Beyond expense and the lack of deterrence, the death penalty is meted out unfairly. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “The death penalty system in the US is applied in an unfair and unjust manner against people, largely dependent on how much money they have, the skill of their attorneys, race of the victim and where the crime took place. People of color are far more likely to be executed than white people, especially if the victim is white.”
But far and away the strongest argument for elimination of the death penalty is that it is unconstitutional and immoral. The ACLU states the case: “The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Furthermore, we believe that the state should not give itself the right to kill human beings – especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.”
In sum, capital punishment does not discourage murderers. It is expensive, unfair, and an unacceptable denial of civil liberties, and it is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system. The United States is the only Western country to still use the death penalty. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted, in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to eventual abolition. Yet we maintain the death penalty.
It is long since time we banned capital punishment. Trump’s rush to kill is particularly sickening. Let’s hope that the new Biden administration will join the rest of the civilized world and ban executions.