punishment," it is barbaric, it is more expensive than a life sentence, it doesn't really
deter crime, our image in the world suffers because we have the death penalty.
Again, while I happen to agree with all of those points, they are simply supporting
evidence for the primary reason to end the death penalty:
It is morally wrong to kill.
Sometimes in life it is beneficial to take a look around and check out the company you
are keeping.
That is particularly instructive as a context for the debate over the death penalty.
For starters, there are a growing number of countries that do not kill their convicted
criminals, and non-death-penalty countries are in the significant majority around the

We need to look no further than to our neighbors to the north (Canada) and to the south
(Mexico) to find major countries that do not have the death penalty.
All across Europe, friends and allies have long since enacted bans on putting people to
death -- from Ireland and the United Kingdom to Poland and Romania, from Spain and
Portugal to Sweden and Finland.
Germany, which for decades has been excoriated (with great justification) for being a
monster that perpetrated unthinkable atrocities in the 1930s and 1940s, has not
murdered its convicted criminals in more than six decades.
The United States, which for most of its existence has been hailed as a beacon of light
and hope to the world, continues to put people to death.
We criticize some South American countries for being oppressive or in violation of
human rights, but from Venezuela and Colombia to Argentina and Chile, nations on that
continent have ended the barbaric practice of the death penalty -- while we continue it.
And which countries share our philosophy that the death penalty is a good thing?
Sadly, there are still several dozen countries on the list.
Notable among them are Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Is that really the company we want to keep?
Here in the Greater Danbury area, and in the state of Connecticut, we don't get to control
whether the death penalty is legal across the United States.
But we do get to decide if it is legal in Connecticut, and we need to jump on the current
opportunity to end that horrific practice.
I am hopeful that state legislators of both parties will agree that it is time to put a ban on
the death penalty, and that Gov. Malloy will sign the bill.
Plain and simple, it is the right thing to do.
Art Cummings is editor of The News-Times. He can be contacted at 203-731-3351 or at

The Death Penalty Is Just and Merciful Death row in Hunstville, Texas.
Alternatives to it are not less cruel. It is possible to view Nebraskas recent vote to
abolish the death penalty a vote that brought together liberals, budget balancers, and
social conservatives as a heartening sign that partisan divisions can be overcome,
that moral progress can arrive even in places that vote Republican, and that the brutal
faade of structural racism may one day crack and topple. This view has much to
recommend it: It appeals to our desire to overcome tiresome divisions, confirms the
superiority of the present over the past, and does honor to the principled people who
have argued, often very eloquently, that we must unknot the hangmans noose. It also
suffers from certain defects. Its story of moral progress asks us to overlook the countless
cruelties of our criminal-justice system as we congratulate ourselves on the elimination of

