Fundamentally, I oppose capital punishment because I believe that no human being is beyond redemption, and I believe that only God has the right to take a life.
My opposition to the death penalty is not based on sympathy for the convicted, nor apathy toward victims of horrific crimes. However, the belief that killing the convicted criminal will somehow bring "closure" (whatever that means) to the victim's family is dubious due to the lengthy appeal process and the misguided, although natural, notion that somehow revenge will take away emotional pain. I have no illusions of changing anyone's mind on the subject, but I feel strongly enough about it that I've taken time to study it.
Sister Helen Prejean wrote, "An execution is ugly because the premeditated killing of a human being is ugly. Gassing, hanging, shooting, electrocuting, or lethally injecting a person whose hands and feet are tied is ugly. And hiding the ugliness from view and rationalizing it numbs our minds to the horror of what we are doing."
There is nothing noble or dignified about putting a person to death, no matter how heinous or reprehensible their crime(s) may have been, no matter how justified we feel in doing so. Life without the possibility of parole is an effective means of protecting society from violent criminals. The chance of a convicted murderer escaping to kill again is less than the chance of a wrongful conviction for a capital crime.
To be most effective, justice should be swift and sure. The death penalty is neither. According to the National Death Penalty Information Center, a neutral educational website, the time between sentencing and execution has steadily risen since the reinstatement of capital punishment from an average of about 5 years in the late 1970's, to about 15 years today. Thomas West, the most recent person to be executed in Arizona, was put to death 24 years after the commission of his crime.
The idea that capital punishment serves as a deterrent has been shown to be a myth. Murder rates have not risen in states that have abolished the death penalty, and they have not fallen in states that have increased executions.
As long as human beings are capable of making mistakes, we will be capable of executing an innocent person. There have been seven instances of wrongful execution in the U.S., and two exonerations of men on Death Row. The death penalty is preeminently irreversible.
Two thirds of the world's countries and 16 or the united states have abolished the death penalty altogether. The United States is lumped with an unseemly minority of countries who continue to allow this barbaric practice, nations like China, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. Countries who no longer permit state-sanctioned, premeditated killing are Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and even Mexico.
Lastly, the application of the death penalty as practiced in America is random, discriminatory, and capricious at best. It is not the "worst of the worst" who are ultimately put to death, but rather the unlucky, the under-represented, the poor, those with chemical dependency and mental issues. Politics plays a huge role in determining who lives and who dies. No politician wants to appear "soft on crime," and so the least in our society pay the price with their lives.
I am opposed to the death penalty, but I favor justice. Punish the convicted with confinement and hard labor where appropriate, but do not cast the stone unless you are without sin.