Top 10 Arguments Against the Death Penalty

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In countries, provinces, or states where it’s still legal, the death penalty will always be a controversial issue. Be it a religious debate, a legal debate, or a moral debate, the question surrounding the death penalty always returns to the core issue of a government’s right to kill a person for committing a capital offense under its laws. However, the law can be anything its host government wants it to be, as was the case with Nazi Germany, or the law, governed by imperfect humans, can make mistakes that will cost a person their life.

There are countless arguments raging about the death penalty in venues ranging from the dinner table to the Supreme Court, and some of them simply make you wonder if the death penalty truly is the right thing to do. Here are ten of the most common and best arguments against administering the ultimate form of judicial retribution.

10. Geographical Bias


The death penalty is not legal in every American state, nor is it legal in every worldwide country. In fact, the majority of countries and continents in the world either have a full ban on the death penalty, have excluded the death penalty for every crime short of crimes against humanity, or have the death penalty but choose to almost never administer it.

If one criminal kills two families of four in Calgary, Canada, and another is a pre-meditated cop-killer is the state of Texas, legally, the first criminal has a 0% chance of execution while the second criminal pretty much has a 100% chance of execution. Two reprehensible crimes, but the perpetrator of the worst of the two crimes will not be punished to the same extent as his counterpart. Not sure how this is fair.

9. Financial Bias


In at least America, if you can afford the right lawyer, you’ve got the best legal system in the world. As we’ve learned from celebrities, businessmen, and possibly even political figures in the past, a person can get away with almost anything with the right amount of stature or money. As an example, regardless of O.J. Simpson’s true innocence or guilt in the murders of which he was accused, it is a commonly held belief that without the assistance of Johnny Cochrane, Robert Shapiro, and various other legal experts Simpson had retained, he would’ve been found guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown and Rob Goldman for certain. At the time, pleading not guilty to double murder in California carried with it only two punishments: life imprisonment and execution. With the money to afford some of the best lawyers in the country, people who know how juries tick and have virtuoso skill in creating reasonable doubt, the outcome just might’ve been different.

8. Innocents


Folks, contrary to popular belief and as the advent of DNA evidence has proven to us, not everyone who is imprisoned is guilty of the crime of which they were convicted. In 2008, Glen Chapman, who spent 13 years on death row, was set free due to the discovery that an investigator from his first trial withheld critical evidence. Another inmate, John Ballard, was released from death row after a judge ruled his case should’ve never even come to initial trial. What is scary isn’t the thought that a man could spend over a decade waiting to die for a crime they didn’t commit, it’s how many times its probably actually happened, and how responsible the legal system could be for the deaths of the same innocent people it’s designed to protect.

7. Gender Bias


“Since 1977, nearly 1,100 inmates have been executed in the U.S.; only 11 were women, “according to While this could be attributed to the fact that less women are in prison than men, from the eyes of a jury, it is also possible that a woman who commits a violent crime still cannot be seen as threatening as a man who commits the same crime, so electing a death sentence for a female criminal would be harder.

6. Contradictory to the Constitution


The American constitution vehemently and bluntly outlaws the use of cruel and unusual punishment as an option during the process of enforcing justice upon criminals. However, the electric chair, which has been known to combust people sentenced to die by it, was the choice method of execution for nearly a century. While the lethal injection is currently the choice form of execution, the electric chair may still be employed, as can a firing squad or a hanging. The government continues to search for a humane method of taking a life whereas the act of taking a life is by definition inhumane.

5. The Punishment Doesn’t Always Fit the Crime


According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in 2003, 23 year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van reportedly “wept and punched through a wall” when he was arrested for attempting to smuggle 396.2 grams into Singapore. Perhaps Mr. Van was a quite upset over the fact that if found guilty at trial, he faced certain death. Singapore, possibly the strictest of all countries concerning law and punishment worldwide, is also one of the few countries that will enforce the death penalty for drug-related offenses. Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, an individual faces a mandatory death sentence for smuggling 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, 500 grams of marijuana, 200 grams of hashish, and can face the death penalty for so much as trying to manufacture drugs. Kidnapping, arms trafficking, and illegally carrying a gun also carry a mandatory death sentence. Similarly, Australian “Ganja Queen” Schapelle Corby initially faced the death penalty under Indonesian law when she was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle 4.2 kg of cannabis across Indonesian borders.

