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The death penalty is an outdated punishment that should be abolished

Madelyn Lumsden

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Saudi Arabia has recently executed 37 citizens convicted of terrorism on April 23, 2019. Although the people convicted have not been proven to be terrorists, this has brought the total amount of executions in Saudi Arabia this year to 105. It is also the largest number of executions in one day that the nation has witnessed since 2016. The following day, on April 24, 2019, a Texas inmate by the name of John William King was executed after being convicted and put on death row for the murder of James Byrd Jr; the fourth inmate executed during 2019 in the United States. There have been numerous instances of the death penalty in our country and many others, and this form of criminal punishment has created a debate on whether or not it should remain legal. 

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, has been a major aspect of our society ever since the beginning of civilization. The continued use of this execution method has proven to be a large debate topic in the eyes of American citizens, with many questioning the ethical use of this punishment for criminals. However, we have to realize that despite what many will say in defense of this widely used punishment, there is still something rather cruel about punishing a criminal through an action typically seen as illegal and wrong. Is it really worth it to murder somebody for killing a human being? How does that make us any better than the criminal?

Supporters of the death penalty will often point out that killing those who committed crimes will lower the death rates in our country. However, this ignorant way of thinking neglects the fact that those claims have no evidence or warrant behind them. According to a 2012 report from the National Research Council, “studies claiming that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates are fundamentally flawed and should not be used when making policy decisions’”. Also, the FBI Uniform Crime Report stated in 2016 that the South of the United States accounts for 80 percent of all executions, and yet has the highest murder rate in the country. Meanwhile, the Northeast, which accounts for one percent of all executions, has a lower murder rate.

If the death penalty has shown to be ineffective in its main purpose it is rather alarming when we consider the kind of cases that use this sentence are rather expensive. The Death Penalty Information Center reveals that cases that do not involve some sort of death penalty actually cast about $740,000 total, while cases with a death penalty cost about 1.26 million. This kind of evidence shows how the legal system is willing to pour money into a punishment that barely has an effect on the actual crime rates of our country, so utilizing no death penalty seems to be an inexpensive and more logical option.

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In fact, the death penalty seems to be more harmful to the justice system than it is helpful. This is because there have been reported cases in which an innocent man or woman has been sentenced to death and executed. One notable example of a wrongfully executed victim was Carlos Deluna, who was convicted of the murder of store clerk Wanda Lopez and later executed in 1989. Later, in 2006, reporters Maurice Possley and Steve Mills uncovered evidence that proved the man’s innocence and pointed the murder charges to Carlos Hernandez instead. Wrongfully convicted individuals will never be able to receive closure or the chance to prove their own evidence because they have been murdered. Faulty eyewitnesses and DNA tests seem to be a common theme in these stories, showing fault in the justice system. But the wrongfully convicted are being killed without any sort of way to clear their name, and because of their death cannot be released or cleared of their charges.

A great example of the negative aspects of the death penalty comes from the recent Saudi Arabia executions. Many of the citizens that were executed have claimed to be innocent and have also stated that their confessions were fabricated by those who tortured them. Some were in their teenage years and have faced abuse from their interrogators, yet the justice system was unable to prove their innocence because of their deaths. This shows that the death penalty is a counterproductive method of punishment that takes away the lives of the innocent, is far too expensive to maintain, and has failed to lower crime rates in the United States. I strongly believe that it should be made illegal and removed from our justice system.

About the Writer
Ben Weiss, Perspectives Editor

Ben Weiss is a senior perspectives editor and writer. It will be his second and last year on The Stampede. Other activities he’s involved in include...

19 Comments

19 Responses to “The death penalty is an outdated punishment that should be abolished”

  1. killian kenny on May 2nd, 2019 7:30 am

    I believe that the death penalty should be used for only the worst offenses, like terrorism. What’s more, if the same executionable crime keeps happening over and over again, then I believe an example needs to me made in the form of a form of execution that we haven’t used in a VERY long time: public execution.

  2. Liam on May 2nd, 2019 7:42 am

    bringing up a foreign country such as Saudi Arabia is not valid in this argument at all because it is completely bias. And to go against your argument in terms of money it costs the government significantly less to grant the death penalty opposed to life in prison without the chance of parole, which is the punishment that most murders get. So it is not economical for the government to get rid of the death penalty. I think you need to spend more time looking at more than just single sources because this whole article seems like confirmation bias and it was written poorly due to the fact that you had no facts that stand with your claim.

  3. Think about things this way... on May 2nd, 2019 8:22 am

    I believe that people should have a choice between long-term jail or death for their major offense, because some would rather face a quick death than long-term pressure in jail that lasts most of to the rest of their lives.

  4. Aiden Spenner on May 2nd, 2019 8:26 am

    I agree completely with killian kenny. The only time to use the death penalty is for the worst offenses, and if it continues to happen then public execution could become an option to properly execute these kinds of people. Great statement there.

  5. American Citizen on May 2nd, 2019 9:26 am

    The death penalty is applied to criminals who have committed heinous crimes against society. If death penalty is to be outlawed, then the death penalty for unborn children, or also known as abortion, should also be outlawed. If we let convicts live, who have made poor choices in their life, then why should it be acceptable to murder unborn children, who are the most innocent and deserving members of our society.

