Why I oppose the death penalty

I am not going to go into some kind of peace and love, hippie, Jesus, poppycock about the death penalty, but I will say it troubles me when government thinks they have the right to kill people (in situations other then a war zone). No person has that right.

Tomorrow SD will execute a prisoner, and prove once again how poorly this state handles crime and punishment.

Reasons why I oppose the death penalty;

• The decision to take another person’s life should not be decided by another person unless it is in self-defense.

• Capital punishment is taxpayer assisted suicide.

• Those who kill must be punished for the crime, that means living the rest of their natural lives behind four closed walls thinking about what they have done.

• Life sentences are less expensive for taxpayers then a death sentence because of the cost of appeals. Sentencing someone to death only lines the pockets of attorneys who profit from a murderer.

• Innocent people are executed frequently. Justice for these wrongly accused can never be served once they are put to death.


#1 rufusx on 10.14.12 at 7:51 pm


#2 Muqhtar on 10.15.12 at 9:17 am

Didn’t Eric Robert specifically ask to die?

#3 Craig on 10.15.12 at 9:36 am

Life sentences are less expensive for taxpayers then a death sentence because of the cost of appeals.

I once wrote a paper on this very subject and was amazed at this fact. Study after study confirmed it… it is MUCH more expensive to execute someone than it is to simply lock them up for life.

People often forget about all of the behind-the-scenes costs for appeals. The hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes in legal fees and the court’s time and paying salaries and/or travel costs of the same witnesses time and time again and testing and retesting evidence etc. etc. It all adds up and when you factor in the age of the typical person on death row the numbers just don’t work.

Aside from the financial aspect, there is the issue with what constitutes punishment. When we are talking about someone on death row, we are no longer concerned with rehabilitation because they will never see the light of day again, so we are really only concerned with punishment. So what is honestly a bigger punishment – being locked up in a concrete and iron box with no freedom for the next few decades… or laying on a gurney while someone injects a sleeping agent into your vein?

The truth is, execution benefits the criminal more than it does the innocent. If anything we should outlaw execution and force them to listen to Justin Bieber and Nickleback for 24 hours a day. That is the real punishment.

However for me personally, it really boils down to one thing. The chance that a jury or a judge or a witness might get it wrong. I won’t go as far as l3wis and claim innocent people are executed “frequently” but we do know it has happened.

The Innocence Project (http://www.innocenceproject.org) has successfully overturned the convictions of 13 people who were on death row before DNA evidence proved they didn’t commit the crimes. That may not seem like a huge number, but keep in mind these are 13 people who would have been put to death had this DNA evidence not been available. These are also the 13 people they managed to get to before it is too late, because they admit they don’t have the resources to pursue cases where the inmate was already put to death… thus the true figure is anyone’s guess.

Also, just imagine how many cases exist where someone is sitting on death row scheduled to die where DNA evidence isn’t available and there is no way to prove their innocence. Cases where eyewitness testimony is used are notoriously inaccurate, so if you think there aren’t innocent men and women on death row at this very minute, you are fooling yourselves.

We are human – we make mistakes. I guess I’m just not willing to end a life when we can never be 100% certain. I’d rather err on the side of caution. Plus, we also need to acknowledge those with mental disorders that led them to be on death row in the first place. This doesn’t apply to all of them, but surely it does for some. I’m not using an excuse, but that is merely the reality. These people need to be locked up and punished, but who are we to say they deserve death? Who gives us the right to end a life that is no longer a threat to anyone other than themselves?

Do we need some improvements in the prison system to prevent these people from harming others even when they are locked up? You bet. However I’m not convinced that capital punishment is for the betterment of society as a whole.

#4 Muqhtar on 10.15.12 at 10:04 am

This is a hard one to argue. Back in school we figured out a framework for this – eventually both sides can be argued to be Nazis. And when both sides are Nazis you can’t go very far with it. If you are FOR the death penalty you are for killing someone which makes you a Nazi. If you are AGAINST the death penalty it means you don’t believe in justice for the victim of a capital crime and their families, which also makes you a Nazi. The same can be applied to arguments about abortion, immigration, etc.

Either way I’ll throw my hat in the ring. The death penalty would work if it were a) swift; b) not subject to countless appeals; and c) more public. It has no teeth to it: execution takes DECADES to get it done. It is so far gone from the crime that it doesn’t make a connection. And when it is done? It’s performed with the same care and kindness as when you put down your dog Fifi. Further nobody sees the graphic nature of it; whatever happened to the guillotine or gallows in a public square? They USED to do it that way! If you actually saw this being done you might make a mental connection – consciously or subconsciously. But then we need to also address – is the death penalty done to literally punish a person? Is it done to drive home to the public that when you kill people you too will be killed? Is this done to simply exterminate an individual who is dangerous and who serves absolutely no useful purpose to society?

#5 Detroit Lewis on 10.15.12 at 10:04 am

“Didn’t Eric Robert specifically ask to die?”

Yup. Taxpayer assisted suicide.

#6 Muqhtar on 10.15.12 at 1:52 pm

“Yup. Taxpayer assisted suicide.”

Then that’s one less inmate that we have to pay $120K/yr to house, guard and feed. How many teachers can you hire for $120K? How many scientists? That would pay for a doctor. A wretched individual is saving us the cost of what is essentially toxic waste disposal and allowing us to spend it on something that society needs to actually better itself.

#7 Detroit Lewis on 10.15.12 at 4:41 pm

Did you read the above comments? Life sentences are cheaper then executions.

