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Wynter Erickson
Professor Celestino
English 1010
November 29, 2016
Capital Punishment: A Punishment by Murder
The world today is full of fear and uncertainty at what people feel they are vulnerable to,
and what they do not understand. As humans, they believe that they know better, that they have
the right answers to all these problems. In some cases, maybe they do, but in others, they do the
unthinkable. Many terrible crimes have been committed in this world, and justice must always be
done, but it must be done humanely to be justice. One of these so-called answers that is
thought to be had is known as capital punishment, or the death penalty. This is not an answer at
all. It is hypocrisy in the highest form. No man has the right to take the life of another. Not even
that of a criminal. The fate of these people are in the hands of the U.S state legislatures, judges,
and members of the juries who have the power to send these people to their deaths. It is
important for them to hear and understand this argument because capital punishment is immoral,
dangerous to the innocent, and expensive and they need to understand why it is so. It is critical
that judges, juries and state legislatures be concerned about capital punishment because it is an
immoral and unconstitutional form of punishment that endangers the lives of the innocent, and
uses up funds that could be used to help the families of the victims while also committing the
same crime the criminals were convicted of.
America is considered by many to be the greatest country in the world. Rights and
freedom are the two things that truly set it apart from the rest of the world, and are what makes it
strong. But like any other young nation, it has struggled with morals and humanity. Its history

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shows many faults when it comes to doing the right thing in difficult situations, and now, it is in
the midst of yet another. Capital punishment is one of Americas greatest downfalls. Although
capital punishment is being practiced in countries all around the world, America should be
greater, given its violent history and lessons that should have been learned at this time in its life.
Capital punishment is immoral. It is a terrible kind of hypocrisy that should not be tolerated in
such a great country. Why is capital punishment practiced? For what crimes is it carried out? The
main reason for capital punishment is to do away with murderers to put it plainly. The people
who know of the terrible things these murderers do show horror and distain at what was done,
and demand justice for those actions. But how they do this is by turning around and legally
murdering the criminal themselves. And they call this justice. Not only is this a terrible thing in
itself, but what is being done leaves blood on the hands of all who have a part in it. Everyone
who gives their consent to kill another human being, at the moment of that persons death, they
become a murderer no matter what the law says. The eighth amendment of the U.S constitution
prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. How is death by lethal injection, lethal gas, hanging,
firing squad, or electrocution not cruel or unusual punishment? How can any of that be justified?
It cant be. Some might argue that death is the only way to secure the safety of the innocent from
the acts of these criminals. However, a sentence of life imprisonment is a sentence that fulfills
the demands of true justice while still securing the safety of innocent citizens. By sending these
criminals to spend the rest of their lives in prison, they are given a chance to understand the
gravity of what they have done. They can see the pain they inflicted on their loved ones, and
must live the rest of their lives denied of freedom and with these terrible burdens weighing on
their minds and hearts. This is what justice should be.

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Inhumanity is not the only aspect that makes capital punishment unjust, though it is an
ever constant attribute, but as does inequality between races. The world and its people have
always struggled with racism and with making it possible for all man to be considered and
treated as equal beings. People use fear as an excuse to treat other races as less, when in reality, it
is simply pride that drives their distain. Capital punishment is something that all men fear, no
matter what race they belong to. However, though white men are more commonly treated with
mercy, African Americans as well as Mexicans are most of the time treated and convicted with
the highest amount of cruelty and mercilessness. Racial discrimination and capital punishment in
America can be traced way back to the countries earliest years. First, slavery, which was its own
form of capital punishment. A punishment that was carried out simply for the crime of being
black. The battle continued even after slavery was abolished and black men were proclaimed
equal. Black men, women and children were killed, constantly, by towns people in masks, with
no trial and with no one who would stand up and speak for them. Death was sentenced to blacks
for crimes that would be considered minor if committed by a white man. In the article The
American Death Penalty and the (In)Visibility of Race, authors Carol S. Steiker & Jordan M.
Steiker state,
Not only did the number of blacks executed surpass the number of whites executed
during the eighteenth century trend that continued until the Civil War), but blacks were
often executed for different crimes. Whereas the vast majority of whites sentenced to
death were executed for murder, substantial numbers of blacks were executed for nonhomicidal crimes. (245)
Not only was the death penalty used to punish blacks for their minor crimes, but it was, and
honestly still is, used as a threat to the race in its entirety. It was, and is, a statement. One that

