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Abolishing the Death Penalty

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Abolishing the Death Penalty

The most basic definition of the death penalty is the killing of individuals as a punishment for committing murder. Currently in the United States thirty-three of the fifty states have the ability to sentence individuals on trail for murder to death. Since 1976 there have been 1,295 executions in America (Facts 1). There is not much (if any) data to determine how many of the people executed were in fact innocent, because once a crime has been 'solved' and the perpetrator has been executed investigation stops; however since 1973 one hundred and forty people have been released from death row due to new evidence proving their innocence ("Innocence"). If one hundred and forty people have been wrongly convicted and later proved innocent, how many of the 1,295 executions that have occurred were also innocent individuals? Unfortunately, the answer will probably remain a mystery but there is something that can be done to ensure that innocent blood will no longer be shed; abolish the death penalty. There are a multitude of reasons why the death penalty needs to be abolished but the three most important are the morality surrounding the death penalty, the expensive costs, and it's overall ineffectiveness.

To kill someone is universally impermissible. Most would agree that under no circumstance is it ever okay to take another's life. New York University Professor and American philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote an article titled "Death" focusing on why death is bad. He concludes that death is considered to be such an evil not because of the actual state of being dead but rather because of the loss of a life. Death deprives individuals of all of their future possibilities and the life they could have lived (7). To most, the understanding that killing is wrong would be considered common knowledge, or common sense. If someone was asked if it was acceptable to kill another human being one would assume the answer instinctively to be no; yet the government has used murder as a punishment for 1,295 people. These blatant murders have been disguised as justice, when in fact this form of punishment violates the very document our country uses to provide justice. According to the eighth amendment to the United States Constitution cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited. In their article, "Declaring the Death Penalty Unconstitutional" Dershowiz and Goldberg question the death penalty in regards to the eighth amendment. "[I]s [...] capital punishment constitutionally permissible in this country[?] The cruel and unusual punishment clause of the eighth amendment is directly in point. Yet the argument that the death penalty is unconstitutional under that clause has been generally avoided or briefly dismissed (1174)." The article goes on to explain that even when questioned, the Supreme Court never explicitly expressed if the death penalty is or is not cruel and unusual punishment (Derchowiz, Goldberg 1175). Not only is killing immoral, the implementation of the death penalty appears to be unconstitutional.

While the morality of the death penalty remains in the gray area and it cannot be completely determined immoral, it is an undeniable fact the cost of the death penalty is extremely high. "The death penalty is the most expensive part of the [criminal justice] system on a per-offender basis. Millions are spent to achieve a single death sentence that, even if imposed, is unlikely to be carried out (Dieter 3)." The cost of long term imprisonment is estimated to be approximately $25,000 a year, where the cost of an actual executions is estimated to be under one thousand dollars; but because of lawyer fees, appeals, trials, and many other factors than

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