Elizabeth W. Louisiana

Abolishing the Death Penalty

My name is Elizabeth Whitehurst. I am a Junior at St. Thomas More High School. Hopefully, this letter will answer any questions about the death penalty and the morality of this topic.

Dear Mr. President:

For many years, the death penalty was an accepted form of punishment for heinous crimes committed by those whom society deemed unredeemable. In recent years, many people have come to believe that the death penalty is a very complex issue that involves more than just the taking of a human life. It involves issues of morality, justice, and discrimination. Many Americans are asking the question, “What is the value of a human life? Is it civilized to demand the price of a human life as a payment for a crime?” I believe that a civilized society should not resort to a criminal act, namely the death penalty, to punish a criminal act, no matter how heinous.

Many people think that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for society’s worst offenders. These people populate all levels of society. They are judges who have heard horror stories in their courtrooms. They are lawyers who had to prosecute or defend murderers. They are religious leaders who have had to comfort the families who have endured the loss of a loved one at the hands of their predators. They are ordinary citizens who have seen and heard the news describing the horrific acts perpetrated by these people who seem to have no conscience. According to these people, society would be better if the death penalty continued to exist. They see this element as morally justifiable and a way to deter future nefarious crimes.

To these people, I would say that the death penalty is an irrevocable solution to a problem. It does nothing to reverse the violence of the act committed; it cannot be undone. Timothy McVeigh, for example, killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day care center on the second floor of the building, and injured 684 others. This bombing in Oklahoma City was horrible, but McVeigh’s death by lethal injection did nothing to bring back one person or alleviate the pain of those left behind to mourn. Another situation is the case of Ruben Cantu. He was executed in Texas by lethal injection, also. After his death, the lone eyewitness present during Cantu’s trial recanted his testimony. He stated that the murderer was not at the scene of the murder.

In spite of these examples, death penalty advocates argue that the death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a person who was in control of his own destiny and chose to commit an awful crime. I believe that when the government uses vengeance in the form of the death penalty, it becomes no better than the murderer. In that way, it devalues human life. Death penalty advocates also feel that it is morally justifiable and will act as a deterrent to future murders. This simply cannot be true because it destroys a human life. A legal murder is murder nonetheless. As far as a deterrent is concerned, murders are not influenced by morality or the common good of society, another deceptive belief of the pro death penalty supporters. Society would be better served with a less violent solution in the name of justice.

America has a long history of violence. In the south, slavery and segregation were once thought to be morally and socially correct. They represent the worst parts of our past. Knowing the evil inherent in these cruel ideas, we abandoned them a long time ago. The death penalty is no less inhumane. In addition to being morally wrong, it is legally wrong as well. It violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. This amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing cruel or unusual punishment. It also applies to all states. In Oklahoma, the state tried a new combination of lethal drugs on Clayton Lockett. The result was disastrous. Dying of a torturous heart attack, he groaned for forty-three minutes until death relieved him of his agony. Viewers described the scene as horrific.

The death penalty is an emotional and complex issue, but one need not be Solomon to arrive at the conclusion that it should be banned in the United States. If Congress had the courage to declare it unconstitutional, the scales of justice would certainly be balanced for future generations. The United States cannot be a nation of laws if it violates the most basic law of the right to life.



Editorial Board. "The Death Penalty, Nearing It's End." New York Times [New York City], 24 Oct. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/10/24/opinion/the-death-penalty-nearing-its-end.html?_r=0. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.

O'Connell, Gerard. "The Abolitionist." America, 4 July 2016, p. 25. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/MagazinesDetailsPage/MagazinesDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=Magazines&currPage=&scanId=&query=&source=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC&mode=view&catId=&u=lafa43079&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CA459460967&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.

ProCon.org. "Is the Death Penalty Immoral?" ProCon.org, 30 July 2008, deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001038. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.

---. "Should the Death Penalty Be Allowed?" ProCon.org, 3 Mar. 2014, deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001324. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.

---. "What is the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment?" ProCon.org, 20 May 2008, deathpenalty.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000988. Accessed 6 Nov. 2016.

St. Thomas More Catholic High School

Guillory English III

Honors English III 1st period Honors English III 3rd period AP English III 4th period AP English III 5th period AP English III 7th period

All letters from this group →