Like many conservatives, I used to support the death penalty, and like most people I wasn’t fully informed of capital punishment’s implications and risks. Nor did I ever consider that human error might result in wrongful convictions and death sentences. As my perspective changed and I learned more about the death penalty’s failures, I’ve concluded that it should be repealed.
There are many reasons many Americans are beginning to oppose the death penalty, but the biggest reason for me is the massive price tag. Capital cases can easily cost $3 million, which is far more expensive than life without parole. The steep cost is largely due to mandated legal proceedings that are unique to capital cases, which guarantee that the process is complex and time-consuming.
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Beyond the colossal price tag, I can’t help but think of victims’ families. With every appeal and retrial, they are forced to relive the tragedy over again, continuously reopening a wound that needs to heal. The death penalty too often harms rather than helps victims’ families, and it also fails to serve society as a whole. Numerous studies have concluded that there is no proof that the threat of an execution deters murder.
Lastly, I don’t fully trust the competency or the efficiency of the government, and the death penalty is, of course, a government program, with flaws common to any state-run system. Yet the stakes are much higher: A mistake endangers innocent lives. So far, 158 individuals have been released from death row because they were wrongly convicted, while others have been executed even though their verdicts were doubtful.
Wrongful executions are a real risk with the death penalty. They can occur as a result of prosecutorial misconduct, mistaken eyewitness testimony and reliance on forged or faulty forensic analyses. Given that flawed forensics has helped send people to death row, it is highly likely that the United States has executed innocent individuals.
How many such errors should we be willing to tolerate? For me, as a pro-life conservative, the answer is clear: none.