Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?



PRO (yes)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a Dec. 31, 1997 paper titled "The Case Against Death Penalty," stated:

"The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Furthermore, we hold that the state should not arrogate unto itself the right to kill human beings - especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, or when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.

Capital punishment is an intolerable denial of civil liberties, and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. Therefore, through litigation, legislation, commutation and by helping to foster a renewed public outcry against this barbarous and brutalizing institution, we strive to prevent executions and seek the abolition of capital punishment."

Dec. 31, 1997 - ACLU





Coretta Scott King, human rights activist, in a Sept. 26, 1981 speech to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said:

"As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder."

Sept. 26, 1981 - Coretta Scott King 



Thurgood Marshall, LLB, Former US Supreme Court Justice, said in his speech at the Aug. 16, 1990 American Bar Association's Annual Dinner in Honor of the Judiciary that:

"When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue."

Aug. 16, 1990 - Thurgood Marshall, LLB 



Harry Blackmun, LLB, Former US Supreme Court Justice, wrote in his Feb. 22, 1994 Callins v. Collins dissent that:

"From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored—indeed, I have struggled—along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed."

Feb. 22, 1994 - Harry Blackmun 



Amnesty International USA, in its "Death Penalty Q & A" section posted on its website (accessed on Mar. 31, 2006), stated:

"The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment...

Like torture, an execution constitutes an extreme physical and mental assault on an individual... The physical pain caused by the action of killing a human being cannot be quantified, nor can the psychological suffering caused by foreknowledge of death at the hands of the state...

The death penalty is discriminatory and... legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. Since human justice is fallible, the risk of executing the innocent will never be eliminated. Amnesty International continues to demand unconditionally the worldwide abolition of the death penalty."

Mar. 31, 2006 - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) 



CON (no)

Ernest Van Den Haag, PhD, former Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy at Fordham University, wrote in a 1986 article for the Harvard Law Review titled "The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense":

"[An] argument [we hear] is that, by killing a murderer, we encourage, endorse, or legitimize unlawful killing... The difference between murder and execution... is that the first is unlawful and undeserved, the second a lawful and deserved punishment for an unlawful act. The physical similarities of the punishment to the crime are irrelevant...

By committing the crime, the criminal volunteered to assume the risk of receiving a legal punishment that he could have avoided by not committing the crime. The punishment he suffers is the punishment he voluntarily risked suffering and, therefore, it is no more unjust to him than any other event for which one knowingly volunteers to assume the risk...

Execution of those who have committed heinous murders may deter only one murder per year. If it does, it seems quite warranted. It is also the only fitting retribution for murder I can think of."

1986 - Ernest Van Den Haag, PhD 



Steven Stewart, JD, Prosecuting Attorney in Clark County, Indiana, stated in "A Message From The Prosecuting Attorney," on the Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's website (accessed on Apr. 3, 2006):

"Along with almost three-fourths of the American public, I believe in capital punishment... It is my view that pursuing a death sentence in appropriate cases is the right thing to do. There is no adequate and acceptable alternative...

Considering that a defendant sentenced to 'life imprisonment' across the country actually serves on the average less than 8 years in prison, it is a good bet that 'life without parole' will not have the meaning intended as years go by...

[T]he risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small... The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal wreck should make automobiles illegal. At the same time, we should never ignore the risks of allowing the inmate to kill again."

Apr. 3, 2006 - Steven D. Stewart, JD 



Antonin Scalia, JD, US Supreme Court Justice, in his concurring opinion in Callins v. Collins of Feb. 22, 1994, stated:

"The Fifth Amendment provides that '[n]o persons shall be held to answer for a capital...crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor be deprived of life...without the due process of law.' This clearly permits the death penalty to be imposed, and establishes beyond doubt that the death penalty is not one of the 'cruel and unusual punishments' prohibited by the Eighth Amendment...

Convictions in opposition to the death penalty are often passionate and deeply held. That would be no excuse for reading them into a Constitution that does not contain them, even if they represented the convictions of a majority of Americans. Much less is there any excuse for using that course to thrust a minority's views upon the people."

Feb. 22, 1994 - Antonin Scalia, JD 



George Pataki, JD, Governor of New York, released a press release on Aug. 30, 1996, that stated:

"Our resolve to end crime is only as strong as the laws we pass to punish criminals. By making the death penalty the law of the land in New York, we have demonstrated that resolve, thus strengthening the promise that our children and future generations will grow up in a state that is free of violence."

Aug. 30, 1996 - George Pataki, JD 



Ann Coulter, JD, author and syndicated columnist, wrote in the June 27, 2000 Jewish World Review, that:

"Some time ago, it occurred to the anti-death penalty fanatics that Americans, in overwhelming numbers, really do want extraordinarily depraved murderers executed. Normal people, unlike lawyers, didn't care if heinous murderers were insane or Caucasian or ate too many twinkies. Ever since then, spurious claims of innocent people being executed have been appearing with some regularity...

Probably 99.9 percent of defendants convicted of murder are guilty. Less than 1 percent of all convicted murderers will receive the death penalty. We could triple the number of murderers sentenced to death without ever executing an innocent man."

June 27, 2000 - Ann Coulter, JD