Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?

There are many reasons why I'm against the death penalty. It costs more money to put someone to death than to leave them in prison for life. Also, the death penalty, as it is currently practiced, is racist and discriminates against the poor.

Statistics show that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, and may even encourage violent acts. These are all good reasons to oppose the death penalty, but the main reason and the most important reason I'm against the death penalty is simply the fact that innocent people get put to death for crimes they did not commit.

As long as humans are imperfect, our justice system will be imperfect and innocent people will be put behind bars. However, as long as these people aren't put to death, there is still a chance of the mistake being corrected. The death penalty is permanent.

The Death Penalty is Expensive

The cost of executing a person in the U. S. is far higher than the cost of imprisoning him or her for life. The reason for this is our need to be absolutely sure that we've got the right person.

Capital cases have a more rigorous jury selection process and more money is spent on expert investigators and consultants. There is also a more lengthy appeals process, several safe guards, and a state review of the case to make sure the person accused is indeed guilty.

In California, trials involving the death penalty are six times more costly than other murder trials. If for no other reason, doing away with the death penalty would save tax payers money.

The Death Penalty Discriminates

If you are accused of a violent crime, the color of your skin and the size of your wallet determines whether or not you'll be sentenced to death. Most murderers are white, but more than 75% of those on death row are non-white. Cases with a white victim are more likely to use the death penalty than cases with a minority victim. Since 1976, only six white persons have been executed for killing a black person. The death penalty is overwhelmingly racist.

Also, over 90% of defendants in capital trials cannot afford to hire experienced lawyers and are forced to use inexperienced court-appointed attorneys. You need to be rich in order to get away with murder. The level of legal representation a defendant gets has nothing to do with guilt or innocence, only money.

It is also horrifying to note that 34 mentally retarded inmates have been executed. Executing people who do not fully understand their actions is barbarous and must be stopped. When we put a mentally retarded person on trial, we are taking advantage of their intellectual inability to fight back since they are not aware of the various legal avenues open to them.

The death penalty as it is currently practiced is racist and unfairly discriminates against the poor and the mentally retarded. Until the system can be improved so that all persons facing a capital sentence are treated equally, the death penalty should be discontinued.

The Death Penalty is Not a Deterrent

States which enforce the death penalty, have higher murder rates than states which do not practice it. A logical person would assume that the threat of being put to death would lower the number of violent crimes, however, people who murder do not behave logically. The threat of execution at some future date does not enter into their minds while they are filled with rage or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Far from being a deterrent, the death penalty instead desensitizes people to violence. When a state puts people to death, it sends the message to its populace that killing is okay. Texas has the highest execution rate and also has one of the highest murder rates in the country.

If the death penalty was a deterrent to crime, we'd expect to see the state with the most executions have among the lowest murder rates, but the opposite is true. By putting people to death, Texas encourages violence instead of denouncing it.

FBI statistics show that states which use the death penalty tend to have higher murder rates than states which don't. If for no other reason, we should oppose the death penalty in order to reduce the number of murders. An eye for an eye may feel good and give the families of the victims closure, but it only serves to escalate matters and increase the overall violence in this country.

The Death Penalty Punishes the Innocent

Twenty-three prisoners who were later found innocent of the crime of which they were accused, are known to have been executed. Who knows how many other innocent people have been put to death in this country?

A recent study revealed over 400 cases of wrongful conviction in the United States between 1900 and 1991. Most of the prisoners were proven innocent and released, but for 23 of them, the evidence came too late.

In 1989 there were two close calls. Randall Dale Adams was three days from execution when Texas authorities overturned his conviction and released him. James Richardson, in the state of Florida, was released within 24 hours of execution for a crime he did not commit. He had spent 21 years on death row before being found innocent. There are no doubt others like these two men who were not as lucky.

Right now, Eugene Colvin-El is on death row in Maryland based only on circumstantial evidence. There are no witnesses, no confessions, and no direct evidence linking him to the crime, yet he is in line to be executed anyway due to an incompetent attorney and a judge who refused to give him new representation.

We go too far in this country when we put someone to death based only on circumstantial evidence. What happened to beyond a shadow of a doubt? Before we put someone to death, shouldn't we be 100% certain he did what he was accused of?

Since 1976, Illinois has released as many people from death-row as it has executed. In fact, in the U. S. overall, 1 in 7 of those on death row have been freed after being fully exonerated. These statistics just go to show that our current system of justice, which administers death, is far from perfect. Until our system of justice is perfect, we should stop killing people.


The over 160 people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing certainly deserve to be avenged. Timothy McVeigh is the perfect example of someone who deserves to be put to death. He caused over 160 deaths and we're positive he did it. However, his is an extreme case.

Most of the men, women, and children on death row right now are nowhere near as murderous as he was. The over 400 innocent people sentenced to death deserve some attention as well. We need to reexamine how we currently practice the death penalty, and if we can't stop the slaughter of innocents, we should end the death penalty altogether.

There are currently more than 3,500 people on death row. Seventy of them are children. Putting children to death should be abhorrent to all of us. Why do we have a penal system at all, if we don't believe people can be reformed? If children can't be reformed, who can? How much longer will we continue this costly and inefficient system?

How many innocent people are on death row right now who are unable to prove their innocence, who can't afford a good lawyer or are mentally incapable of defending themselves? You don't teach your children hitting is wrong by hitting them, so why would you teach killers murder is wrong by murdering them?

This merely proves what we all learned as children, that two wrongs don't make a right. Certainly there are many guilty men on death row who deserve to die, but are we as a society so concerned with punishing them that we let the innocent occasionally fall threw the cracks?

One innocent person put to death is one too many.

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