a relatively rare punishment (Nebraskas last execution was in 1997). It suggests that the
only purpose of criminal justice is deterrence a view long championed by Beccaria,
Bentham, and other apostles of cruel efficiency. It asks us to ignore that life
imprisonment, the only alternative to capital punishment, is hardly more humane.
RELATED: In Defense of Capital Punishment: A Botched Execution Does not Render
the Death Penalty Illegitimate Indeed, comparing our differing reactions to capital
punishment and life imprisonment is one of the more direct ways to see what lies behind
most death-penalty opposition. As Pope Francis has observed, Life imprisonment is a
hidden death penalty. His suggestion that we abolish both is rather questionable (taken
seriously, it requires parole for Pol Pot, halfway houses for Hitler), but his basic insight is
sound. Is it really more barbaric to grant a terrible murderer a dignified death than to
force him to live a life of confinement, perhaps to undergo humiliating force-feeding, and
then to die in the hands of the state even if not by the states hand? While some writers
have made detailed arguments distinguishing death from other punishments, most
people who oppose the death penalty do so based on loose intuitions, about barbarity
and humaneness, that should apply with equal perhaps greater force to life
imprisonment. That we are ready to accept the latter but not the former reflects that
much of the opposition to the death penalty comes not from moral indignation but from
aesthetic revulsion. We have undergone not an increase in conscience but an
intensification of our squeamishness. We seek bloodless means, however cruel they
may be. Most people who oppose the death penalty do so based on loose intuitions,
about barbarity and humaneness, that should apply with equal perhaps greater
force to life imprisonment. How did we get here? As Stephanos Bibas writes in his book
The Machinery of Criminal Justice, such Enlightenment thinkers as Cesare Beccaria
argued that the purpose of punishment was to deter crime rather than exact deserved
retribution. As Jeremy Bentham said, criminal justice should function as a mechanism
to inflict enough pain to outweigh the pleasure of crime. Whenever opponents of capital
punishment say that it has no deterrent effect, they speak with the voice of Bentham.
Punishment is no longer about just retribution, about reintegration into the community,
about moral education: It is simply a matter of brute deterrence. The views of these
thinkers have gained currency because their approach promises to eliminate the
inequalities that can result from an ethic of mercy (which is bound to be applied
unequally) and the apparent establishment-clause problems that come with ideas of
retribution and moral instruction it was not uncommon for colonial-era judges to
deliver religious exhortations to those they were sentencing. Yet this view fails to
recognize the moral and human dimensions of punishment the reference to a higher
power, the principle that retribution should be proportionate to the crime, the possibility of
reconciliation that makes criminal justice a matter of punishing men rather than
herding animals. It may lead to outcomes that are less problematic, but it has gone
hand in hand with the rise of a system that is at once sterile, hygienic, and cruel.
RELATED: Why Capital Punishment Will Eventually Be Abolished It is regrettable that

the claim, made most prominently in John Paul IIs Evangelium Vitae, that deterrence is
the only legitimate justification for capital punishment has encouraged an attenuation
also of Christian reasoning on punishment. Indicative of this loss is the remark by the
Catholic writer and Jesuit priest James Martin that it is wrong, in all cases, to take a
human life. John Paul IIs words are better read in the broad sweep of Christian tradition,
in the manner recommended by Avery Dulles in his article Catholicism and Capital
Punishment: The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified
abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops,
whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute
offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority
statement on capital punishment, conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the
principle that the State has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely
serious crime. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the Consistent
Ethic of Life at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the classical position that
the State has the right to inflict capital punishment. Recently Alex Tuckness and John M.
Parrish have written against the decline of mercy in public life. If we are to reverse that
decline, if we are to erect a criminal-justice system that is less cold and cruel, we could
do worse than to defend and extend the death penalty. This is a conclusion that I reach
as a Catholic, as someone who has marched against the application of the death penalty
in individual cases, and as a native Nebraskan inclined to take pride in his state but
unable to do so in this case. The alternatives to the death penalty are not less cruel, and
perhaps more so; the arguments against it are either narrow or absurd; the reasons for it,
which have always gone well beyond deterrence, remain as real in our time as they were
in Hammurabis. Simply as a sign that punishment is not just about the carrots and sticks
of deterrence but that it is an inevitably moral project concerned with right and wrong,
justice and injustice, the death penalty has much to teach us still. In countless individual
cases, mercy will be called for, but both justice and mercy are obscured when we call the
death penalty unjust. Matthew Schmitz is deputy editor of First Things
Read more at:

Death penalty: is capital punishment morally justified?

August 1, 2015 5.23pm AEST
The execution, by hanging, of Yakub Memon for his part in the 2003 Mumbai bombings
invites us to revisit the vexed issue of capital punishment. Few topics incite such moral
passion and controversy.

