Barnard College's Monthly Magazine
In an increasingly violent society that glorifies the use of lethal weapons and allows mass murders to occur with far too much regularity, the morality of the death penalty is today’s most important topics. While the tragedies resulting from these terrifying events are incomprehensible, violence only begets violence. One could argue that because James Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado shooter, killed 12 people, he therefore must be killed himself. However, from a moral view, should the federal government be allowed to kill him? If a government takes the standpoint that killing is wrong, the appropriate act would therefore be to imprison Holmes for life rather than condemn him to death. Killing James Holmes will not bring back the lives that he stole. What it will do, however, is preach the acceptability of revenge and continue the cycle of violence plaguing this country. Expressing violence only reinforces the desire to express it. Additionally, it is the role of the government to uphold one of the country’s most sacred texts, the Bill of Rights. The death penalty is an unusually severe punishment, and one that violates the “cruel and unusual” clause of this bill.
Some might argue that if the government were to put James Holmes to death, it would send a message to others dissuading them from performing horrible acts of violence. To counter that argument, one could introduce the statistical proof against it: the crime and murder rates are not lower in states that maintain the death penalty than in states that do not. Additionally, states that have abolished capital punishment show no significant changes in either of those rates according to data collected between 1990-2010 by Amnesty USA. Therefore, there is clearly no deterring effect from the death penalty.
Those in favor of the death penalty often argue that it is too costly for an individual to linger in prison until his death, and that in fact it is cheaper for him to be killed. However, a study from The Economist reports that the cost of the death penalty results in an increase in expense for taxpayers. The Economist’s study reveals that in Maryland, the death penalty cost $168 million between 1978 and 1999, and a case that resulted in a death sentence cost $3 million, which is $2 million more than when the death penalty was not enacted. Everything necessary in a death penalty case is also necessary in an ordinary case, with the addition of more time spent, more attorneys, more experts, and more trials as there would have to be more trials, one to establish guilt and an additional trial to determine if the guilty individual should be executed.
These are just a few of the many arguments that can be made against the death penalty. At the end of the day, this country should not condone violence and parade it as an acceptable practice and a tactic for revenge. It should, under all circumstances, be abolished. According to Amnesty International, 90% of the world’s countries are not executing, and 95 countries have abolished it while 58 still maintain the use of capital punishment. The US is the only western, industrialized country to maintain the death penalty. This is an immoral, unacceptable, and horrifying practice that must be eradicated in full.
By Emily Voletsky