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The Death Penalty Should Not Be Abolished

Jordan Gary |
May 1, 2013 | 2:20 p.m. PDT


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may still face the death penalty depending on how negotiations go. (stream47, Creative Commons)
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may still face the death penalty depending on how negotiations go. (stream47, Creative Commons)

With James Holmes' impending sentencing, and Dzhokar Tsarnaev's trial coming up, there has been a renewed interest in the capital punishment debate. With so much opposition, it is important to look at the points of contention and understand why we should not get rid of the death penalty.

Many of the arguments used against the death penalty are fundamentally flawed; for example, some people who oppose the death penalty cite religious reasons for abolishing it.

Regardless of the argument, religion has absolutely no place in our government or legal system. We are a country founded on the separation of church and state, and despite how murky the waters are in a lot of areas concerning religion and law, we should be doing everything in our power to keep religion and religious ideals out of government if we expect to continue being a country with religious freedom and tolerance.

Then there is the argument that despite the lengthy and complex judicial process for seeking the death penalty, it is still not possible to guarantee that an innocent person will not be sentenced. That might be true, but there are extensive appeals processes in place for exactly that reason.

It is also argued that the appeals process is a strain on taxpayers, costing more than just sentencing them to life without the possibility of parole, as well as a strain on the court system. However, death penalty cases account for only 1% of appellate court caseloads in both courts of last resort and intermediate appellate courts, so they are clearly not that great of a strain on the courts, nor on taxpayers.

While the death penalty should be maintained, it is important that stipulations be made on how it is implemented. Many people wonder if victims and their families should have any say in whether or not prosecutors seek the death penalty. In the Holmes case, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler personally talked to 60 family members of the Aurora victims and his office as a whole reached out to about 800 relatives of the victims in order to help them make this decision. It is my personal opinion that victims and those related to victims in any way should not have a say, because then you are dealing with vengeance, not justice. Once that line is crossed, it is not fair to say that someone should be put to death because it is not decided by an unbiased, unrelated third party.

A related issue is whether or not the lawyers themselves should have a say. Tsarnaev's attorney is a well-known advocate against the death penalty. It is now rumored that due to recent negotiations, the death penalty may not be sought in exchange for more information surrounding the bombings. 

Attorneys should not be allowed a say in whether the death penalty is sought or not either, because while negotiations may happen in any case, it is not fair that one person who commits a heinous crime would not have the death penalty considered because his attorney is personally opposed to it, while other people will have the death penalty considered because their attorneys are doing their jobs and being unbiased in their work.

Involving either the attorney or a victim's family in the death penalty decision both also completely undermine the judicial system and the processes put in place for settling matters such as these.

When push comes to shove, capital punishment is a touchy subject and there are many factors that work together when figuring out if it is right or not. It seems that in the end, however, it is the only fair way to deal with certain criminals past the point of moral reason. It is truly the only way to show that in this country, murder and terrorism will not be tolerated.


Reach Contributor Jordan Gary here.



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