  6. The mathematician on May 2nd, 2019 9:41 am

    At LIam, you said it costs less to kill a convicted felon. I want to see some numbers and a source.

  7. Liam Duffy on May 2nd, 2019 10:01 am

    This fails to acknowledge the massive overpopulation of prisons in America, and the fact that prison inmates are way more likely to recommit or commit other crimes once released. You also can’t compare the absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia to the US.

  8. jake kmiecik on May 2nd, 2019 10:11 am

    still mad you didn’t pass my death penalty bill

  9. Dylan McGovern on May 2nd, 2019 11:01 am

    Honestly, the death penalty only worsens things. For example: Someone kills another. Bad crime of course, I agree. But, it’s very hypocritical to stop a killer by killing them. Because then, your only killing another. Making, it all worse. it adds to grief, in it’s own way. Life in prison, is much more humane than killing a man, only because they killed somebody.

  10. Markie Mark on May 2nd, 2019 1:48 pm

    I believe that the death penalty should be kept, but only used in situations which drastically deserve it, like if you go to jail for having drugs on you, the death penalty is way too excessive for that, but if caught for murdering tons of people for no reason, then the death penalty is certainly just in this situation! To amplify my point, those in jail live off of our tax money, and no way should a killer be living off of the money that I worked hard for, it’s definitely unfair for my tax money to be going to that of a killer, when it could be going to more important and valuable things!

  11. dont worry about it on May 2nd, 2019 5:16 pm

    like many people have said before, death penalty should be kept but only used for extreme crimes like mass genocide or r*ape. i find it unnecessary to use it on people who have killed like once but if the death penalty is removed, it is just going to overpopulate the prisons in America even more. also, there is a chance for those convicts to get out and who knows what they will do. public execution is a little too wild tho ngl.

  12. Death Penalty Cost on May 2nd, 2019 5:54 pm

    I am a little confused by what is meant by the cost of a case. What costs are included in the “cost of a case”? You mention that the death penalty is expensive to “maintain,” which to me doesn’t make any sense — how would a death penalty be maintained? I have heard that the death penalty is expensive, and the supposedly painless procedure has been painful before.

    In response to other comments, I doubt public execution would prevent crime. If it were done for the purpose of deterring crime, that would imply that there are others out there that are likely to do the same, e.g. the public execution of a mass murder would not scare other mass murderers. If anything, it might cause a sudden spike in crime because of the perception of conflict between the government and the “audience” of the public execution. I suppose the other reason for a public execution would be to satisfy the public, which obviously wouldn’t reduce crime.

  13. Death Penalty and Jail Populations on May 2nd, 2019 5:57 pm

    Also, how much does the death penalty reduce jail populations and reduce the cost of housing life-imprisonment? I would imagine that it is not that high (hopefully), especially considering that the war on drugs is a large part of increasing the jail population (i.e. relatively few of the jail population would be a mass murderer deserving of the death penalty).

  14. cost of the death penalty on May 2nd, 2019 7:41 pm

    If the death penalty is reserved for only extreme crimes, would it substantially reduce prison populations? Would the cost of executing a criminal (e.g. finding a humane method, and, given the severity of the penalty, the cost of more thorough legal processes to make sure the criminal is actually guilty) outweigh the reduced cost?

  15. Lil Uzi on May 3rd, 2019 8:45 am

    Frankly speaking, I think that they should keep the death penalty this shouldn’t be abolished we need the death penalty to execute people who have done major crimes that are worthy of the death penalty we need to keep the death penalty some people would want a quick death than spend the rest of their life in prison we need the death penalty period

  16. VOA on May 3rd, 2019 9:03 am

    In my opinion, the death penalty is totally just for people who have committed horrible crimes such as murder. and saying that “it doesnt make us better than the criminals” is just plain wrong. Because a person who is willing to not only end the life of someone else but make life horrible for the loved ones of the victim is no longer worthy of living. plain and simple. And as previouslt mentioned excecuting a person is far cheaper than keeping them in prison for life. This is just unfair on many levels. one its unfair to the taxpayers who have to pull money out of their pockets to keep a murder alive. And two it’s unfair to the victims family who still have to worry about a crazy man who may end up killing more people. Another solution to your cost problem is to simply make the means of death cheaper. And I won’t elaborate. Also, you bring up the fact that some people have been wrongly executed but this fact is so so so remote that it is unimportant. this is mainly due to the fact that most criminals claim they’re innocent. And since the 70s there have been few to no instances of wrongful execution. which is why in my opinion the death penalty is a just punishment for those who have committed horrible crimes.

  17. so... on May 3rd, 2019 10:29 am

    why the heck are we talking about abortion now? we are comparing hardened, evil criminals who have committed atrocities against civilized society to babies who literally have not been born yet. There is no comparison here…

  18. darkstripe on May 8th, 2019 7:35 am

    shoutout to the guy who decided to bring abortion into the comments section when that has literally nothing to do with the article… so glad i go to a school full of students who can stay on topic in a discussion

  19. issa facts on May 8th, 2019 11:29 am

    @darkstripe, look at the comment by @American Citizen from May 2. That one talks about abortion, which is definitely out of context

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