Next week, the United States will prepare to carry out its 900th execution since the policy of capital punishment was reinstated in 1977. As I read this statistic, I can hardly believe it.
How can a country claim the title of “moral watchdog of the world” and “No. 1 leader in executions” at the same time? How can a country whose mission is to rid the world of terrorism and “evil doers” stand alone in admission to the practice of killing? How can a country that prides itself on justice and respect for humanity continue to enforce the most cruel and inhumane punishment possible, the taking of someone’s life?
There should be many valid reasons for why the most dominant power in the world would practice such a policy, but I can’t find a single one.
Despite popular police mythology, the death penalty has never been proven to deter more crime than life in prison.
The death penalty isn’t even economical. It costs more money to execute someone than it does to have them serve a life sentence.
The death penalty is discriminatory. Studies have shown that the majority of people executed in the United States are poor and/or minorities. A study in Philadelphia reported 95 percent of all people sentenced to death couldn’t afford their own attorney, and 80 percent of people executed since 1976 were convicted of killing a white victim (while people of color make up more than half of all homicide victims.) Are we to believe that only poor minorities commit capital crime?
The death penalty is irreversible. An execution is the one and only punishment that cannot be taken back. Day after day we read about misapplications and misjudgments in our justice system (what exactly was the reason we waged war on Iraq again?). Unless we can claim with absolute certainty to have a perfect judicial system, we can’t be absolutely certain of someone’s guilt. It doesn’t seem right to take someone’s life if there is even the possibility for error.
Even such a factor as vengeance cannot stand the test of just application. If we do indeed have the right to adapt to the logistics of “an eye for an eye” (which I do not believe we do), then we must fully adapt to that policy. We must then rape all the rapists and molest all the child molesters — and other things of that nature. I know that example may seem a bit extreme, but surely not any more extreme than killing someone who kills!
The death penalty is nothing more than an uneconomical and discriminatory excuse for cold-blooded killing. And most of all, why do each one of us (whether we are for or against the death penalty) believe killing to be wrong? Because no one has the right to take away another’s life, no one has the authority to judge whether or not someone’s time is up, or whether or not someone has the intrinsic right to live. Until humanity changes and we acquire this right, the death penalty must be abolished.
It would be nice if someday we could live in a country that prides itself on a commitment to the practice of mercy and morality rather than a system of violence and vengeance, that doesn’t even work.
Emily Sieker is a junior philosophy and English major from Weatherford.