This page is meant to be a collection of arguments against Capital Punishment, the Death Penalty. On this page you have an outline of arguments that are commonly heard. The links that are just below are email debates with Death Penalty supporters, statements, arguments and in one case a web site dedicated to the support of Capital Punishment which has its arguments taken down one at a time.
1) That it is fair to kill a killer:
If this is so then are not the relatives of a killer are allowed take mortal revenge on those that put their family member to death? There are many people who feel exactly that way about the Federal Government, just ask Mr. McViegh, and some of the people from Waco, Texas.
Also, I wonder how is it fair? And to whom? First, the deceased has a family, perhaps dependents, and these are left harmed and unhelped for the most part. There is no restitution by the killer. And the innocents who have lost a loved one must also bear their trauma and suffer its exacerbation through a trial and dealing with lawyers for God's sake. Then there are the dependents and family of the killer who have losses through no fault of their own. The victims pay, the society pays, the friends and family of the killer pays. The killer simply leaves this "veil of sorrow." So where is the equity in that arrangement?
On top of that there is the tremendous cost incurred by the tax payers to deal with the killer which the guilty party does not have to reimburse either. How could simply killing him or her be fair when all the damage they have done is left for the victims to sort out and the costs are borne by the state? It is, on this simple, visible level that the CP is patently unfair to victims, not to mention the state.
To be fair the guilty party should repair the blank space in the lives of those many, redress the damages they have done, and "work off" his or her debt to society. All that happens to the killer is that his or her soul is separated from their body, and God, being forgiving, can even let such into heaven, especially if the killer repents even moments before being dealt death.
So, in sum, is it fair to kill a killer? The answer is a resounding "NO". It is not fair to the victims, the relatives of the victims, the relatives of the guilty party, to the society as a whole. Nor, truth be told, is it fair to the killer. How can he or she regain the humanity they lost? How can they redeem themselves? How can they repair the damages done?
2) The idea of CP as a form of genocide:
To cover this argument against CP, just in case some one might say I did not or would not address it, I will simply say look in a dictionary, or do some research in the War Crime trials of WW2. Genocide was well defined there. I do not believe that any accepted definition of genocide will fit what we now call CP. It is only a term meant to bring forth emotional responses and to heat up an argument.
However, that said, the evidence does shows a disproportionate number of minority peoples wind up on death row. This is evidence, possibly, of any of the following: racism, inequitable access to legal resources, societal problems, and classism, to name a few.
3) The argument that it is historical, part of the justice system:
The historical tradition of CP as being a reason for continuing the practice. In the 1700's there were hundreds of crimes for which death was the proscribed punishment, these laws have been lifted. Should we continue other practices simply because we did them in the past? We got rid of witch hunting, slavery, and evolved out of the anti-Communist fever of the early 50's. To say that we should continue a "tradition" because it is a tradition is to argue that we are perfect and need not change, that society is fine the way it is and does not need to evolve. Once stated in this way the argument that CP is "traditional" is seen for what it is, silly. Historical continuity is not reason enough to continue CP for if historical continuity were valid as a defense of outdated laws and social customs Columbus would not have challenged the myth of the world's shape and Galileo would have accepted the Church's argument that there could not be moons orbiting Jupiter and science as we know it today would not exist.
4) CP is a deterrent to crime:
It simply does not. There have been no studies that clearly point to that fact and many that support the opposing view. The reason for this is that the vast majority of murders involve passions of the moment, violent conflict, and other such circumstances wherein the killer is not at all thinking of what might be at stake should they kill someone.
5) To the argument that it is not excessive, cruel, or unusual:
CP is always excessive, for there is no turning back from it once it is carried out. How can the punished be repatriated into society? How can they possibly pay their debts? How do you redress the dead who are posthumously proven innocent? If CP is the right way to deal with killers, then persons in law enforcement should pay with their lives for that kind of error, and I see no movement for that, do I?
As to being cruel and unusual, that is something that finer minds than I will have to debate. Both key words, "cruel" and "unusual" have changed meaning over the centuries. So presenting a comprehensive statement regarding this would be difficult. However, I would like to see some one challenge CP on the basis of its being in conflict with that portion of the Declaration of Independence, quite near the beginning, where it makes reference to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." as being "inalienable rights".
