Monday, February 8, 2010

From the Eyes of a Homicide Victim

The use of the death penalty in the United States has been discussed and re-discussed throughout all the states with each new debate this country creates. There is much logic behind both sides of this frustrating argument, but not from those who are victims themselves. I am the daughter of a homicide victim. I have more of an insight to what the death penalty really means; an opinion as to whether or not it should be legal here in the United States.

In December of 2008, a trusted “friend” assaulted my dad. He died a few hours later in a hospital bed, tubes running from his body to machines of all shapes and sizes. I was fifteen years old at the time. This experience has helped shape me into the young woman I am now, in both positive and negative ways. It has also caused my peers and other well-wishers I associate with to question my opinions. Many have asked me whether or not the death penalty should be legal in Iowa so they can kill the man that did this. Right now, it is not legal here. I have always stated “no,” without giving my reasoning. Now I’m finally ready to share my opinions on this controversial matter.
The death penalty is only legal in a few places in the United States. Other countries do not use it. These places look down upon the United States, which is considered an “uncivilized nation.” The death penalty is legal in thirty-five of the fifty states in America. The United States Government and Military also use it.

Many supporters of the death penalty say that it gives closure to the victim’s families who have already suffered so much with the murder of a loved one. This is clearly not coming from someone who has a family member that was a victim of a murder. We do not want the death penalty. Families do not find closure through the death of the criminal.

Life in prison is a worse punishment than dying, in the eyes of the families. Many criminals prefer death so they don’t have to live with what they did. But isn’t that what the criminal wants? Don’t they want to get off easy? We want them to suffer; we want them to learn that what they did was wrong. But if we kill them with the death penalty, they learn nothing. All they have received is an easy way out.

The death penalty cannot bring back the loved one, so why do we need it? When we kill people for their crimes, it makes us a little bit more like them, by doing something very similar. It accomplishes nothing, but show that the United States kills people, who kill people, to show that killing is wrong. The state is actually using murder to punish someone who committed murder. Is this right? Does this make sense? No.

Our justice system shows more sympathy for its criminals than it does its victims. Many people don’t realize this, though, until a loved one is murdered. Only then does one learn of the justice system’s misplaced sympathy. It puts the criminal out of his misery, where the victim’s family is still left angry and hurt. The victim will never be completely pain free, whether the death penalty is used or not. But to me, the knowledge that the criminal is sitting in prison with nothing to do, but think about what he did, is better than knowing he’s buried in a cemetery somewhere, feeling and learning nothing about what he did.

I believe the death penalty should be abolished worldwide. The United States is the only country still using it. It is meant to be a threat to the citizens, by telling them that if they do something wrong, the government will kill you for your wrong doings. This solves nothing. Citizens of the states where the death penalty is still legal, don’t care. They still murder, regardless of the consequences of being put on death row. In reality, it is no threat. It’s an easy way out. With the death penalty, the criminals are aware that this would mean they wouldn’t be spending their life in prison

It is actually less expensive to hold a criminal in prison for life than it is to execute them using the death penalty. The extra costs have very little to do with the costs of the actual execution, but rather with the legal costs. To house seven inmates for life, on average, it would cost less than one million dollars. To execute those same seven men, it would cost well over two hundred million dollars in legal fees. The actual drug injected into the criminal costs only eighty-six dollars. But with the option of the death penalty, the trial must decide two different matters, instead of one, like it would with no option of the death penalty. One way, is to decide the verdict of guilty or innocent, and the other is to decide the penalty.

An appeal can be made, even after a criminal is killed with the death penalty. If through this appeal, the person is found innocent through new evidence that has been found, it is already too late. The government has killed an innocent person. This wouldn’t happen if they had just put the person in jail for life, without any chance of parole.

The death penalty should be abolished in all places in America, because it accomplishes nothing, but show that the United States government kills people, who kill people, to show that killing is wrong. The death penalty costs more than it does to keep a criminal imprisoned for life. This is not right. It never will be. Therefore, coming from the perspective of a family member of a victim of homicide herself, the death penalty should be abolished.

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