Arguments Against the Death Penalty

By Nicole Castillo


The Death Penalty is the punishment of execution administered to someone legally convicted of a capital crime. Recently, the death penalty has been an issue in the the United States; as many people want to abolish it, while many people want it to remain as it is. The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C. in Babylon. Capital punishment then spread to different countries including the United States. The first recorded execution in America was for treason.

It’s hard to say if the death penalty will be abolished nationwide one day. In the U.S. there are thirty-two states with the death penalty; the other eighteen states have abolished it. Many people believe that the death penalty is unnecessary, out of date, ethically wrong, and ineffective because it has been proven that it does not lower the crime rate.

The main way opposers of the death penalty argue their point is with the use of statistics that show that the death penalty has many faults. Another strategy they use is attacking the moral aspect, arguing that killing of any kind is wrong. Many supporters believe that the death penalty will lower crime rates as a harsh punishment usually deters people from committing crimes; but there have been many studies showing the death penalty does not lower crime rates. Death penalty opposers use this evidence as proof that we should not use the death penalty as a form of punishment any longer. Also, many people believe that the government should not kill its own citizens and that the death penalty is a sneaky way the government can commit murders, therefore, that option should be abolished.

Case Study

The death penalty doesn’t deter people from committing crimes. Some death penalty opposers argue that having the death penalty and keeping prisoners on death row is a waste of taxpayers money and that it does not have any affect on increasing public safety.

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A new report by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found that the death penalty costs California taxpayers $137 million each year. Furthermore, changing the death penalty to life without parole can save the state more than $125 million dollars each year. The majority of law enforcement professionals surveyed said that indeed capital punishment does not lead to lower crime rates. In addition, the FBI has determined that the states with death penalty have the highest murder rates; since the 1990s crime rates have remained steadily lower in states that do not have the death penalty.

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In 2012, the United States had a murder rate of 4.8 people per 100,000 people. In other words, almost 15,000 people became murder victims in the U.S. that year. Opposers of the death penalty argue that the government is hypocritical by killing its own people, that it sends mixed signals as to what is morally right.

The United States currently uses five different methods for the death penalty; lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad, hanging, and gassing. Each of these methods were picked to be the least painful methods of dying; however, there have been records of botched executions that have left the victims under immense pain for extended periods of time. One example of such an incident happened when John Wayne Gacy  lethal injection failed to kill him immediately. Wayne Gacy was an American serial killer who was convicted of sexual assault and the murder of at least 33 teenage boys in Chicago, Illinois. Before the execution began, the chemicals used to perform the execution unexpectedly solidified, clogging the IV tube administering the chemicals into Gacy’s arm and complicating the execution procedure. The entire procedure took 18 minutes. Before he died, he told his lawyer that his death would not solve anything, and that the state was simply doing what he had done, kill. It is reported that his final words were, “kiss my ass.” Another criminal whose execution was botched was Joseph Woods. His execution took about 2 hours using lethal injection; a procedure which should have taken about 10 minutes. According to an AP reporter who witnessed the execution, Joseph Wood gasped more than 600 times before he died which the executioner dismissed as “snoring.”

Those who oppose the death penalty use these examples of botched executions along with many more to argue that it is cruel and inhumane. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights said, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Although Wayne Gacy never showed remorse for his past actions, his point was that the state was as guilty of murder as he was. Many murder victims’ families are outspoken leaders of the pro death penalty movement. They argue that they won’t feel peace until the person who murdered their loved one has been brought to justice, but people who oppose the death penalty argue that ending another life won’t bring anyone back, it will only hurt another family. This brings up another point, which is: What type of closure does family members of victims want? Although Gacy died, he did not express any type of fear of the death penalty, all it did was serve as a means to an end of a very limited, confined life. A common point that people who oppose the death penalty make; perhaps life in prison is a worse punishment than death.

Organizations and People

One of the organizations supporting this argument against the death penalty is called, “National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.” This organization is not only the oldest in the nation devoted to abolishing the death penalty, but is also the largest anti-death penalty organization in the United States. It was founded in 1976, the same year the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court of the United States. Their movement is supported by 100 other affiliated organizations. This organization is made up of families of murder victims, and people from different religious and political stances.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s belief is to abolish the Capital Punishment in the United States as well as worldwide. They are made up of many that wish to provide information and practical strategies for people to fight capital punishment. They strive for a society that addresses the main cause of violence rather than extreme punishments for those that commit crimes. They aim for a judicial system that will reform and focus on changing people rather than killing or punishing them. As one of the largest groups against the death penalty, collectively with national leaders they have, “Won a string of victories for the death penalty abolition movement. Six states in six years have said no to capital punishment. Today, 18 states are death penalty-free, with significant momentum away from the death penalty in almost every other state where it is still on the books”.

“Catholics Against Capital Punishment” is another organization that exist to fight against the death penalty. This organization was created by Frank A. McNeirney and his wife, Ellen, in 1992 in Maryland. They are two devout Catholics that believed more emphasis needed to be on redemption and “restorative justice,” rather than the killing of these criminals. They, along with other devout Catholics, believe in pro-life. After the death of Frank, the organization became a part of “The Catholic Mobilizing Network”.

“The Catholic Mobilizing Network” provides support for initiatives promoting restorative justice, and the end of the death penalty. They work closely with the “United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” in preparing people to be well informed as well as active in state campaigns that focus in repealing the death penalty. Certain people involved have been directly affected by crimes committed to their loved ones. A deceased member of this organization, Pope John Paul II held the  belief of pro-life for all. They believe in educating, advocating, praying, and inspiring people to fight for restoring human value. According to their website, “Numbering more than 67 million, Catholics comprise about 22 percent of our nation’s 309 million citizens. In State where repeal efforts have succeeded or have made greatest headway, Catholics have been in the advocacy Vanguards…”.

One of the biggest advocates for the death penalty is Rick Perry, who was instrumental in the case of Cameron Willingham. In 2004, Cameron Willingham was executed by lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary. He was accused of arson after his house burned down, killing all three of his children. Cameron was convicted in 1994, and claimed his innocence until his death. In 2009, his investigation was reopened and it was discovered that evidence pointing to his conviction was confounded, and in fact, he was innocent. Ricky Perry at the time of his conviction was an appointed official in Texas that advocated the use of the death penalty on Willingham.

Since the discovery of Willingham’s innocence, many have blamed Rick Perry’s direct involvement with his death. According to Amnesty International, more than 130 inmates facing the death penalty were released after discovering they were innocent since 1973. Rick Perry’s belief in the continued use of the death penalty has already cost the life of many innocent people, Cameron Willingham just one of many. How many innocent people have died without recognition? As the 47th Governor of Texas, he has the power to vote for the death penalty, and since he has been in office there have been 278 executions. In June of 2002, he also vetoed a ban on the execution of mentally ill inmates.

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The death penalty is a very controversial topic, and it is hard to predict if and when it will be completely abolished in the United States. Although many people defend Capital Punishment, many people have argued that the death penalty doesn’t accomplish its purpose, which is to deter people from committing capital crimes and inspire a sense of justice. Many argue that capital punishment is cruel and unusual; these people hope that the death penalty will one day be abolished. This will depend on how people in society work to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

Even though we can appeal to abolish the death penalty, it would take a while for the government to change the laws. Due to the fact that people will mostly like not be able to come to a consensus on the Death Penalty, it’s not known if and when it will ever be abolished completely. As shown in this narrative, the evidence clearly shows that the reasons to abolish the death penalty are many. The reason that the death penalty exist is to deter people from committing capital crimes. Research has shown that the use of death penalty does not lower the capital crime rates.


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