How the Death Penalty Takes Lives

What is the worth of a human life? Is it invaluable or indispensable? Or perhaps its something as cheap as things we place monetary value on? Can it be bought? Can it be sold? Can it be traded? But most of all, can it be avenged?  A wise Alfred Nobel once said, “Justice is to be found only in imagination.” Human life on the other hand is not. Its something physically there, and who are we as a society to judge the actions of the owner of that life? Are we not gods at that point; stripping away the humanity and lives’ of the people? Do we not then have the right to take anything out of the world as we see fit? Is that not our right as citizens of this great country? This all seems vaguely familiar…

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The death penalty; an archaic idea that you can pay blood with blood dating back to as early as 621 B.C. in Athens, but we are not Athenians. The world is no longer in the time period of the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Dark Ages, or any of that crimson-stained history anymore. We’re not draw-and-quartering, burning, decapitating, or anything else to make examples out of people; not to mention at the cost of a possibly reformable or mistaken human life. This society is evolving and now is time to cast aside certain dogmas and dispense enlightenment. This morbid tradition cast in into the future by the uneducated past is crippling the idea of what an advanced society should become.

Does someone truly have to die? As a species, we are constantly looking for ways to better ourselves and for the most part, improve the world. The moment anyone is injected with a syringe of sodium thiopental and they slowly fall into their pre-death coma, their life is not just taken; the potential of something greater for our species is taken. In a way by killing convicts we’re killing ourselves. By no means am I saying that the act that placed them there or whatever atrocities they committed are tolerable, or even forgivable. But I’m saying justice has a line, and that line is drawn at life. Here’s an idea of how dated this barbaric concept is, just take a gander at the ‘Code of Hammurabi,’ one of the oldest and well preserved texts in human history dating back to Ancient Babylon, 1754 BC:

Ridiculous and silly, as it might sound. Sorcerers and wizards, as we all know can’t swim. We keep an ideal that is parallel to magic, I’m sure most people can fathom how ludicrous that sounds. But let’s take a long stride from this sense of morality and wizardry, and try to ignore the fact that we share similar capital punishment policy as Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, et cetera. Let’s look at facts, cold hard irrefutable facts. Let’s look at the mountainous evidence as to why we’re all losing.

Okay, I’ll start with the front-most in people’s minds. But it deters criminals, no one wants to die! The truth is, criminals don’t care. FBI data shows that 14 states without capital punishment still had homicide rates at the national level. Most murderers can probably figure out that their life is over either way, whether it be from behind bars or through a syringe. People understand the act and consequences of murders and it is not deterring anyone.

This Mr. Muhlhausen must have a Ph.D in bullshit, if he thinks for a moment this is saving more lives than it has senselessly taken. Data shows since the year 1973 more than 140 people have been released from their “death rows” with new evidence being gathered, while that same evidence shows that over 1,200 have been executed under false accusations. Could you imagine being falsely accused and being dragged through the judicial system like you’re some sort of a monster? Then after they leave you in a cell to await your impending death, you try to accept the fact that you’re going to die. Finally, they pull you from your cell or you trudge willingly like a broken person and accept death’s cold embrace while your loved ones weep with inability to do anything other than look forward; simply sobbing and wondering how you could have done such an act.

BUT HEY, guess what? We found some new evidence and you’re fre- Oh wait, you’re dead. You’re dead as hell, and the government’s a bunch of murderers. So, now not only have we let one murderer get away, we’ve wrongly accuse an innocent. We’ve made everyone in the judicial system, including the prosecutor, judge, bailiff, and jury murderers. We could all become victims of these unruly circumstances. And what can you do? Nothing. At least without the penalty they keep their life, at least they someday have a hope of getting out, but to take a life with no gain other than to pay a blood tax is incredibly disappointing. Disappointing is the word, because we should expect more from our government, you sign a social contract with these people when you’re born and you’re repaid with dying over a social stigma? Thomas Hobbes once described a world without government as “nasty, brutish and short,” shouldn’t it be the exact opposite in a world with it?

