The Death Penalty Should be Abolished
   Xuanlan Pham

When I was in seventh grade, my school once dismissed students early in order to allow them to go see the execution of a nineteen-year-old boy who had murdered a newlywed girl to rob her jewelry, which was valued at one-tenth of an ounce of gold. The local government encouraged seeing executions to prevent violent crimes and show strong social condemnation for heinous crimes. Today I am living in the United States, and I see that many states use the death penalty to bring criminals to justice for families of victims, to deter violent crimes, and to show strong social condemnation for premeditated murder. However, I believe the death penalty does not guarantee these results at all and should be abolished.

Most victims’ families want to have justice for victims, so they support the death sentence. However, the death penalty doesn’t bring victims back to life or diminish the loss to their families. For instance, the parents and three children of Kim Groves, who was murdered by Paul Hardy and Len Davis in Louisiana, sent a letter to prosecutors to forgo seeking the death penalty for the two defendants. The letter stated, “Executing these two men will not bring Kim Groves back to life. It will not ease the deep sorrow and loss that her family has and will continue to experience as a result of her death.”  Instead of  losing their lives by the death penalty, these criminals could transform their lives and be rehabilitated and do good things for society. For example, Stanley Tookie Williams, who was convicted of murdering four people in 1979, has written books on the dangers of violence to prevent youths from joining gangs, and he has worked tirelessly as an anti-gang activist during his time in prison. By speaking out from prison, such criminals could do a lot to prevent young teens from joining gangs. From this perspective, the death penalty doesn’t benefit victims, victims’ families, or society.

Many countries have used the death penalty to deter serious crimes; however, the death penalty isn’t a deterrent to violent crimes. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News,  “After 24 Years on Death Row, Clemency Is Killer’s Final Appeal,” Adam Liptak shows that after the United States Supreme Court lifted the ban for the death penalty in 1976, the states which have the highest execution rate have higher violent crime rates. From 1982 to 1991, the national crime rate rose 5% while the crime rate in Texas rose by 24% and the violent crime rate by 46%. Texas has more than 400 death row inmates and has executed 355 people while California has about 650 prisoners on death row and has executed 11 people. In other words, statistics show that the states which have more executions and support the death penalty have higher violent crime rates than the states which execute fewer criminals or do not use the death penalty. These statistics also suggest that the death penalty has brutalizing effects on society.

Worst of all, the death penalty is a cruel and brutal punishment, and it continues the cycle of violence. Although the death sentence shows strong social condemnation for heinous crimes, it won't prevent future violent crimes. The death penalty will hurt more people. Edna Weaver, whose daughter Tina Lambriola was murdered by William Severs,Jr. in New Jersey in 2002, said that she not only wanted Severs's life spared, but also hoped that his mother would be spared the pain of losing a child. “I wouldn’t want another mother to feel like I do – it ‘s a feeling I could never put into words…At least his mother will be able to write to him, she will be able to send things to him,”  said Weaver. If killing is so wrong, how can it be right to kill? The death penalty should be banned to stop the cycle of violence.

At the time of this writing, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has just denied a final hearing for clemency that would have stayed the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, who murdered four people during robberies in 1979. Williams will be executed tomorrow, December 13, 2005 . I am one of many people who supported granting Stanley Tookie Williams clemency so that he could continue his effective anti-gang message from prison.  I believe it is wrong to kill this man who has turned his life around, and I strongly recommend that the death penalty should be abolished because it can't bring back the life of a victim or eliminate the pain of loss, it  isn’t a deterrent to violent crimes, and is represents state-sanctioned violence, a kind of cruel and unusual punishment which furthers the cycle of violence.