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The Death Penalty

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“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Everyone has heard this saying in there life. This is another way for someone to say they are supportive of the death penalty. The death penalty, to me, is revenge. It kills innocent people every year. Many of the families of victims do not want the criminals to be put to death. The death penalty costs more than a life sentence in jail. It is also racists.

“Since 1976, there have been six hundred sixty-seven executions in the United States, ninety-eight in 1999 alone. There was only eleven before 1984. Then the number rose to twenty-one that year. The number of execution stayed around twenty then dropped to eleven in 1988. Then it steadily rose from there to seventy-four executions in 1997. That was the highest since 1976.”(Death Penalty Information Center website)

There are many different methods of execution used by the government. The most common is lethal injection used by thirty-seven states. Electrocution is another method, which is used by eleven states. The gas chamber is used in five states. There are still three states today that use hanging as a method of execution. And three other states use a firing squad. If you add up the numbers they do not equal out to fifty states. This is because some states have multiple methods.

The death penalty is also extremely racist. There have been significantly more executions of minorities than white Americans. Capital punishment also goes against the Constitution of the United States. Amendments eight and fourteen: state that no cruel and unusual punishment can be inflicted, and no state can deprive any person of life liberty or property. The death penalty clearly takes these privileges away from American citizens.

“More than 2000 people are on death row today. Virtually all are poor, a significant number are mentally retarded or other wise mentally disabled. More than forty percent are African American and uneven numbers are Native American, Latino, and Asian.” (Death Penalty Information website) It does not seem fair that only these people are dying. The Constitution states that everyone should be given a fair trial. These statistics do not prove to me that these people had a fair trial. Everybody makes mistakes. If a jury makes a mistake and a person is falsely accused of murder, when they find out they messed up they want to take the sentence away. If the sentence is life in prison, they can tell the person they are sorry and they can go free. It does not work that way if they sentence a person to death.

If a jury falsely accuses a person of a crime they did not commit with a sentence to death, they cannot take it back. It will be too late. The person will not be able to get their life back. Every year four innocent people are put to death. “Since 1976, over 80 people on death row were found innocent of the charges they were accused of.” (DPIC website)

Although some people feel the death penalty is a good thing, I think it is wrong. When someone has committed the crime of murder it creates a great loss for the victims family. Does putting the killer to death make the family of the victim feel any better? They still have to live with the loss of their loved one for the rest of their lives. Taking the life of someone else does not redeem the life of the person that was killed. In many cases, the families of the victims do not want the murderer to be put to death. One case I read about a nine year-old girl was abducted and murdered. Her father said, “She was shy, joyous, and happy she would never hurt anybody. Hurting someone for her would not really be for her, it would not honor her, or help us.” (DPIC website)

What he said is true, it does not help the victim or the family to kill the criminal. Her father knew she would not want anyone to be hurt for her so the death penalty would not help in any way.

When we put criminals on death row for committing the crime of murder, we are stooping to their level. Murderers are not role models. Why should we follow what they do and kill them in return? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. If we kill people for killing other people we are basically saying murder is a good choice. If the government can say that a person deserves to die then why can’t an ordinary person do the same? Last year in my hometown of Brookings, a seven year-old boy was murdered by his 18 year-old babysitter. The boy, Cerrone Hemingway, was stabbed 44 times and died. A family member said, “The notion that your child must die because my child died? That does not satisfy. It does not bring peace. It only turns our hearts to stone.”

This family experienced the great loss of having a loved one killed. Yet they still do not feel it is right to put the killer to death. If the family of the victim does not think the killer deserves to die, who has the right to say they should die? The family is the one who is suffering so they should have the right to say they do not want to kill anyone. Sometimes murderers will kill themselves after committing the crime so they will not have to face the consequences of what they have done. That, to me, is taking the easy way out. These people would rather be dead, as well as the people they killed, then spend the rest of their lives in jail. It is a proven fact that the murder rates are lower in states that have done away with the death penalty. No one wants to spend his or her life wasting away in jail.

The death penalty is another easy way out. If a person commits a crime as horrible as murder they would probably rather die then sit in prison for the rest of their lives. They have so much free time to think about how they made the wrong choice. I feel they should have to suffer through that in jail not end their lives right away. Life in prison should be their punishment not death.

Some people do not agree with this though . Some think that the death penalty is the way to go. 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 is “the unlawful and malicious or premeditated killing of one human being by another.” Kill and murder are not interchangeable terms. Death penalty opponents (hereafter “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 assault, etc. Therefore, the slogan is better stated, “We execute people to show people that murder is wrong.” Not quite as catchy, is it?

People who support the death penalty think that morally it is wrong to incarcerate someone for murder. A sentence of life in an air-conditioned, cable-equipped prison where a person gets free meals three times a day, personal recreation time, and regular visits with friends and family is a slap in the face of morality. People will say here that not all prisons are like the one cited. This betrays ignorance, however, of current trends. Eventually, criminal rights activists will see to it that all prisons are nice places to go. Supporters feel that 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.

There is a debate going on now in Massachusetts on whether or not the death penalty should be implemented. Cardinal Bernard Law, the leader of the Archdiocese of Boston, said, “The teachings of the church are clear, for a well-informed Catholic to support capital punishment, it would be morally wrong. And if one knowingly rejects the teachings of the church it is wrong, morally evil, and a sin.” (DPIC website) People who call themselves Catholics usually follow the church’s rules. If they know it is a sin and it will go against their beliefs why would they support the death penalty?

Certainly, in general, the punishment should fit the crime. But in civilized society, we reject the an eye for an eye principle of literally doing to criminals what they do to their victims. The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonists house. We should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death. In conclusion, capital punishment is morally wrong. It is legal murder. The government does not have the right to end a person’s life or say when it should end. The punishment should fit the crime. That is why criminals should spend their lives in jail.

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