The Death Penalty

In high school, we had to participate in a debate about the death penalty. I was assigned to argue against the death penalty. Some of the things I came across were astonishing and combined with my own personal beliefs, I see no reason for it in any case, anywhere. Here’s why:

It costs more to execute someone than it does to keep them incarcerated for life. So, by executing criminals we are hurting the economy.

Each year, a number of innocent people are put to death. Criminal cases require juries to find people guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for this reason. But our system is not foolproof and innocent people get killed. As has been said, “It’s better to let 1,000 guilty men go free than one innocent man be punished” Since there is no guarantee, we should not be willing to take the risk.

Murder is a crime. So, to execute a murderer is to commit murder. It’s that simple. If we are going to allow certain people to commit murder, then why not allow vigilantes to roam wild? There’s no justification for it.

If you want to go the religious/moral angle, to murder is a sin and a moral wrong. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This is from the famous biblical story of an adultress who was about to be stoned to death by a group of men because her crime back then was punishable in this fashion. Jesus said these words to the group of men and no one threw a stone. If Jesus, the supposed son of God would not allow this, I doubt he’d be in favor of the death penalty. Continuing on in this vein, one of the Ten Commandments reads, “Thou shalt not kill”. There is no fine print making an exception for criminals.

Try thinking about punishing a criminal the way you would punish a child. You do not punish a child to hurt them, you punish them in the hopes that it will teach them a lesson. This is certainly not to say that all criminals will learn or that we don’t want to punish a criminal. But one or both of these can be achieved with jail time. Neither of them can be achieved with the death penalty. The criminal gets basically “put to sleep” in a way that is humane and without pain and doesn’t have to dwell on what he/she did and has no chance of redeeming his or herself.

“An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind”. Hammurabi’s code is wrong. Ghandi’s right. And even if you felt like an eye for an eye was a good doctrine to follow, here’s why we can’t. How are you going to make a man feel the pain the woman he raped felt? Killing him is pain alright, but that’s not an eye for an eye. That’s more like an eye for an ear.

Deterrance is not an acceptable answer either. People are deterred from crime everyday by the threat of prison and if they’re not deterred by that, they’re not going to be deterred by the threat of the death penalty.

We look down upon public executions that take place in stadiums in Middle Eastern countries, but how is our system so different? We allow a crowd to watch the execution and the main similarity is that in both instances, they’re killing someone. Hypocritical? Just a tad. And, another nice touch, we are the only civilized country in the world with the death penalty.

It’s a shame that we live in a world where something such as this is as big a deal as it is because the best answer to this question would be not having to answer it but is the dealth penalty right? Not according to me. I think murder is a crime. Period.

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