Why I Will Never Be a Proponent of the Death Penalty

Aja Williams, Writer - The Reporter

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The death penalty is an outdated and barbaric practice. As human beings, we should not have the right to say someone deserves to die for the crimes they have committed. A common argument that I have encountered is that if the perpetrator had the audacity to murder someone, the same should be done to them. I can understand why this logic seems sound, but we teach children that two wrongs do not make a right. Why does this reasoning suddenly go out the window when we talk about such a serious topic?

The most obvious problem with the death penalty is that our judicial system is not perfect. According to The National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 2,100 exonerations with more than 18,250 years of freedom lost for those involved. Of those exonerated, 159 were saved from death row, but what about the people who had already been executed? How can we say that people should be murdered for their crimes when we have problems with convicting the right people? Consider the case of Daniel Wade Moore, who was exonerated in 2009. In 2002, he was found guilty for the murder and sexual assault of Karen Tipton. The judge sentenced Moore to death. He was acquitted after 256 pages of withheld evidence was found. Innocent people’s lives are ruined by our justice system. There is also a disproportionate number of black inmates who are given the death penalty, which suggests that there is a lot of racial prejudice involved in these cases. According to NPR, 41.7 percent of death row inmates are black. This is very concerning considering only 12.3 percent of the U.S. population is black. The proof is in the numbers. The system is flawed.

A common argument I hear for the death penalty is that people do not want to pay to keep an inmate in prison for life. People assume that it costs taxpayers less money to kill inmates because prisons do not have to care for them for the rest of their lives. However, this is simply not true. Although their cost of confinement ends, the legal fees for death penalty cases are ridiculously high. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, death penalty cases are more expensive than other criminal cases as well as cost more than imprisonment for life with no possibility for parole. More money goes into death penalty cases because the results are permanent. Some people think that the death penalty deters crime, but this is also false. There is no evidence of this. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that states without the death penalty don’t have higher homicide rates than states with the death penalty. In fact, 10 out of the 12 states without capital punishment have homicide rates that are below the national average.

The Death Penalty Information Center estimates that 3 percent of U.S. executions from 1890 to 2010 was “botched.” The execution methods that were surveyed included hanging, electrocution, lethal gas, lethal injection, and a firing squad. Each of these methods sounds horrendous, but lethal injections had the highest rate of botched executions with seven percent. Lethal injection remains the most common execution method in the United States. Why do we continue to use this method if it has the greatest chance of going wrong? The only method that did not have any botched cases was execution by firing squad. The argument that people are executed as humanely as possible is absurd because the methods used are not guaranteed to be free of cruelty. There is no humane way to kill someone. Amnesty USA said it best:

“The search for a ‘humane’ way of killing people should be seen for what it is — a search to make executions more palatable to those carrying out and witnessing the killing. This includes the governments that wish to appear humane and the public in whose name the killing is carried out.”

Another argument I hear is that there is no worse penalty than death. This is debatable. One can definitely argue that living the rest of your life in confinement is worse because when you die, it is over. As far as we know, the punishment ends. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 141 defendants decided to waive their appeals at the time of their execution. This means they accepted the death penalty. There are some cases where the defendant actually requested the death penalty. For example, Michael Passaro, who murdered his two-year-old daughter by setting his car on fire with her inside, requested the death penalty. If the goal is to punish someone for his or her crimes, do not give him or her what the “easy” way out. The quality of the United States prison system is extremely low. If you really want to punish someone, send them to one of the overpopulated, underfunded, privatized prisons instead.

Capital punishment is not the way to go. Our judicial system is flawed, and it is not fair that people are being sentenced to death when it is possible they didn’t even commit the crime. It is alarming that such a large percentage of our population, about 49 percent, still support the death penalty, but the number has dropped tremendously since 1972 when it was 60 percent. It is important to understand the flaws of the system and to weigh the pros and the cons. There is no benefit to this system if it does not prevent crimes. Two wrongs do not make a right, so we should invest in our prison systems instead of in capital punishment.


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