#8 Joan on 10.15.12 at 5:27 pm

I was all pro-death penalty for many years, until about 30 years ago when I was talking to a cop, who was a close family friend. He felt that life in prison with no parole would be a worse sentence. His reasoning was think about never being able to go hunting or fishing, never being able to see your kids graduate from high school/college, get married, never being able to hold your grandkids, etc. That really got me thinking and I am apt to agree with this man.

#9 Detroit Lewis on 10.15.12 at 6:09 pm

Joan, that is the smallest part of it. Assisting suicide is not justice, it is giving the murderer what they want. Eric wants to be killed. Why not throw a noose in his cell and say ‘Have at it.’ Why mess around with the dog and pony show? Seriously? While they may not have freedom, they are showing us that they do have justice, justice for them, not for us.

#10 Craig on 10.15.12 at 7:05 pm

On what planet does it cost $120k a year to house an inmate? I didn’t realize we were sending them to live in the residence halls of Harvard.

#11 Craig on 10.15.12 at 7:16 pm

I agree with your point about assisted suicide too DL. If they want to off themselves I have no problem with it, but we as a society should hold ourselves to a much higher standard.

When I think of people who believe capital punishment is a good thing for society I can’t help but think of that scene in Gladiator where Russell Crowe yells “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?”

#12 LJL on 10.15.12 at 8:40 pm

Death sentences are more expensive when the inmate uses the full course of state and federal appeals. Lets not pick and choose our facts again. This death penalty is far cheaper and it also says a lot about our appeals system. Innocent people-frequently? Sounds like another ass statistic. I oppose the death penalty only if the condemned didn’t understand that their crime could result in a death sentence or was not proven without any doubt. This case determinately surpasses this test.
State assisted suicide??? i am sure (knowing the views of the writer) that you would support a “right to suicide”law. If the patient were poor and needed funding assistance from the state for the drugs, wouldn’t that be state assisted?

Slippery slopes are erected each day on this blog.

#13 sd-cpa on 10.15.12 at 8:51 pm

Lifetime sentence to a cell papered with photographs of the victim(s).

#14 rufusx on 10.15.12 at 11:42 pm

LJL – so – what price do you put on a life? Is there a limit in your mind as to the value of ANY human being? X $$$’s and not a penny more – huh?

#15 Detroit Lewis on 10.16.12 at 1:03 am

LJL – Last I checked no one has been jailed or arrested for killing themselves, so in essence, suicide is legal.

It is predicted that between 60-80 out of 1000 death row inmates are innocent. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/10/15/1144908/-Pending-South-Dakota-Execution-Sharpens-the-Death-Penalty-Debate

#16 Muqhtar on 10.16.12 at 1:04 pm

I’m OK with a complete re-review of all death row cases, especially with cases that were prosecuted and/or convicted before modern forensics techniques like DNA evidence. If that’s what it takes to maintain the integrity of it so to speak, by all means. Granted that would cost a lot of money but no matter how we swing it it is expensive. Further it may be worthwhile to set a bar for conviction of future death penalty cases such as a requirement for scientific evidence like DNA.

#17 Craig on 10.16.12 at 1:34 pm

“Further it may be worthwhile to set a bar for conviction of future death penalty cases such as a requirement for scientific evidence like DNA.

I like this idea, but there is still room for human error. We have witnessed several crime labs come under scrutiny for screwing up samples, mishandling of evidence, and/or blatantly falsifying data. In some cases innocent people have served time behind bars – which means the guilty party may be still out there walking around.

There is also a risk of false positives. Let’s say there are two roommates – subject A and subject B – who are sitting at home watching a hockey game while enjoying some adult beverages. A fight over who is a better team starts and quickly escalates to the point subject A starts a fight with subject B resulting in subject A cutting his hand and bleeding on the shirt of subject B. Later that night, in a drunken stupor subject B decides to walk to the local convenience store for another 12-pack and along the way he is stabbed and killed. Forensics experts test the blood on the shirt and find it matches a previous sample on file for subject A.

In today’s court system, that DNA evidence is convincing to most jurors – and an innocent man could end up in prison. Sounds unlikely – yet similar scenarios have occurred many times, and with the advent of DNA testing it actually makes it MORE likely that an innocent person could be convicted of such a crime.

DNA is great in some cases, but it isn’t nearly as powerful of a tool as scripted crime drama television would have us believe. After all – humans are the ones collecting, testing, and matching the DNA… and they are the ones who need to try to form a backstory that explains it. I wish we were all perfect, but we know that isn’t the case.

I do think there are cases that are very clear however. Perhaps there is videotaped evidence or a clean confession. In those cases I’m not concerned about a potential innocent victim, but I am still convinced that a greater punishment is being locking a concrete and steel box for the next few decades.

#18 LJL on 10.16.12 at 7:34 pm

I think you misunderstood me rufus. I’m not opposed to appeals, I am referring to this case costing far less because the inmate choose to not appeal….

Detriot, it is illegal for someone to subscribe drugs for the purpose of suicide. I am saying, if that were to reach the ballot box as in other states (assisted suicide) you Know you would vote for it. Therefore if the person could not afford the drugs the state could have to provide the drugs. Hence the state assisted suicide and the slippery slope.
It’s my belief that your crime dictates your fate on earth. What the convicted does after the crime determines their fate after their life has ended. This mans crime was disgusting and deserving of the punishment. Maybe his conduct after the crime will dictate the fate of his soul.

#19 Billy Mercer on 03.20.16 at 4:43 am

The thing that made me think twice about the death penalty was when Elijah Paige, I believe was the first person executed in SD for many years. During the press conference, then Attorney General Larry Long seemed rather ecstatic about the sacrificial lamb. The excitement on his face was something that Victor Hugo himself could not have described. I have never seen someone seem so happy about a death. To see a State Official with that kind of glee under such a circumstance turned me against the death penalty.

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