The death penalty should meet its end


This upcoming election, Californians will literally make a life or death decision, and I hope they choose life.

Two initiatives concerning the death penalty will be on the ballot come Nov. 8 – Propositions 62 and 66. Prop. 62 seeks to end executions, while Prop. 66 seeks to expedite them. I urge you to vote yes on 62, and no on 66.

Even if you don’t share the same ethical reservations, the legal application of capital punishment is less than practical.

In California alone, the total cost of enforcing the death penalty has been over $4 billion – and that’s in a state that has only carried out 13 executions, setting each sentence at the lofty price of $308 million. For reference, that is almost 10 times the amount of money spent on a life in prison sentence.

Obviously, the system needs reform. But speeding it up is not the answer.

Specifically, Prop. 66 aims to quicken the appeals process by lessening the requirements for lawyers who are “qualified” enough to represent death row inmates in said appeals process and requiring that state courts review the habeas corpus petitions, as opposed to federal courts.  

But here lies a paradox –  the court that oversaw the case initially will be looking at the very same case once again in search of an error they missed the first time. Conflict of interest, much?

With faster executions, will come faster trials, in which innocent people are sure to be sentenced to death prematurely.

To be in favor of the death penalty is to be in favor of killing people who commit the worst crimes on humanity, but also, every once in awhile, an innocent person.

There have been 344 DNA exonerations since the advent of forensic testing, 18 of which were for individuals on death row. One study by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that at least 4.1 percent of death row inmates are, in actuality, innocent.

And I know, these numbers may seem miniscule, but they are far from that. When we’re talking about thousands of individuals, 4 percent can easily translate to more than one hundred innocents killed, essentially murders at the hand of our government.

 We’re never going to get it right in every single case. Because of human fallibility, innocent people will always be killed if capital punishment is legal – there will always be corrupt prosecutors, misleading evidence and human error.

But even executing convicted killers does not accomplish anything of value. It doesn’t change the fact that the crime occurred, and it certainly doesn’t prevent crimes from occurring in the future.

Across the nation, homicide rates are consistently lower in states that have abolished the death penalty. In 2014, states with the death penalty had a homicide rate that was 28 percent greater than those without it. So, clearly it is ineffective in deterring crimes as well.

It’s understandable to want vengeance. But wanting something does not necessarily mean it should be granted.

If someone violently raped my sister, I would want them to be burnt at the stake. But that’s not how justice works.    

Humans by nature are morally ambiguous; that’s why we need laws and blind, impartial justice that is NOT based on visceral reactions. Bloodlust should not be the motivation behind any branch of government, and especially not the judicial branch.

Do you want to live in a country where the government has the ability to lawfully kill its citizens?

What we know is that the death penalty is expensive, doesn’t deter violent crime and potentially kills innocent civilians. Any system that flawed should be abolished.