What about all the other variables? Almost all death row inmates can’t afford their own attorney, then there is local politics, location, plea bargaining, race, et ceterajust making this one big death lottery. Even on the racial statistics this is just an inefficient way of doing things. Jurors in Washington State have shown to be 3 times more likely to sentence a black man to death over a white in a similar case. In Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence are 97%(Ninety-seven here, people) likely to those whose victims were white. I hate bringing up race just as much as the next person, but these are facts. The south alone in our country executes more than any other region, what does that say when many other regions have more population and crime? Race and geography are factors here and it’d be not only foolish, but illogical to deny them. Sometimes there are racists, and sometimes a racist would love nothing more than to satiate their hate by sending some minority off to jail, regardless of the circumstances.

Last and definitely least, the cost. We as a country are known to be crappy spenders, but do you know how crappy? In Kansas, death penalty cases typically cost around $1.26 million all the way to the execution, while keeping an inmate in prison costs only $740,000. We use over $100 million in California alone keeping the death penalty instated, for a system that could potentially be as cheap as $11.5 million. We’re paying for the wrong things and people are dying in other ways supporting this, this is money that could be spent on education, sciences, social security, unemployment, and HealthCare; even military outweighs this.

And, you want to know the worst part about it? You’re paying for it. You’re paying the government to kill people. I know, it’s a disturbing thought. Because I’m a tax payer like everyone else, I’m no different. But we have to look in the mirror right now and ask ourselves; what is more important here as a person, country, and species? This isn’t a matter for tomorrow just because many people don’t get executed, this is about principles. Does this repaid blood debt outweigh all the money spent, innocent lives lost, and potential lost to this world? Must we flay someone if they flay someone we love? Or are we more than that? Revenge and vengeance can only quench a heart of darkness. And so, I ask you again, dear reader, what is the worth of a human life?

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3 thoughts on “How the Death Penalty Takes Lives

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your opinion on the death penalty article. I wrote my blog on the same article but we come in at different angles. I never thought about how some people were killed even though they were actually innocent and before they found the evidence to prove that, the person had already been killed. That really struck me. It’s crazy how easily the death penalty can be given out. I have to wonder if they still give that sentencing out as easy nowadays with all scrutiny that it’s facing. I also had done some outside research to support my article but your research on the cost of the death penalty versus keeping them in prison is surprising. I would’ve thought that keeping a person in prison would cost more. I thought you had a very strong argument and I agree with you entirely. Very good writing, if I didn’t know any better I would think you do this for a living as a professional!

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  2. You make excellent points. My views on this issue have ebbed and flowed over time (see my comments on a classmate’s post here: https://abbeybsweeney.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/the-death-penalty-aka-legal-murder/). It’s tough. Life doesn’t necessarily mean life any more. When criminals do heinous things and the public has no assurance they won’t be sent back into society, people get scared. If you have a strong stomach, you can check out the story of the Petit family murders in Connecticut (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/jury-selection-begins-petit-connecticut-family-murder-trial/story?id=9608303). What do we do with criminals like these two? I definitely don’t have the answers, but I know our current system is seriously flawed.

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    • I believe that we as a country just have to reform our policies with that sort of thing. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but I feel like taking away the death penalty would shower in many more reforms. I agree that the things those men were heinous and empathy-deprived, but their death does physical nothing for anyone. We simply make life mean life or turn the prison system into an actual place of rehabilitation. People become literal “slaves of the state” and honestly, I believe that’s suitable punishment enough while they still are capable of giving back. It just seems awfully redundant to solve death with more death. Of course there’ll always be grey areas and people who scurry through cracks in the system, but nothing is impenetrable. Should we really cut out all the work just because death is a much easier and satisfying solution? I think not. And even for the most heinous criminals we have done other things, solitary confinement for life seems like a far worse punishment than dying. Our system is flawed, but it is even more flawed when the government can look it’s citizens in the face and say “Yeah, we’ve accidentally killed innocent people.” Or give the message that blood can only be paid with blood.

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