10 Quotes Against the Death Penalty

October 6, 2009

Ideas opposing the death penalty….

1)     Concerning the claim of justice for the victim’s family, I say there is no amount of retaliatory deaths that would compensate to me the inestimable value of my daughter’s life, nor would they restore her to my arms. To say that the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We cannot put a price on their lives. That kind of justice would only dehumanize and degrade us because it legitimates an animal instinct for gut-level blood thirsty revenge…. In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; the idea is offensive and repulsive to me.

Marietta Jaeger, whose 7 year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped and murdered in the US in 1973.

2)     Can the state, which represents the whole of society and has the duty of protecting society, fulfill that duty by lowering itself to the level of the murderer, and treating him as he treated others? The forfeiture of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict it on another, even when backed by legal process. And I believe that future generations, throughout the world, will come to agree.

Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and Secretary General of the United Nations 1997 -2007.

3)     Judicial execution can never cancel or remove the atrocity it seeks to punish; it can only add a second atrocity to the original one… So long as one sees killing as wrong there is no need to waste time with the deterrent argument, since it would be nonsense to try to prevent a theoretical evil in the future by perpetrating an actual one in the present.

Auberon Waugh, 20th Century British author & journalist

4)     The death penalty is wrong. It is inhuman. It is degrading. It is an atavist relict of a pre-civilized past in which justice was dispensed with a sword, to avenge, never to prevent. To kill, not to heal. The death penalty does not deter violence. It perpetuates it. It does not do justice, it denies it. The death penalty violates human rights, in a ruthless, absolute and irreversible manner.

Lord Russell-Johnston, British President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 2001

5)     There is a very broad theory that society gets the right to hang, as the individual gets the right to defend himself. Suppose she does; there are certain principles which limit this right. Society has got the murderer within four walls; he never can do any more harm. Has society any need to take that man’s life to protect itself? If any society has only the right that the individual has, she has no right to inflict the penalty of death, because she can effectually restrain the individual from ever again committing his offence.

Wendell Phillips, 19th Century US lawyer & politician

6)     People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty … I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court, on eve-of-execution stay applications, in which the defendant was well represented at trial.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice 2001

7)     From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed

Justice Blackmun, Supreme Court Justice quoted in1994

8)     Nothing would be lost if death penalty statutes were repealed… The process is so fatally flawed that the only solution lies in abolishing capital punishment. Most nations with which we share a common heritage have already taken this step. The relatives of the victim have the right to demand swift and sure punishment, but they do not have the right to demand death when the process is so severely flawed.

Charles B Blackmar, former senior judge of Missouri’s Supreme Court 2003

9)     With every cell of my being, and with every fiber of my memory, I oppose the death penalty in all forms….I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an Angel of Death.

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1986

10)  Those resources could be spent in better ways if death eligible killers were sentenced to life without parole. Law enforcement programs that work might have prevented the tragedies we suffered at only a fraction of the cost. A legal system free from the resource drain of the capital punishment system could find, prosecute, and sentence countless other criminals and even take dangerous people of the streets before they commit murder.

An extract taken from a letter sent to Montana House of Representatives signed by 35 families of murder victims seeking for the death penalty to be replaced by life without parole. March 2009.

10 Stats on the DP

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