The worlds religious communities are divided on the death penalty. Despite a seemingly
unambiguous commitment to non-violence (or Ahimsa) in both Hinduism and
Buddhism, scholars within those traditions continue to debate the permissibility of lethal
punishment. The Old Testament enjoins us to take an eye for an eye the principle of
lex talionis while the New Testament exhorts us to turn the other cheek. And while
Islam is generally regarded as compatible with the death penalty, the Qur'ans emphasis
on forgiveness suggests that Muslims should sometimes respond to evil with mercy, not
While many European countries urge an ethic of rehabilitation in their criminal justice
systems, many jurisdictions in the United States stand firmly in favour of capital
punishment for serious crimes. Even a federal jury in Massachusetts, a liberal bastion,
recently doled out the death penalty to the sole surviving perpetrator of the Boston
marathon bombing. And while the United Kingdom abandoned the death penalty in 1964
the year of the last executions nearly half of the British public favours a
reintroduction of it (though that figure has been dropping steadily).
We will not make progress in the public debate about the death penalty unless we realise
that it is only one element in a much bigger controversy: about the point of punishment
itself. As The Conversation invites us to rethink the death penalty over the next few
weeks, we must not conduct this discussion in a vacuum. Before you ask yourself
whether we should have the death penalty, consider: why hand out any punishments at
all? Considering the three main families in the philosophy of punishment can help us
organise our conversation.
Bad guys deserve to suffer. This is a blunt slogan, but it captures the essence of a
deeply familiar notion: people who have committed culpable wrongs deserve their lives
to go worse as a result. Why do they deserve it? Perhaps because its not fair for the
lives of wrongdoers to go well when the lives of the innocent have gone poorly
punishment levels the playing field. Whatever the reason, retributivists those who
believe in retribution argue that the punishment of criminals is intrinsically valuable; it is
valuable in and of itself, rather than valuable because of its good consequences (for
example, preventing future crime).
Even if punishing murderers and thieves had no effect on reducing the overall crime rate,
retributivists tend to think its still the right thing to do. Retributivists also think that the
severity of punishment should match the severity of the crime. So, just as it is wrong to
over-punish someone (executing someone for stealing a pair of shoes), it can be wrong
to under-punish someone (giving him a community service order for murder).

If you are a retributivist, you might support the death penalty because you think that
certain or all murderers (and perhaps other criminals) deserve to suffer death for their
crimes. Depending on how you think about death, however, you might oppose the death
penalty on the grounds that it is disproportionately harsh perhaps you think that no
matter what someone has done, she does not deserve to die for it.
On the other hand you might oppose the death penalty on the grounds that it is
disproportionately light. Many people who opposed the recent death sentence for the
Boston bomber did so on the grounds that life in a maximum-security prison would be a
worse punishment and so more fitting than death.
Criminals should be punished so that they and others will be less likely to commit crime
in the future, making everybody safer. Many people criticise retributivism on the grounds
that it is nothing but a pointless quest for barbaric revenge.

Australia withdrew its ambassador to Indonesia after the execution, in April, of two of its
nationals for drug trafficking. EPA/Dan Himbrechts
Inflicting suffering on human beings, if it is to be morally justified, must instead have a
forward-looking purpose: protecting the innocent from harm. If this sounds sensible to
you, you probably believe the point of punishment is not retribution, but rather
The idea here is familiar enough: people face temptations to break just laws; the
demands of morality and the demands of rational self-interest sometimes seem to
diverge. Threats of punishment realign those demands by making it irrational for selfinterested individuals to break the law.
If you are a defender of deterrence, you must answer two questions about capital
punishment before determining where you stand. The first is empirical: a question about
real-world facts. Does the threat of the death penalty actually deter people from
committing heinous crimes to a greater extent than the threat of life imprisonment?
The second question is moral. Even if the death penalty deterred crime more
successfully than life imprisonment, that doesnt necessarily mean it would be justified.
After all, imagine if we threatened execution for all crimes, including minor traffic
violations, theft, and tax fraud.

