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David Demoll
Sarah Hughes
English 1102
5 April 2016
Osama bin Laden was shot in the head by six Navy Seals because he was the mastermind
behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. He destroyed the Twin Towers and killed 2,752
innocent people. Many people believe that the death penalty is a worthy punishment for terrorists
and those that commit murder. Another commonly held belief is that if potential criminals knew
they would be executed, they would reconsider their murderous deeds. I disagree with these
claims and believe the death penalty should be banned from society. The legal costs are a heavy
burden for tax payers and it has been proven that corporeal punishment is not an effective
deterrent to crime. This issue deserves serious analysis if America wants to win the war against
The idea that the death penalty deters crime is a myth created by lawmakers to appear
tough on crime. In January of 1995, Hart Research Associates conducted a national opinion
survey of various police chiefs to determine their preferred method to fight crime. Law
enforcement officers are the first line of defense and often put themselves at risk to keep
neighborhoods safe. Capital punishment ranked a distant last, with only 1% of the chiefs citing
it as their primary focus for stopping violent crime (DPIC). Another way to examine this
theory is to see if murder rates are lower in states that use the death penalty. The statistics show
the complete opposite. The murder rate is 46% lower in states that dont have the death penalty
(DPIC). Crime is a complex issue and simply imposing a death penalty does not deter
criminals from committing acts of violence.
Several academic studies over the past 6 years contradict this viewpoint. According to a
2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University, each execution deters an average of

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18 murders. These statistical studies all explore the same basic premise: If the cost of something,
the act of murder, becomes too high, people will change their behavior (Alfano).
Another problem with the death penalty is that sentences are carried out years after the
crime is committed with a substantial likelihood that the sentence will be overturned. Life in
prison is a much more effective deterrent for reducing crime because these sentences begin
immediately and are rarely overturned on appeal. When polled in the 1995 opinion study, Most
law officers believe the most effective deterrent to crime is swift and sure punishment for the
offenders (DPIC). Whereas, the death penalty doesnt deter crime because of the long arduous
trial process in our court system.
Another reason Capital Punishment should be outlawed is because innocent people get
executed due to racial profiling and poor representation for low income individuals. There is a
distinct possibility that innocent people can be executed. From 1973 until 2004, 7,482 people
were sentenced to death. Among them, 117 were exonerated, which gives an error rate of 1.6%.
(Lopatto). The percentage is small, but each life taken because of a wrongful penalty is a tragedy.
The death penalty also targets the poor because they cant afford quality representation in court.
The best defense lawyers often come with a hefty price tag, out of reach of low income
Americans. The death penalty is more prevalent in racial populations. Black defendants
convicted of killing whites have been sentenced to death 15 times more often than white
defendants convicted of killing blacks (Cohen).
Proponents of Capital Punishment argue that it is highly unlikely to execute innocent
people. One of the biggest arguments against the death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure,
we can never completely eliminate all uncertainty, but today, it's about as close as you can get.
DNA testing is over 99 percent effective (Head). In todays court system, the criminal can appeal
his verdict up into the higher courts. If any doubts about the evidence occur, the criminal can
have his case tried again in a higher court. This review process makes absolutely sure that the

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evidence is correct. With the current technology available, court system execution errors are very
Another major obstacle to the death penalty is the high cost, which results in less money
for more effective measures of preventing crime. The death penalty cost $2 million when life in
prison is roughly $500,000 (Cohen). Thats four times more expensive! A prisoner could be on
death row for 15-20 years, racking up costs from judges, attorneys, court reporters, clerks, and
court facilities. The $2 million would be better spent on buying thousands of bullet-proof vests,
improved lighting in high crime areas, or to seed money for neighborhood watch programs. The
average salary for a new police officer is roughly $42,000 annually. $2 million dollars would
translate into approximately 48 additional police officers to patrol a high crime neighborhood.
(DPIC). These practical measures would be far more effective use of taxpayer dollars to
prevent crime.
Proponents of the death penalty argue that the high cost is worth it to prevents reoffending criminals. It is undeniable that those who are executed cannot commit further crimes
(BJS). There have been cases of people committing murder inside prison. Although the
offender is not a danger to the public, he still remains a threat to other inmates and prison staff.
In the case that a prisoner escapes, he poses a great threat to the public society because he is
trying to avoid re-capture at all costs (BJS).
The arguments against the death penalty heavily outweigh the positives. Former supreme
court Justice Stevens changed his position on the issue. After three decades on the Supreme
Court, Stevens decided the death penalty had been incorrectly applied in ways that were
discriminatory, arbitrary, and excessive (Cohen). Stevens change in viewpoint should reinforce
the beliefs of those who oppose the death penalty and cause much reflection for those who do.

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Works Cited
Alfano, Sean. "Death Penalty Deters Murders, Studies Say." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 11 June
2007. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
"Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) - Federal Prisons." Federal Prisons. Bureau of Justice
Statistics, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Cohen, Adam. "Stevens' Powerful Anti-Death-Penalty Views." Time. Time Inc., 01 Dec. 2010.
Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
"DPIC. Death Penalty Info Center., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.
Head, Tom. "5 Common Arguments for the Death Penalty." News & Issues. About
News, 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
Lopatto, Elizabeth. "How Many Innocent People Are Sentenced To Death?" Forbes. Forbes
Magazine, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.