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The Inhumanity of the Death Penalty

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The Inhumanity of the Death Penalty

Conner Hua, Photography Editor

1,600 years ago, the death penalty in Egypt required non-nobility to take their own lives with an ax. Fast forward 1,100 years later and Athenian law established burial alive, drowning at sea, and impalement as accepted forms of capital punishment. Fast forward around 600 years later and new techniques evolved, including stoning, hanging, and crucifixion. 300 years more and hanging became a prominent form of the death penalty, alongside burning alive for more grave crimes and beheading. As time passed, hanging continued to be the preferred method of capital punishment. Fast forward to today, the death penalty in America requires death by lethal injection, the injection of a concoction of three drugs engineered to peacefully and silently execute a criminal on death row. It’s been 3,600 years: the punishment has become more humane, but the act itself has not.

The entire notion that a human being deserves to die for their crimes stems from a very flawed argument and perspective that harms the morals our society is being taught to value, and makes a mockery of our justice system. One of the main arguments that is brought up when discussing the death penalty is an eye for an eye. However, raising our children of tomorrow with a justice system that allows the death penalty to remain in effect in states across the nation teaches them that revenge is okay. It teaches them that in certain situations, it is justifiable to stoop to the level of an aggressor and commit unto them the crimes they’ve committed to others. Instead of teaching our future generations to be the bigger person, we are teaching them to seek retribution and ironically, kill someone for a crime they’re attempting to condemn. While admittedly, the death penalty is not used for every murder and is often reserved for serious crimes of a larger effect, the death penalty was born out of a desire to see a human being suffer for their actions. In fact, around the 12th century, hangings started to become entertainment to citizens. Townspeople would gather in squares to watch executions, food and refreshments would be sold, and people would fight one another for front row “seats” to the execution. As we can see, even if that aspect of entertainment is repressed in modern day society, it is clear that the death penalty serves to satiate animalistic tendencies of human nature, brutalizing our society. In this sense, capital punishment is a barbaric remnant of uncivilized societies that continues to haunt present-day justice systems across the globe.

Ethics and basic human morals aside, the death penalty in the U.S. is flawed in many aspects. Firstly, according to a 2014 study done by the National Academy of Sciences, about 1 in 25 inmates sentenced to death are innocent. While these numbers may seem like a “small price to pay” for proponents of the death penalty, these statistics equate to a shocking statistic: at least 1,320 defendants executed since 1977 have been innocent. That’s 1,320 lives our justice system can never bring back. That’s 1,320 sons and daughters of heartbroken parents. That’s 1,320 innocent mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, people that our flawed system of capital punishment ripped away from their time on Earth. Fines paid can be returned, and while years in prison can’t be given back, at least when these individuals are proven innocent, they can continue to walk this planet and enjoy their inalienable right to life. However, because of the death penalty, these 1,320 lives will never be granted this opportunity.

However, even as individuals are allowed to be sentenced to death, it doesn’t always happen. Taking California for example, currently, over 700 inmates sit on death row in California, more than any state in the U.S. Although there are facilities equipped to administer lethal injection, our justice system allows death row inmates to appeal their case over and over, denying state governments the ability to execute the inmates as the death sentence was supposed to do and costing taxpayers upwards of billions of dollars. According to the Department of Justice, in 2018, less than 1% of death row prisoners in the U.S. were executed. Thus, from start to finish, from the ideology behind capital punishment, to the ineffectiveness of the actual execution, to the post-death-penalty repercussions our society has to deal with, the death penalty has proven false and ineffective at every turn.

So, no, Gavin Newsom and other state governors putting a moratorium on the death penalty is not “siding with murderers.” Being against the death penalty isn’t “standing up for killers and rapists.” It’s choosing to see the humanity within all, recognizing our right to life, teaching our children that retribution will never be okay. It’s siding with the more than 1,320 innocent lives lost to the flawed system of capital punishment; it’s siding with taxpayer money; it’s siding with humanity.

Image courtesy of ANTARCTICAJOURNAL.COM

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The Inhumanity of the Death Penalty