Doing so would surely slash the crime rate, yet most people would judge it to be wrong.
Deterrence theorists tend to defend some upper limit on the harshness of punishment
and it may be that death simply goes beyond what the government is ever permitted to
Punishment communicates to criminals that what they have done is wrong, and gives
them an opportunity to apologise and reform. There are many different variants of this
view: educative, communicative, rehabilitative and there are important differences
between them. But the basic idea is that punishment should make the wrongdoer
understand what he or she has done wrong and inspire her to repent and reform.
Whatever version of this view one supports, its implication for the death penalty is
reasonably clear. What is the point of a criminal reforming herself as she prepares for the
execution chamber?
To be sure, many people try to mix and match different elements of these three broad
views, though such mixed theories tend to be unhelpfully ad hoc and can offer conflicting
guidance. Far better, to my mind, to plant ones flag clearly and answer the question:
which view should have priority in our thinking about punishment?
Then, and only then, can we proceed to think about the justice (or lack thereof) of
governments who kill their citizens.
Is the death penalty a justified form of punishment
Published: 23, March 2015
An issue that has continually created tension in today's society is whether the death
penalty serves as a justified and valid form of punishment. According to the research that
has been done, the death penalty should be abolished as it is an expensive,
controversial form of revenge that targets the underprivileged and is applied
inconsistently and unfairly. The death penalty is flawed in a number of ways;
First of all there is a belief that the death penalty acts as a deterrent of future crimes by
making an example out of the current criminals. However there is no evidence to prove
this, in states where the death penalty has been abolished, the crime rate is usually the
same as where the death penalty is still implemented. This is as often criminals rare
under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or the perpetrator is not in rational control,
or they are hit-men doing contract killings and typically never expect to be arrested, or
psychopaths and other mentally ill individuals who have little regard for human life and

who are unable to accept responsibility for their actions or the criminal commits crime on
a spur of the moment and just doesn't have time to weigh their options. Even if capital
punishment did act as a deterrent, is it acceptable for someone to pay for the predicted
future crimes of others? Some people argue that one may as well punish innocent
people; it will have the same effect. This isn't true - if people are randomly picked up off
the street and punished as scapegoats the only consequence is likely to be that people
would be frightened to leave their homes. To make a scapegoat scheme effective it
would be necessary to go through the appearance of a legitimate legal process and to
present evidence which convinced the public that the person being punished deserved
their punishment. While some societies have operated their legal systems on the basis of
fictional evidence and confessions extracted by torture, the ethical objections to such a
system are sufficient to render the argument in pointless.


There is another misconception that the death penalty is cheaper to implement than
keeping a criminal in a correctional facility for long periods of time, however oddly the
reality turns out to be quite the opposite as the option of keeping a criminal in a
correctional institute is actually cheaper than executing them. Capital cases cost more
from the start because case law mandates that a defendant facing a possible death
sentence is entitled to two attorneys rather than just one. Most capital defendants are
however poverty-stricken which means this cost is absorbed by the state. Capital
defendants are entitled also to representation by relevant experts in their cases
(investigators, mitigation specialists, psychologists, etc.) all paid for by the state. Trials
involving the death penalty usually last longer than trials not involving the death penalty.
Additionally, and probably more important with respect to driving costs up, there is the
appeals process. This is put into place to try to avoid executing an innocent person, but
these attorneys cost even more than trial attorneys because of their specific expertise.
Finally, the costs of supervision on high security death row while appeals proceed
outweighs the costs of supervision in general population. In the United States tax payers
have paid $37.2 million for each of execution.
Everyone has a right to live; this phrase is present in the constitution of every country.
Even someone who has committed horrific murders cannot be forfeited of this right. Even
though there is the counter argument for this that people who have taken other lives
must forgo this right They believe that the value of the offender's life cannot be destroyed
by the offender's bad conduct. Some abolitionists don't go that far. They say that life
should be preserved at all costs, and that those who are in favor of capital punishment
are the ones who have to justify their position. Every human being is entitled to receive a
second chance in life. Putting a convict behind bars is always a logical option than killing

