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The Death Penalty


"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." This is another way for someone to 
say they are supportive of the death penalty. The death penalty, to me, is 
revenge. It kills innocent people every year. Many of the families of 
victims do not want the criminals to be put to death. The death penalty 
costs more than a life sentence in jail. It is also racists. 

"Since 1976, there have been five hundred twenty-three executions in 
the United States, twenty-three in 1999 alone. There was only eleven before 
1984. Then the number rose to twenty-one that year. The number of execution 
stayed around twenty then dropped to eleven in 1988. Then it steadily rose 
from there to seventy-four executions in 1997. That was the highest since 
1976."(Death Penalty Information Center, P.1)

There are many different methods of execution used by the government. 
 The most common is lethal injection used by thirty-four states. 
Electrocution is another method, which is used by ten states. The gas 
chamber is used in five states. There are still two states today that use 
hanging as a method of execution. And two other states use a firing squad. 

The death penalty is also extremely racist. There have been 
significantly more executions of minorities than white Americans. Capital 
punishment also goes against the Constitution of the United States. 
Amendments eight and fourteen state that no cruel and unusual punishment can 
be inflicted, and no state can deprive any person of life liberty or 
property. The death penalty clearly takes these privileges away from 
American citizens.

"More than 2000 people are on death row today. Virtually all are 
poor, a significant number are mentally retarded or other wise mentally 
disabled. More than forty percent are African American and disproportionate 
numbers are Native American, Latino, and Asian." (American Civil Liberties 
Union) It does not seem fair that only these people are dying. The 
Constitution states that everyone should be given a fair trial. These 
statistics do not prove to me that these people had a fair trial.
Everybody makes mistakes. If a jury makes a mistake and a person is falsely 
accused of murder when they find out they messed up they want to take the 
sentence away. If the sentence is life in prison, they can tell the person 
they are sorry and they can go free. It does not work that way if they 
sentence a person to death. 

If a jury falsely accuses a person of a crime they did not commit 
with a sentence to death, they can not take it back. It will be too late. 
The person will not be able to get their life back. Every year four innocent 
people are put to death. "Since 1976, seventy people on death row were found 
innocent of the charges they were accused of." (Death Penalty Information 

Although some people feel the death penalty is a good thing, I think it is 
wrong. When someone has committed the crime of murder it creates a great 
loss for the victims family. Does putting the killer to death make the 
family of the victim feel any better? They still have to live with the loss 
of their loved one for the rest of their lives. Taking the life of someone 
else does not redeem the life of the person that was killed. 
In many cases, the families of the victims do not want the murderer to be put 
to death. One case I read about a nine year-old girl was abducted and 
murdered. Her father said, "She was shy, joyous, and happy she would never 
hurt anybody. Hurting someone for her would not really be for her, would not 
honor her, or help us." (Diego Ribadeneira, p.2) What he said is true, it 
does not help the victim or the family to kill the criminal. Her father knew 
she would not want anyone to be hurt for her so the death penalty would not 
help in any way.

When we put criminals on death row for committing the crime of murder, we are 
stooping to their level. Murderers are not role models. Why should we 
follow what they do and kill them in return? "An eye for an eye makes the 
whole world blind."(Ghandi) If we kill people for killing other people we 
are basically saying murder is a good choice. If the government can say that 
a person deserves to die then why can't an ordinary person do the same? 
Last year in Boston, a fifteen year-old boy was killed in a fight over 
jewelry. The boy, Cerrone Hemingway, was shot in the head and died. A 
family member said, "The notion that your child must die because my child 
died? That does not satisfy. It does not bring peace. It only turns our 
hearts to stone." (Diego Ribadeneira, p.3)

This family experienced the great loss of having a loved one killed. Yet 
they still do not feel it is right to put the killer to death. If the family 
of the victim does not think the killer deserves to die, who has the right to 
say they should die? The family is the one who is suffering so they should 
have the right to say they do not want to kill anyone.

Sometimes murderers will kill themselves after committing the crime so they 
will not have to face the consequences of what they have done. That, to me, 
is taking the easy way out. These people would rather be dead, as well as 
the people they killed, then spend the rest of their lives in jail. It is a 
proven fact that the murder rates are lower in states that have done away 
with the death penalty. No one wants to spend his or her life wasting away 
in jail. 

The death penalty is another easy way out. If a person commits a crime as 
horrible as murder they would probably rather die themselves then sit in 
prison for the rest of their lives. They have so much free time to think 
about how they mad the wrong choice. I feel they should have to suffer 
through that in jail not end their lives right away. Life in prison should 
be their punishment not death. 

There is a debate going on now in Massachusetts on whether or not the death 
penalty should be implemented. Cardinal Bernard Law, the leader of the 
Archdiocese of Boston, said, "The teachings of the church are clear, for a 
well-informed Catholic to support capital punishment, it would be morally 
wrong. And if one knowingly rejects the teachings of the church it is wrong, 
morally evil, and a sin." (Boston Globe, Diego Ribadeneira) People who call 
themselves Catholics usually follow the church's rules. If they know it is a 
sin and it will go against their beliefs why would they support the death 

Cardinal Law was talking to Governor Paul Cellucci on this topic. The 
Governor, who is a Catholic himself, strongly supports capital punishment. 
He stated "I'm trying to do what I think is right for Massachusetts. I 
happen to believe putting the death penalty on the books will deter a certain 
amount of horrific violent crime." (Boston Globe, Diego Ribadeneira) 
Through these statements it shows that Governor Cellucci and Cardinal Law 
have two different views of how Catholics should think of the death penalty. 
Looking at it as head of the church in Boston, Cardinal Law feels it is 
morally wrong and it is a sin to have the death penalty. Paul Cellucci, 
being a Catholic and the head politician in Massachusetts, feels it is a good 

 The Cardinal feels Cellucci, being a Catholic, should not want to 
have capital punishment in his state. How can he call himself a Catholic 
when the Cardinal flat out told him God is not for the death penalty? A 
person's fait is in the hands of God not a jury. 

"Certainly, in general, the punishment should fit the crime. But in 
civilized society, we reject the, an eye for an eye, principle of literally 
doing to criminals what they do to their victims. The penalty for rape 
cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonists house. We 
should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death. When the government 
meets of vengeance disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers 
undervaluing human life." (American Civil Liberties Union) 
In conclusion, capital punishment is morally wrong. It is legal murder. The 
government does not have the right to end a person's life or say when it 
should end. The punishment should fit the crime. That is why criminals 
should spend their lives in jail. Capital punishment should not be 
implemented on Massachusetts. 


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