Kill capital punishment in pursuit of ethical society

American justice system lagging behind progression of the developed world

Emma Meehan, Staff Writer

Death is final.

Different from convicted felons sentenced to life in prison, death row inmates cannot appeal if new exonerating evidence comes to light after they are executed. 

They are already dead.

A conservative estimate by the National Academy of Sciences found that at least 4.1% of death row inmates are innocent, with exonerating evidence often revealed after being killed by the state. 

This is a moral outrage. The criminal justice system hardly lives up to its name if one in every 25 prisoners killed are innocent. There is no justice in the government slaughtering ordinary, blameless citizens. If it can happen to anyone, it can happen to you.

Barbaric and unethical, capital punishment violates the Eighth Amendment and infringes on our most basic rights as Americans. The amendment guarantees citizens safety from “cruel and unusual punishments”. 

Kaylee Aguilar
Thirty states retain the death penalty, but only eight executed prisoners in 2018. Texas executed 13 of the 25 total inmates killed last year. The Sidekick staff writer Emma Meehan discusses why the death penalty should be abolished in the United States. Graphic by Kaylee Aguilar.

Is the finality of death not unusual? Is it not cruel? I believe it is, as do the leaders of most countries.

The American legal system lags behind the rest of the developed world in its continued application of the death penalty. In 2016, the United States was the only country in the Americas to conduct an execution and the only developed democracy to do so. 

The United States  was one of only 26 countries to carry out an execution that year, alongside more authoritarian dictatorships China, Iran and Iraq. One-hundred-forty-one countries have either banned the death penalty or have not carried out an execution in over 10 years, which accounts for more than two-thirds of countries globally.

Even the violation of our rights does not deter crime. According to the annual FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the average murder rate in death penalty states in 2018 was 5.34 per 100,000, versus 4.1 per 100,000 in non-death penalty states.

Though many assume the contrary, death sentences often prove destructive to families of murder victims. A Marquette Law Review study found that families of victims suffer from physical and psychological health issues at higher rates when murderers recieve the death penalty, rather than a life sentence behind bars. 

Death is too easy an escape. While some murderers suffer life imprisonment without the chance of parole, others get the luxury of escaping their atrocities in death, fleeing responsibility and repercussion as they did in life.

Capital punishment strips away the most basic rights of man. Is the right to life not unalienable? Does the government not take on the role of a religious creator in dictating something as basic as the right to live?

Pope Francis declared the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases, extending the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance from fetuses to all human beings. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is a devout Catholic, but has failed to side with the pope in ending killings by the state.

Though 30 states retain the death penalty, only eight carried out killings in 2018, one of which was Texas. Last year, 13 of the 25 executions in the country took place in our state. 

If one in 25 executed are guilt-free, that means an innocent soul was taken last year, most likely in the confines of our state’s borders. 

Imagine coping with the death of your loved one, only to find out years later they were wrongfully convicted and played no role in the crime they were accused of. Sometimes it can be hard to empathize with someone you don’t know. But think about the inmate’s family. 

Think about the executed prisoner being your family member.

Even if one is not ethically or philosophically opposed to capital punishment, it is hard to knowingly push for the killing of the wrongfully convicted. It is ineffective and prosecutes far too many innocent souls in practice. 

Most countries acknowledge capital punishment is outdated and authoritarian, but American law shamefully refuses to recognize its flaws.

Is it not worth saving the 4.1%, the innocent? 

Follow Emma (@emmameehan_) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.