him, as there is a chance that he may improve. People who have served life sentences
are reported to have bettered their earlier ways of living and have made worthwhile
contribution to the society. Also capital punishment puts great amounts of strain on the
person who is receiving the capital punishment, the person who is killing the perpetrator
of crimes, the victim who must watch the criminal be executed and the person who has
sentenced the criminal to the death penalty and all their loved ones.
Many people believe that retribution is morally flawed and problematic in concept and
practice. The government cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. To take a life when
a life has been lost is revenge, not justice. When a government sentences a murderer to
be murdered, it brutalizes the law, it brutalizes the state and it stoops down low to the
level of the felon, it does to the crook what the crook did to the victim. The argument to
this is that it does offer closure to the victims and their families however when one loses
a family member to violence, such a loss cannot be replaced, cannot be "closed."
Secondly, when murder victims' family members are interviewed after executions, they
frequently comment on it as being "easy" and or that the criminal "did not suffer enough."
In fact it does seem unfair to the victims or their families that they were subjected to so
much violence and torture by their attacker while he or she gets a "white" "clean" "sterile"
death. And also consider the families of the person being executed they are being put
through trauma for no fault of theirs. And many cases have been recorded where even
when the criminal sincerely apologizes his apologies are only met with bitterness. So
when the government sentences a murderer to capital punishment it is doing to the
criminal what the criminal did to the victims and that is the very definition of revenge.
Many methods of execution are quite obviously likely to cause enormous suffering, such
as execution by lethal gas, electrocution or strangulation. Today the most common forms
of execution are beheading, electrocuting, toxic gas, hanging, lethal injection and
shooting and obviously all these are extremely traumatic and painful to undergo and
perform. Many countries that use capital punishment have now adopted lethal injection,
because it's thought to be less cruel for the offender and less brutalizing for the
executioner. However this method has serious moral flaws, it requires medical personnel
being directly involved in killing, and this is a direct breach of medical ethics. The second
flaw is that research in April 2005 showed that lethal injection is not nearly as 'humane'
as had been thought as post mortem findings indicated that levels of anesthetic found in
offenders were consistent with insomnia and the ability to experience pain concluding
that they went through enormous amounts of pain.
In places where the death penalty is instated it used rather inconsistently with a huge
difference in the number of white people executed and the number of other ethnic groups
executed. A study in the state of Ohio confirmed this. The study showed that: Offenders
facing a death penalty charge for killing a white person were twice more likely to go to
death row than if they had killed a black victim. Death sentences were handed down in

18 percent of cases where the victims were white compared with 8.5 percent of cases
where victims were black. Also people who are poverty-stricken are much more likely to
get the death sentence. This is as they often would not be able to afford good lawyers
and instead get state appointed lawyers, state appointed lawyer are underpaid,
overworked and often the least qualified, there are even cases where the state appointed
lawyer did not even know the defendant's name it is no wonder that most of their clients
get much heavier sentence whether they are guilty or innocent. A example; Serial killers
such as the infamous Gary Ridgway in Seattle who admitted killing 48 prostitutes and
runaways got life in prison. A nurse in who admitted killing 17 people got life. Meanwhile,
mentally ill and impoverished murderers who could not afford good lawyers and did not
receive much media attention were given the death penalty. In Alabama, David Hocker
was executed after a one-day trial as his mental illness was not sufficiently described to
the jury. Alabama also executed a 74-year-old man who had been on death row for 27
years and was beset by medical problems which would have probably soon caused his
death by natural means: cancer, high blood pressure and the early stages of
Alzheimer's. In Texas, a man with schizophrenia was executed even after the Board of
Pardons and Paroles recommended clemency after learning of his time spent in mental
hospitals and his unintelligible rambling.