Although the Declaration was written before the Constitution, and in that sense preceded the founding of our body of law, it still may be rational to use it to challenge the Constitutionality of CP.
The Declaration is a document which eloquently argued for the overthrow of a government that had violated certain inalienable rights. Would it not be logical to say that if our own government violated those same rights that we would be right in resisting, nay, even removing it from power? The Declaration provided the arguments in favor of the revolution, and was, in a real sense, its statement of purpose. The Constitution is, in this sense, logically dependent upon the Declaration of Independence, and as such may be viewed as that which will serve only so long as the government respects the rights of the people. The rights, in particular, which are seen as inalienable, worthy of fighting a revolution for. People are familiar with the phrase: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" The revolution was fought for, and the Constitution was created to, preserve those rights, that is the contention I would like to see used as a challenge.
To those who would say that the Declaration and even the Constitution were inconsistent with the many existing CP laws in the US. at that time I say that our body of law is based on the Constitution which was and is a revolutionary document that was and is as much a statement of intent and ideals as an outline for a structure of government, and intentionally or not it was designed to change the laws in existence, to be interpreted, and to change over time. Perfect it may not be, but changeable it is.
6) The argument that CP is a part of a discipline plan:
CP is not and cannot be a sound part of a disciplinary system. A disciplinary system implies that the person being given a discipline is able to learn from it and become better. It is impossible to consider CP a form of discipline for this reason. Again take a good look at a good dictionary and you will find that the meaning of the word "discipline" has to do with training and practice, at least in its original meaning.
Then there is the extension of that argument that CP is effective in halting repeating criminals while nothing could be farther from the truth, Willie Norton's case is a case in point. First of all, the Death Penalty is not applied to all killers and not all killers are eligible for CP as state laws vary. Many killers only get life sentences, which, practically speaking, means as little as 3 to 7 years. Then they are back in action. The death penalty issue does not even touch this crowd. I have read statements over the years to the effect that only a very small portion of convicted killers are put to death. While I have also read that many, eventually, are freed.
7) The argument: Its cheaper to kill them than to imprison for life:
Some time last year I read that the average cost for an inmate was averaging about 25,000 dollars a year. The average cost of a case that results in an execution of a prisoner ranges from 2 million dollars. In other words putting some one to death is equivalent of 80 years of prison life. So it is not cheaper, certainly on a per capita basis, with the current system.
8) CP will lessen the crowding in prisons:
We have millions of persons in prisons, with thousands released for lack of space, perhaps even monthly. To expect that we would be able to kill thousands for this or any reason is hard to imagine in today's world.
9) That CP is the moral equivalent of a military duty.
Perhaps those thinking this way assume that killing is killing and there is no difference as long as it is in defense of the nation or society. In this view the judge and jury are seen as protecting society against the killer.
However, the argument falls flat for the following reasons: First, the killer is already caught, perhaps in chains and is no longer a threat. Second, society has to be protected, but how is it protected by CP when this expensive, unfair, and biased system selects only a few of the most virulent offenders for execution while leaving many, many others free to repeat their offenses? And finally, how is justice protected when the innocent are found to have been executed? Or when whole communities are alienated every time one of their own is executed by a system they view as biased and therefore unjust?
I would like to add that the argument does a disservice to the military.
A soldier is trained to kill, but only under circumstances wherein he or she might expect their lives also to be in danger. Also, their action is often voluntary, sanctioned by their government, often times by their religion as well, and their actions are sustained by a belief that their opponents intend them and their homeland harm. It is as rational, as moral, as fighting back when assaulted. For the judge and executioner there is no such reciprocity of danger, he or she is simply signing a paper, making a pronouncement, or in the latter's case, pushing a button, or throwing a switch. This said, I do not intend to minimize the morals of their acts, but it should be obvious that their actions are not morally the same as those of combat soldiers in the midst of war.
To the "what would you do if it was your sister/wife/mother that was brutally murdered?" argument.
I would say this. Of course I would be angry, upset, have a rage. Maybe I would want to strangle the person, or mash their face with a nail studded mallet. But then, that is what we have a system for. I would be prevented from doing that, prevented from adding onto a chain of violent actions and continuing the cycle of violence.
Capital Punishment, No Reason.
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