America must abolish Death Penalty, Hair says

Graphic by Brian Hwu.

Graphic by Brian Hwu.

By Thomas Hair
Online Copy Editor

The United States of America has always stood for something.

Graphic by Brian Hwu.ing. As a world superpower, every stance our government takes broadcasts a bold message to the world. Throughout history, America has stood for freedom, justice and robust economy.

Right now, however, the United States of America sends a depraved message to the world as a sponsor of murder and revenge – as a sponsor of the death penalty.

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, is the practice of executing criminals. The death penalty has been gradually declining over the past century as more and more nations become civilized and do away with their barbaric practices.

The death penalty is legal in only two other established democracies on Earth, South Korea and Japan. Yet, America remains a staunch advocate. The only nations that execute as many criminals as we do are all Third World dictatorships: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. This is not good company for a world-leading democracy like the United States to be in.

As Coppellians, the gruesome reality is that we live in a state that has quietly executed 600 people under our noses in the last 30 years alone.

This nauseating act is carried out in the name of justice. The criminal is dehumanized, portrayed to be somehow less than human. Thus, when the sentence is carried out, no one cares. A human life was not lost; a savage’s life was lost. People can live with that, and so, no one cares.

But what if the government got it wrong?

Sometimes, the government itself forces the curse of death row on innocent people. The thought of it is mortifying. A man is led to his execution chamber, pleading his innocence the whole time, a single tear rolling down his cheek. Humans make mistakes, and judges and prosecutors are ordinary mistake-making humans.

Sometimes, a faultless man will go through hell for nothing. It’s inevitable, and it’s already occurred numerous times. Ruben Cantu was only 17 when sentenced to Texas death row, only to have DNA evidence prove him innocent years after his death.

There have been countless stories such as Ruben’s over the years. Georgia man Troy Davis was hastily executed in 2011 even after seven of the nine original witnesses retracted their claims against him and another man confessed his guilt. The fact that 140 death row inmates have been exonerated due to innocence since 1973 is a testament to just how easy it is for the wrong person to end up with their neck in a noose (Death Penalty Information Center).

Despite these shocking numbers, even if only one guiltless life was taken by the government’s needle, it wouldn’t be worth it. It wouldn’t be worth it even if the alternative was more expensive.

Despite common misconceptions, it costs four times as much to execute a person as it does to keep him in prison for life. The process of condemning one to death typically exacts a toll of around $2 million, while a life imprisonment sentence costs an average of roughly $500,000. The difference is due to the tedious court process of a death sentence, as well as numerous appeals and at least a decade on death row.

Individuals in Coppell and elsewhere often complain about the government’s debt and superfluous spending. Just by doing away with the death penalty, America could save millions of dollars per year – dollars that could go towards more admirable causes such as education. Why kill criminals when we could spare lives and save millions of dollars in the process?

The answer to that question, many would say, is the “fact” that the death penalty deters future homicidal acts. This widespread belief that it prevents crime is the primary reason why the death penalty still exists, but this belief is a faulty one.

State that practice the death penalty, such as Texas, have far higher murder rates than those that don’t (DPIC). Furthermore, foreign nations, especially in Europe, have remarkably low crime rates and have not executed a convict in decades. The evidence for a deterrent effect is surprisingly fragile, if not nonexistent.

One of the final arguments supporters call upon is that Capital Punishment is the only way to bring closure to families of the victims. Families are justified in asking for unforgiving punishment.

Nevertheless, studies show that a majority of death row prisoners would prefer execution to lifelong imprisonment. If the worst possible punishment for the murderer is really want brings families closure, then life imprisonment should be equally satisfying for families of the victims.

The death penalty is little more than cold-blooded, state-sponsored murder. Killing killers to show that killing is wrong is hypocrisy in its simplest form. If the United States wants its citizens to work their problems out peacefully rather than with violence, the United States needs to do the same.

As the biggest player on the world’s stage, everything America does sends a message and sets an example. With every savage execution, the USA sends a message that seeking violent revenge is acceptable.

For our civilization to advance, we need to abandon the “eye for an eye” revenge mentality. It just leads to an endless cycle of violence.

It is time for the USA to become a true, virtuous world leader and do away with cruel practices such as the death penalty that no longer serve a purpose.