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says, We have the power to destroy you without reason, be warned. Although society has
improved in some ways since then, blacks are still being treated unfairly due to the color of their
skin. Particularly in the case of unfair accusations and punishments such as the death penalty.
Since the reinstatement of capital punishment in America in 1976, a total of 1,438
executions have been carried out, and the numbers continue to grow as time passes. As science
becomes more accurate, investigators are now able to go back to a crime scene years after its
occurrence and find that many of the convicted criminals were in fact innocent, and many of
them were already dead due to capital punishment. A major scientific study showed that at least
4.1% of defendants executed or on death row have in fact been proven innocent. This is a point
that has been a strong ally in the argument against capital punishment. In the article "Science and
the Death Penalty: DNA, Innocence, and the Debate Over Capital Punishment In The United
States.", author Jay D. Aronson says, On March 18, 2009, Governor Bill Richardson signed a
law repealing the death penalty in New Mexico. Innocence was singled out as the most important
reason for his decision, although given recent economic turmoil, cost was also noted as a
signicant factor (605). New Mexico recognized the problem of falsely accused innocents,
deemed it majorly important and abolished the death penalty from the state altogether. This is
what should be done throughout the U.S because this fact alone is enough to make capital
punishment undesirable in society. In most cases, there is no way for anyone to tell for sure if
someone is truly guilty of a crime. In an effort to carry out justice, guesses are made. Guesses
that decide whether a man will live or die. For one, the death of another is not something for man
to decide. Secondly, this is something that should not, under any circumstances be decided on a
mere guess. Because it is handled in such a way, innocent people, people with homes, jobs, and
families, are being accused of a crime they did not commit, and not only are their very lives

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being taken from them, but also their good names and their honor. In the journal article "Should
The Death Penalty Be Abolished? Arguments For And Against The Centuries-Old Punishment.",
author Nicoleta Adina Gavril states that the right to a fair trial is now days being more often
ignored and it is a complete contradiction to all Americans Constitutional rights. She says that all
legal systems has its limitations and mistakes are inevitable, but capital punishment is such a dire
and permanent punishment that there should be something there to protect the rights of the
wrongly accused. She continues,
Unfortunately, this is not always the case and innocent people are still being wrongfully
convicted and executed. Nevertheless countries in favour of the capital punishment claim
that the advantages outweigh disadvantages and many more innocent lives are being
saved by the enforcement of the death penalty. We wonder how this explanation could be
offered with a straight face to the family of the individual wrongfully convicted. Few
people realize the traumatic effect on families that are handed the death certificate of their
relative, which reads "legal homicide", an oxymoron the States goal is to protect its
citizens, the right to life being the supreme value protected by the State. Such an
experience is bound to have devastating effects on the relatives of the executed person,
especially when the individual in question was convicted unjustly. (83)
People say that the point of capital punishment is to protect the innocent from criminals and their
violence. But what is suppose to protect the innocent from the horrors of the death penalty?
There are so many things to consider when it comes to convicting a person. The evidence that is
thought to be the key to the decision of a persons guilt is not always accurate nor can it be
trusted to decide someones fate. The best alternative to the death penalty is a sentence of life
imprisonment. Life imprisonment is not permanent, and it can be undone in the situation where a

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convict is found to be innocent. Death is final. It can not be undone, nor can the damage that it
bestows upon the lives of all it touches. It is important that the death penalty be abolished
because in doing so, innocent lives will be saved.
One of the most commonly used arguments in favor of capital punishment says that to
keep a criminal alive in prison is costly. They say that it is not right that so much should be spent
to keep a roof over their heads, to keep them fed, and to keep them educated and healthy.
However, what these people do not understand is that the cost of capital punishment is far greater
than that of life in prison. At first contemplation, this does not seem likely. How can the cost of a
fast death outdo that of a full life? In the journal article The Price of Justice, author Jolie
McLaughlin states the findings of researchers on the costs of capital punishment. She says,
In 1988, The Miami Herald reported that the cost of the death penalty in Florida was
$3.2 million per execution compared to $600,000 for life imprisonment. Similarly, The
Dallas Morning News reported in 1992 that the trials and appeals of a capital case alone
cost Texas $2.3 million per case on average, which was approximately three times the
cost of imprisoning someone for forty years (689)
For many years, death penalty abolitionists have argued against it by exploring the moral
wrongness of capital punishment, and by making it known to all who would listen. However, it
has been discovered that cost has had much more success in its abolition in many U.S states. In
each and every state that practices capital punishment, scientific studies have been done to show
the financial burden that the death penalty has bestowed upon their economic standings. For
example, Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Paula M. Mitchell wrote an article on the financial cost of
the death penalty in California since its reestablishment in 1978. The study found that since
1978, California has spent over 4 billion dollars on capital punishment. This cost was distributed