These examples prove you don’t need to take a life to legally forfeit your own in every corner of the world, and while a smuggler’s home country can attempt to save their citizen, ultimately the country they committed the crime in has the final say. While the death penalty wasn’t enforced on Schapelle Corby, who many believe to be innocent, she will not see release from prison until 2024. Unfortunately for Nguyen Tuong Van, the courts of Singapore very much meant business: he was executed by hanging in 2005.

4. Ignores Possibility of Redemption


Retribution vs. Redemption. Possibly the most controversial death penalty case within the past several years, Stanley “Tookie” Williams, who was sentenced to death for four murders in 1979, petitioned for clemency prior to his date of execution in 2005. While Stanley Williams was initially hostile during his imprisonment, he began to redeem himself through acting as an anti-gang activist, writing children’s books that taught anti-gang morals, and apologizing for the co-founding of the Crips. If genuine atonement and redemption is possibly for a horrible crime, Stanley Williams may have stood as an example of it. Williams was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to this effect.

When Williams’ clemency was denied and his execution was carried out in December 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said about this about the denial of clemency: “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.”

Is setting terms for genuine redemption really the fair thing to do, especially when you don’t genuinely know a person? Redemption is still possible even if a criminal doesn’t fit into an individual’s view of redemption. One criminal might attempt to redeem themselves by donating money to the family of his victims, another might simply confess to the crime. If there is even a chance a person seeks to atone for their actions, they become capable of doing good things, which makes them more valuable to the human race alive than dead.

3. Racial Bias


If 2009 stats are any indication, the chances of a criminal going to death row are higher than that of any other race. African-Americans currently comprise 45% of the death row population, while Caucasians comprise 41%. discovered that Sister Helen Prejean, one of America’s leading anti-death penalty proponents, conducted a study that revealed race plays a major role in the likelihood of a criminal receiving the death penalty for a capital crime. Although racial bias in the legal system is an entirely different, lengthier, and heated debate, true fairness in the legal system is impossible if a defendant is being judged by skin color. Entrusting a defendant’s life to a system that has an admitted bias, in itself, could be considered morally irresponsible.

2. Life in Prison as an Alternative

California Prisons

Tying a rope around a criminal’s neck, dropping them through a trap door so that they “hang by the neck until dead” and leaving them to rot within horrendous prison living standards until dead may vary greatly in the time it takes to die, but the outcome is still the same.

According to studious people of, the cost to house death row inmates is $63,000,000…just for one year. By comparison, housing life-imprisonment inmates is only $11,300,000 annually. If the outcome ultimately does not change, the criminal is out of society either way, justice is done, and taxpayer dollars can even be saved, why is the death penalty necessary?

Of course, there’s the argument that keeping someone on death row for 3-5 years is cheaper in the long run than leaving a criminal in prison for the next 25-50 years, think again. Lavell Frierson, who murdered Edgargo Kramer, stayed on death row for 27 years, in which his repeated appeals cost the state of San Francisco countless dollars. After 27 years, Frierson’s conviction was overturned for the third time in 2006, which renders all financial expenses to kill him a waste. Lavell isn’t even the longest to wait on death row, as Jack Alderman served on Death Row for 33 years before his execution in 2006.

Financially, this is the best option, though there may be one better morally…

1. “An Eye For An Eye Leaves the Whole World Blind”


The pieces of human filth that end the lives of others because of criminal need or even pleasure are truly monsters, but still, ending their lives will not bring back their victims back to life. The death of a murderer cannot bring peace to the victim, the death of a murderer cannot reverse the crime, and the death of a single murderer will never ensure that the act of murder never takes place again.

Let’s face it, the life of people who do these terrible things is of little value to the average person, but a life is still a life, regardless of that person’s crimes, and all lives are of some value. Do we advocate execution of the terminally ill because their lives are “already over”, or execute the mentally retarded because they may be unable to contribute to society on the same level of the average person? The law supposedly exists because the human eye shouldn’t be capable of judging or punishing a person, but the eyes of the law, through the judge and the jury, are still human.

Hypothetically, 12 people in a jury box deciding if a person should die for the crime of murder is no different than any 12 people who decide upon the value of a person’s life, based on the standards of their society. A jury that elects death for a serial arsonist and a group of Muslims that stone a woman for adultery are acting in the same capacity; they are obeying the law and serving the law by enforcing it. However, if human beings are imperfect, who are we to say what crimes give us the right to kill another? By giving ourselves the right to end another’s life, through the law or even through vigilantism, we share a common ground with the monsters who commit these crimes in the first place, and that ground should be far, far beneath the footing of any law-abiding human being.