Lastly there is always the threat that an innocent life will be taken, this is the LARGEST
threat and the most important reason why the death penalty should be abolished. On
average for every seven people executed, one is innocent. There are various causes for
this huge miscarriage of justice;
Eyewitness misidentification: Mistaken eyewitness identification has often been a factor
in cases where an individual's conviction was overturned by DNA evidence. Many times
victims or witnesses are going through trauma and cannot properly identify the accused,
and in many cases where DNA evidence is not present, sentences are given purely on
witness accounts.
Circumstantial evidence: Often in a rush to finish sentencing the accused and closing the
case, circumstantial evidence is used (the logic is "Post hoc ergo propter hoc"). For
example if the crime scene has a footprint of the same shoe owned by accused and the
bullet used was a .22 calibre which is also the same type of bullets in possession of the
accused then the victim is found guilty, this is an only extreme form of chance and should
not be used for a conviction.
False confessions: The most common factors that contribute to defendants admitting to
crimes they did not commit are the individual's mental illness or mental retardation,
intoxication or extreme duress. The length and intensity of interrogations have also been

seen as an important factor in obtaining false confessions. Sometimes in a huge

perversion of justice, the accused confess to "lesser" crimes which they did not commit
in order to get a lighter confession.
Faulty science: Though DNA testing has been useful in establishing innocence and
locating those who are responsible for crimes, the results of this testing are only as
reliable as those who conduct the investigation. However experts have violated the
principles of the scientific method by testifying about tests that were never conducted,
suppressing evidence, falsifying results, misinterpreting test results, and exaggerating
statistical probabilities.
Flaws in the system: Witnesses, (where they are part of the process), prosecutors and
jurors can all make mistakes. When this is coupled with flaws in the system it is
inevitable that innocent people will be convicted of crimes. Where capital punishment is
used such mistakes cannot be put right. A person who has been given a large sentence
or even a life sentence can be compensated however a person who has been wrongfully
executed can never be compensated. The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of
violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. As long as human justice
remains imperfect, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.
The death penalty is something courts do not understand and certainly do not know how
to use. It is unethical and gives very few people too much power. Capital punishment
must be abolished as once it is used it can never be undone or compensated for. There
will always be flaws in government systems and no matter how finely the "net" is woven
there will always be people who fall through it, except from this "net" there is no coming

The Death Penalty: Morally Defensible?

The death penalty has faced much opposition as of late. Can the death penalty possibly
be a morally acceptable punishment? A popular bumper sticker says, "We kill people to
show people that killing people is wrong." The slogan is short, simple, and to the point.
But is there really such irony in capital punishment as the slogan implies?

First of all, the slogan misses an important point. The death penalty does not punish
people for killing, but for murder. Killing is justified when it is done in self-defense. Killing
means to cause death. Murder, on the other hand, is defined as, "the unlawful and
malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another" (for the less observant,
this definition cannot be applied to the death penalty, because the death penalty is
lawful, non-malicious, and is not carried out by an individual but by the government).
"Kill," "murder," and "execute" are not interchangeable terms. Death penalty opponents
would like us to believe otherwise. Just because two actions result in the same end does
not make them morally equivalent. If it were so, legal incarceration would be equated
with kidnapping, lovemaking with rape, self-defense with battery, etc.1 Therefore, the
slogan is better stated, "We execute people to show people that murder is wrong." Not
quite as catchy, is it?
Morality is defined as "the principles of right and wrong." As moral creatures, humans
deserve praise for good deeds, and punishment for bad ones. Punishment may range
from a slap on the wrist to death, but the punishment must fit the crime. This is known as
lex talionis, or in common jargon, "an eye for an eye." Abolitionists often insist that if we
argue for lex talion justice we must be prepared to rape rapists, beat sadists, and burn
down the houses of arsonists. Certainly, this is the case if we take the lex talion literally,
and the criminals do deserve those punishments, but we needn't take it literally. The
ancient Jews did not.2 They allowed for monetary compensation for physical or property
Why then, if it is not morally okay to rape rapists, is it acceptable to execute murderers?
The answer is simple. There is no redeeming value to carrying out the former
punishment. Raping the rapist will only cause someone else to degrade themselves by
doing it. It will not prevent the rapist from raping again. Executing murderers, however,
prevents them from committing their crime again, and thus protects innocent victims. The
good, therefore, outweighs the bad, and the executioner is morally justified in taking the
murderer's life. On the other hand, if the abolitionist argues that killing is always wrong,
then he must also concede that killing in self-defense is unacceptable and should be
punished. Few, if any, however, are willing to do so. The abolitionist may choose to argue
that the state should never kill. But consider also the scenario of protecting someone
else's life. Are police officers (the state) justified in killing attempted murderers to save a
victim's life? If the answer to this question is yes, then the question is no longer if the
state is justified in taking the life of criminals but when.