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among the many costly parts that are required to convict, sentence, and actually kill and
incarcerate the criminal. Of that $4 billion, approximately $1.94 billion went to pre-trial and trial
costs, $0.925 went to automatic appeals and state habeas corpus petitions, $0.775 went to federal
habeas corpus appeals , and $1 billion went to the costs of incarceration. It was also discovered
that capital cases cost 10-20 times more than cases that do not involve the death penalty. The cost
of executing is so great that it is a major burden to a states finances, and it takes a great deal of
time for the money to become available. In many cases, prisoners on death row die of old age
waiting for execution before they can actually be executed. One of the authors of this article,
Judge Arthur L. Alarcon says, "The current backlog of death penalty cases is so severe that most
of the 714 prisoners now on death row will wait well over 20 years before their cases are
resolved. Many of these condemned inmates will thus languish on death row for decades, only to
die of natural causes while still waiting for their cases to be resolved" (34). These costs are all for
capital punishment in the state of California alone. What is the point in burdening the state with
the trouble of these costs if a good percentage of these inmates die of natural causes anyway? To
spend such a large amount of money on the death of one person is absolutely ridiculous. That
money that is being so foolishly spent to kill for justice, could be better used to provide for the
families of the criminals victim. The money of the U.S states should go to greater causes than
murder and fake justice.
The death penalty is a dark and brutal part of the human culture. There is little humanity
in it, and it takes the good out of many normally good people. For centuries, people have argued
over the definition of justice and what it truly means to carry it out. However, the true meaning
of justice has been lost in all the horrors of the world. Hypocrisy and violence has replaced it in
the form of the death penalty. America has grown in her dark and violent history. She has risen to

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extraordinary heights and has become a beacon of hope in a world flooded in sadness, and
darkness, but she still suffers from the inside. Death still plagues her. Many wars have been
fought to protect and preserve human rights. However, the death penalty is keeping this country
from reaching it strongest potential. The possibility of America becoming what she is capable of
remains in the hands of the U.S state legislatures, judges, and members of the juries. It is critical
that judges, juries and state legislatures be concerned about capital punishment because it is an
immoral and unconstitutional form of punishment that endangers the lives of the innocent, and
uses up funds that could be used to help the families of the victims while also committing the
same crime the criminals were convicted of. America could truly be the greatest country in the
world if true justice and goodness could be restored within her.

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Works Cited
Alarcon, Arthur L., and Paula M. Mitchell. "Costs Of Capital Punishment In California: Will
Voters Choose Reform This November [Notes]." Loyola Of Los Angeles Law Review 1
(2012): 221. HeinOnline. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. (34)
Aronson, Jay D., and Simon A. Cole. "Science and the Death Penalty: DNA, Innocence, and the
Debate Over Capital Punishment In The United States." Law & Social Inquiry 34.3
(2009): 603-633. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Oct. 2016. (605)
Gavril, Adina Nicoleta. "Should The Death Penalty Be Abolished? Arguments For And Against
The Centuries-Old Punishment." Journal For Communication & Culture 1.2 (2011): 8298. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2016. (83)
McLaughlin, Jolie. "The Price Of Justice: Interest-Convergence, Cost, And The Anti-Death
Penalty Movement." Northwestern University Law Review 108.2 (2014): 675-710.
Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Oct. 2016. (689)
Pilkington, Ed. US death row study: 4% of defendants sentenced to die are innocent The
Guardian Web. 28 April 2014.
Steiker, Carol S., and Jordan M. Steiker. "The American Death Penalty And The (In)Visibility Of
Race." University Of Chicago Law Review 82.1 (2015): 243-294. Legal Collection. Web.
16 Oct. 2016. (245)