California may have an initiative on the ballot outlawing the death penalty. I hope you will vote yes and encourage your friends to as well. The most pragmatic reason to vote for this is it costs taxpayers too much to maintain death row and the money could be spent on education or any number of other better opportunities. It may be pragmatic, but it's also wrong. The reason to vote to abolish the death penalty is because it is immoral, cannot be fixed, and it represent us at our most base and vile selves.
We execute people in this country out of revenge. We can protect society without the death penalty. The death penalty is pure blood lust disguised as justice. If we are a moral and just society, the death penalty must go, not because we are cheap. We should vote to outlaw capital punishment, not because its too expensive, but because if we could just do it cheaper it would be acceptable...but rather because civilized Western society long ago abandoned it because they saw how it eroded their moral values and made life a commodity with a price tag attached.
Ours is an adversarial legal system. We hire advocates to represent our side against others or against the government. As such, the quality of your advocate has a direct affect on your chances of success or failure. The reason so few rich people sit on death row, is because they can afford quality representation. Most people on death row are indigent and their advocates, by and large, sucked.
You have heard many of the horror stories. Lawyers for poor defendants in capital cases fall asleep during the trial...they get drunk during the trial...they fail to challenge evidence or witnesses and lack investigatory resources. Lawyers who take capital cases are not the cream of the crop from the top of the Harvard law class. Look no further than O.J.Simpson. The Los Angeles district attorney accused Simpson of heinous, awful murders. If anything fit the definition of a death penalty case, it was this one. Yet, he didn't ask for the death penalty. Why not? He knew Simpson could afford great lawyers and knew great lawyers could blow holes in a death penalty prosecution. He didn't want to run the risk of losing. If they weren't going to ask for the death penalty for Simpson, how can they justify it for anyone else? The Simpson case shows the death penalty is just a macabre lottery with the winner losing in the end.
Advocates for the death penalty say it provides closure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies have shown an execution does not enable someone to move on beyond the case and loss. Sister Helen Prejean, the inspiration for the movie Dead Man Walking, says in the years she has been counseling families, the ones who can move on are the ones who are able to forgive the perpetrator and do not advocate for execution. Revenge is certainly a poor reason as is economic concerns and it is clear the death penalty isn't a recipe for emotional health for the victim's family.
The reason to oppose the death penalty is because it is morally wrong. When confronted with an adulterous woman, who warranted death by stoning in Jewish law, Jesus rejected the premise and asked who among us has not sinned or made mistakes. He sends the crowd away telling the woman she will get no accusation from him and she could go live her life and sin no more. Jesus, himself an innocent victim of capital punishment, is a cautionary figure lending credence to the immorality of execution. Hundreds of Americans have ended up on death row only to be exonerated at a later time. What do we do or say as a nation if an innocent person is executed? Oooops?
Don't vote against the death penalty to save a few bucks. Vote against it because it's immoral and unjust and reflects the worst of our human nature, not the best.
P.S. Life without the possibility of parole is also immoral and a concept which has to be challenged. To take away hope makes people very dangerous and lacking basic humanity. It is a topic for another day.