Morally, it is wrong to simply incarcerate someone for murder. A sentence of life in an airconditioned, cable-equipped prison where a person gets free meals three times a day,
personal recreation time, and regular visits with friends and family3 is a slap in the face
of morality. People will say here that not all prisons are like the one cited. This betrays an
ignorance, however, of current trends. Eventually, criminal rights activists will see to it
that all prisons are nice places to go. But regardless of the conditions of a particular
prison, someone who murders another human being can only be made to pay for his
actions by forfeiting his own life. This is so, simply because a loss of freedom does not
and cannot compare to a loss of life. If the punishment for theft is imprisonment, then the
punishment for murder must be exponentially more severe, because human life is
infinitely more valuable than any material item.
Take, for example, a murderer who took the life of a teenager. The parents of the victim
will be among the taxpayers that pay for his meals and his cable television. Should he
choose to take advantage of college courses the prison may offer, the parents of the
victim will be indirectly financing those expenses as well. Nothing could be further from
justice. It is of this type of situation that the abolitionist approves. Somewhere along the
line, their priorities have been turned upside down.

Abolitionists claim that the death penalty is a means of revenge. It is not. One way for the
victim's family to get revenge would be to go out and murder a member of the murderer's
family in order to get him to experience the same type of suffering he put them through. If
the purpose of the state in executing murderers was retribution or revenge, then
criminals would be executed in the same way they that murdered their victims. The point
of the death penalty, however, is not to see how much pain can be unleashed on the
murderer but to bring him to justice.
In reality, the murderer actually gets off easy when he is sentenced to death in the United
States. There are five methods of execution used in the United States: lethal injection,
electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, and firing squad.4 The most commonly used methods
today are lethal injection and the electric chair. If a person is lethally injected, he is first
put to sleep with thiopental sodium, and then he is administered potassium chloride that
will stop his heart.5 The criminal dies from anesthetic overdose and respiratory and
cardiac arrest while he or she is unconscious. As for the electric chair, there is an initial

jolt of 2,300 volts (9.5 amps) which lasts for eight seconds, followed by a low-voltage jolt
of 1,000 volts (4 amps) for 22 seconds and finally a jolt of 2,300 volts (9.5 amps) for
eight seconds.6 The murderer is rendered unconscious immediately, or within the first
eight seconds at most, as the initial high-voltage jolt kills the brain.7 The subsequent jolts
stop the heart in case it is still beating.8 Compare this to the heinous crimes of the
murderer, where often the victim will go through excruciating pain for minutes, hours, or
sometimes days. The minute amount of pain experienced by the murderer on death row
does not even begin to compensate for the pain of the victims.
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty gives five reasons on their website why the
death penalty should be abolished. Those reasons are quite commonly given, so I will
address their objections here.
1. The death penalty is racist.
2. The death penalty punishes the poor.
These are basically the same argument. What it boils down to is "the death penalty is not
applied fairly." This cannot be an argument against the death penalty. If it were, then it
would be an argument against all punishments. To argue that the death penalty is to be
abolished because it is not fairly imposed is to admit that if it were imposed fairly it would
be okay. This is not an argument against the death penalty but an argument to improve
the justice system. Is the system unfair? Fix it. What is unfair is not that the black and
poor prisoners get what they deserve. What is unfair is that the rich and white prisoners
do not.
June 6, 2001- Justice Department finds that there is no bias in application of death
3. The death penalty condemns the innocent to die.
There is absolutely no proof for this statement. Before any person is executed in this
country, twelve members of a carefully selected jury have to decide -- beyond a
reasonable doubt -- that a defendant is guilty. The possibility of an innocent person being
executed is extremely small, and continues to decrease with the improvement of forensic
science. It is true that death row prisoners have been released, but it is not always true
that they were innocent.
Consider the following fact: A judgment of acquittal is final.9 Even if overwhelming
evidence is later uncovered, the prosecution can never appeal. A retrial would constitute
"double jeopardy" which is not permitted under the Fifth Amendment to the United States
Constitution.10 Likewise, if a conviction is reversed on appeal because the evidence of

