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Arguments Against Capital Punishment

Common Arguments Against the Death Penalty

  • Playing God: Executing a person kills them before the time of their natural death. Religiously speaking, some Christians believe that killing people before their natural death is going against the will of God.
  • Sanctity of Life: Some people argue that life is sacred, even the life of a murderer. Capital punishment, they argue, devalues human life.
  • Lack of Deterrence: The death penalty has not been shown to be effective in the reduction of the homicide rate. Will a murderer really stop to reconsider his/her crimes if the punishment is death rather than life in prision?
  • Cost: The costs to the state of funding appeals by convicted murderers would more than pay for their permanent incarceration.
  • Chance of Error: Many convicted murderers are later found innocent, and have been pardoned. In 1987, a study was published by the Stanford Law Review it found that at least 350 people between 1900 and 1985 in America might have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted, and could have been sentenced to death. 139 "were sentenced to death and as many as 23 were executed."
  • Some people consider capital punishment "cruel and unusual."
  • Uselessness: Killing a murderer does not bring his victim back to life. It achieves nothing but the death of still another person.


  • Do all people in the US agree with the death penalty? What are some common arguments against capital punishment?

    What is the most common method of execution?

    How many states have the death penalty?

    Does the death penalty fall under federal or state jurisdiction?

    What are some religious reasons for and against the death penalty?

    What are the names of the famous Supreme Court rulings in the past that have dealt with the death penalty? What was the outcome in each of these cases?

    About how many people have been executed in the States since 1976?

    Only in what circumstances can a judge order a death sentence for a convicted criminal? In what circumstances is a judge forbidden to order a death sentence?

    What effect did the Patriot Act have on capital punishment?

    In 2003, how many female criminals were executed?

    What is the policy regarding the death penalty and the mentally ill?

    What does the international law say in regards to individual states imposing the death penalty?


    Discuss the moral implications of capital punishment. How can someone morally argue in favor of the death penalty? How can someone morally argue against the death penalty?