We should abolish the death penalty because…

  • Innocence: the death penalty executes innocent people. Many innocent people have been exonerated from death row, and evidence now shows that the death penalty has killed many innocent people. Once the sentence has been executed, there is not going back. The death penalty is the ultimate price: death. If later found to be not guilty, for instance from the discovery of new evidence (e.g. DNA, other confessions, recanting of witness testimony), the nobody can save the innocent man because the state already executed him.
  • Racism: the death penalty is racially and ethnically biased. Statistics show that if you are a black man convicted of murdering a white woman, then you are far more likely to get the death penalty than if the victim is not white and the perpetrator is white. Studies show that the death penalty is unfairly administered against people of color, and that race, a non-legal factor, influences who receives the death penalty.
  • Class: the death penalty is unfairly administered against poor people. Facts show that the quality of legal defense is the most important factor in determining who gets and who doesn’t get the death penalty. Poorer people who can’t afford decent legal defense often claim they were not given a fair trial because of the incompetency of their lawyer, like sleeping during trial. On the contrary, richer people who can afford a better legal defense are less likely to receive the death penalty. Socioeconomic status, a non-legal factor, determines who does/doesn’t get the death penalty, showing the system is class biased and administered in a discriminatory manner.
  • Arbitrariness: the death penalty is still administered arbitrarily. Who gets the death penalty and who doesn’t is still random, and comparable to who gets struck by lightning and who doesn’t. The system is out of control, and we must at least halt all executions to stop the arbitrary execution of our citizenry.
  • Closure: the death penalty does not bring closure to the victims’ families and actually causes more pain for the victims’ families. Much personal testimony suggests that the death penalty does not bring closure, or a sense of resolution and/or peace of mind, for the families of victims. Often death penalty advocates use the idea of closure for victims’ families to justify the death penalty, yet many families claim the death penalty does not bring them closure, and only causes them more pain because more death is justified to serve them (“not in my name”).
  • Retribution: the death penalty does not serve as a retributionist form of justice; retribution is revenge. Using retribution to justify the death penalty promotes the vengeful attitudes of the victims’ families, and only causes more death, not justice. Many supporters of the death penalty say those who receive it “deserve it.” Yet, how can we say that killing people is wrong by killing people? A death for a death or an “eye for an eye” (lex talionis, just deserts) does not create justice, only more death.
  • Morality: the death penalty is immoral: killing people is wrong, no matter what they’ve done. How can we show that killing people is wrong by killing people? Everyone has the right to life, and the state does not have the power to end human life. Most religions and many religious organizations oppose the death penalty.
  • Deterrence: the death penalty does not deter crime. Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty does not deter/prevent crime. Studies show that most crimes are crimes of passion, and the states with the death penalty have just as high crime rates as the states without.
  • Cost: the death penalty is actually more expensive than life without parole (LWOP). Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty actually costs more per inmate than the life without parole option.
  • International perspective: many countries view the death penalty as barbaric. The United States is the only Western democracy to still have the death penalty. As a result, the United States has lost a lot of international credibility as a result of its vast and uncontrolled use of the death penalty.

CEDP Convention 2005