guilt was legally insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant
cannot be retried. Furthermore, if a court decides that the evidence brought against the
defendant was legally insufficient, it is not saying that the defendant was actually
innocent. By making this decision, the court is merely saying that the prosecution did not
prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.11
Dudley Sharp notes, "It is important to preserve the distinction between acquittal and
innocence, which is regularly obfuscated in news media headlines."12 The media often
overlooks this distinction, and thrives on causing widespread panic that an innocent
person was falsely convicted. Being acquitted, however, does not mean that the
defendant did not actually commit the crime. A jury must acquit "someone who is
probably guilty but whose guilt is not established beyond a reasonable doubt." Gregg v.
Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 225 (1976).
Please see Innocence and the Death Penalty.
4. The death penalty is not a deterrent against violent crime.
The death penalty as a deterrent to crime is not the issue. Capital punishment is, pardon
the redundancy, a punishment for crime. As a punishment, the death penalty is 100%
effective--every time it is used, the prisoner dies.
Additionally, the death penalty is actually 100% effective as a deterrent to crime: the
murderer will never commit another crime once he has been executed. While there is no
proof that any innocents have been executed in this century, there is an abundance of
evidence that prisoners who either escaped or were released early murdered innocent
victims again.13 Professor Paul Cassell points out that
Out of a sample of 164 paroled Georgia murderers, eight committed subsequent
murders within seven years of release. A study of twenty Oregon murderers released on
parole in 1979 found that one (i.e., five percent) had committed a subsequent homicide
within five years of release. Another study found that of 11,404 persons originally
convicted of "willful homicide" and released during 1965 and 1974, 34 were returned to
prison for commission of a subsequent criminal homicide during the first year alone.14
Even those who are not released but still serve life terms murder again. Cassell further
notes that, "At least five federal prison officers have been killed since December 1982,
and the inmates in at least three of the incidents were already serving life sentences for
murder."15 Had these prisoners been executed, innocent lives would have been saved.
The death penalty is, without question, a deterrent to murder.
(Seven recent studies make it clear that executions deter murders and murder rates
increase substantially during moratoriums.)

5. The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.

The death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment. The framers of the Constitution
supported the death penalty, and in fact constructed laws in order to carry it out, so it is
ridiculous to claim that cruel and unusual punishment refers to the death penalty. Justice
Antonin Scalia observed,
The Fifth Amendment provides that '[n]o persons shall be held to answer for a
capital...crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor be deprived
of life...without the due process of law.' This clearly permits the death penalty to be
imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the 'cruel
and unusual punishments' prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.16
The American draftsmen were primarily concerned with proscribing "tortures" and other
"barbarous" methods of punishment.17 The U.S. Supreme Court noted in Gregg v.
Georgia that
In the earliest cases raising Eighth Amendment claims, the Court focused on particular
methods of execution to determine whether they were too cruel to pass constitutional
muster. The constitutionality of the sentence of death itself was not at issue... (emphasis
The Senate Judiciary Committee once noted,
[m]urder does not simply differ in magnitude from extortion or burglary or property
destruction offenses; it differs in kind. Its punishment ought to also differ in kind. It must
acknowledge the inviolability and dignity of innocent human life. It must, in short, be
The very notion that one could be cruel while punishing a guilty murderer for murdering
an innocent victim is laughable.
I have tried to argue here that the death penalty is moral and just. We must never forget
that no one has to be executed; if no one murders, no one is executed. Murderers are
not innocent people fighting for their lives; that statement describes their victims. Let us
work in America to get back the mentality that victim rights are more important than
criminal rights.