Home / Why the Death Penalty Shouldn’t be Abolished

Why the Death Penalty Shouldn’t be Abolished

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While the 1000th execution since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977 became a new landmark in American history, it’s really the number 1003, the one that has drawn the most attention. At 12:35 of the morning of Tuesday, Stanley “Tookie” Williams was put to death by lethal injection at California’s San Quentin State Prison. Williams had been in death row for twenty years. Williams was convicted in 1981 for the murder of four people while committing two separate robberies in 1979. In a 6-0 vote, the California Supreme Court denied his last petition to stay his execution on Monday. Last week the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), urged the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to grant Williams clemency, on the grounds that he was helping young African-American men stay out of gangs, since he had spent his two decades on death row at San Quentin Prison, as an anti-gang activist by writing children’s books on the dangers of gang life. The curtain finally came down on Williams, when Governor Schwarzenegger denied his clemency request also on Monday. In a press release in which he explains the grounds of his refusal, Governor Schwarzenegger stated: “there is nothing that compels me to nullify the jury’s decision of guilt and sentence and the many court decisions during the last 24 years upholding the jury’s decision with a grant of clemency.” I firmly agree.

The sole fact that Williams wrote children’s books while on death row has apparently blurred the reasoning of many. Supporters for Williams have failed to take into account to begin with, that Williams was the alleged co-founder of the Crips, one the biggest, most violent and most prolific gangs of modern criminal history. The Crips are credited with the introduction of crack cocaine, one of the most lethal drugs on the streets today. During the twenty years Williams stood on death row and while he was supposedly busy writing children’s books, he was involved in more than ten violent incidents. Williams also refused to admit his guilt despite the overwhelming evidence there was against him. I can’t help but wonder, what about the four victims and their families? How come their suffering for the senseless and vicious loss of their four loved ones is not the issue that is captivating everyone’s attention now? Have we lost our sense of compassion for the true victims of heinous crimes like the ones Williams scored under his belt? In times like this, my heart goes out for the grieving families of these victims.

I am amazed at the momentum death penalty issues have gained in both the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico, where crime rates have reached all time highs and your fellow average citizen is no longer your good neighbor. How can a society advocate for civility towards cold blooded killers, when it is unable to be civilized with the person who has not hurried enough when the stoplight turned green? How morally right is it to feed, shelter and educate psychopaths, among others, when their innocent victims are rotting, six feet under the ground? In my opinion, the advocacy in favor of the abolition of death penalty can only be categorized as the Dantesque misgivings of a nearsighted society. Sadly, we must admit, that we live in a society that fails to strengthen the confidence of the real victims of the convicted killers, which are growing old, (at the taxpayer’s expense) while on death row. We have become the type of society who has developed tolerance precisely for the cruel and intolerant.

I must admit that a country’s prerogative of applying the death penalty is a complicated affair. The government’s task is to try and balance out the constitutional rights of the convicted killer, without losing sight of the nature of his deeds. This is a task which I believe has not yet been successfully achieved. While ending the life of a convicted felon is not going to bring your loved one back, most of the victim’s families admit that this helps them ease their pain, since the most equitable justice available, is been served. Nonetheless, it takes years for the real victims to get some relief, since death row inmates can extinguish numerous appeals. In the meantime, the government is spending tons of money in trying to rehabilitate death row inmates when the fact of the matter is, that ruthless killers will never truly reform themselves. Our own legal system seems to believe this too, when the other only option it provides for the convicted killer of this sort, is life without parole. Isn’t this admitting, that we as a society are afraid to have that inmate back in the street, even though he has been rehabilitated?

The only true proportionate punishment for those who viciously take an innocent victim’s life, is to pay with that which they have taken. Only this can restore the balance of a self-respecting society. We should all be brave enough and admit it.

Julizzette Colon-Bilbraut is a third generation attorney admitted to practice in both local and federal courts for the Commowealth of Puerto Rico.

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About Julie

  • NOT!

    Taking life, is taking life, period. To say that one can take life and others can’t, only propagates the concept of inequality. One man’s criminal is another ‘s saviour.

    10 violent incidents on death row in 20 years. Wow! That’s kinda low considering the people he’s bunking with.

    Also his execution brings no relief to the victims families, maybe it does, but it won’t last. It’ll be days short. Then the loss will still be there. Who are we as equals to decide who lives or dies? Death penalty is about revenge, not about justice.

    He deserved to go on living in my opinion. Everyone has a right to life. Everyone means even low-lifes like Tookie. The beauty of Ethics is that they apply to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE regardless. No Exeptions. People can redeem themselves. Many bad people have, some have become monks and dedicated their lives to becoming better persons

    “An eye for en eye leaves everyone blind” — Martin Luther King

  • RogerMDillon

    “The sole fact that Williams wrote children’s books while on death row has apparently blurred the reasoning of many.”

    Can you cite the people who used this as a sole justification for their opinion? Your use of it reveals what little you know of the arguement.

    And where do you get the information that “The Crips are credited with the introduction of crack cocaine,” because that differs from the US Dept of Justice version of events.

    “How can a society advocate for civility towards cold blooded killers, when it is unable to be civilized with the person who has not hurried enough when the stoplight turned green?”

    What are you talking about here? Where do you live that people are being sentenced to death for not getting through an intersection fast enough. I’m against that to if it happens.

    “a society that fails to strengthen the confidence of the real victims of the convicted killers, which are growing old, (at the taxpayer’s expense) while on death row”

    If someone is in jail for life with no possibilty for parole, where’s the loss of confidence come from? If you are concerned about the taxpayers’ expense, then you should be against the death penalty because studies I have read show that with all the appeals involved it is more expensive for the state to kill someone than to let them rot.

    You also remove all possibilty that someone could be found innocenct of the crimes. I’m not saying Tookie would have been, but if you think every single person who has ever been on death row is guilty, I must question your legal qualifications. No system is error-free. Life without parole allows the state’s mistake to be rectified.

  • I have to disagree. I think that if a murderer does not show remorse after 10 years in prison, and if DNA evidence clearly points to them as the killer, then the death penalty is justified.

    I would not use the death penalty for manslaughter, such as killing for self-defense. But for calculated murder, I would definitely keep it.

  • I must say though, in Tookie Williams’ case, he should have been granted clemecy. His anti-gang activism was proof of his guilty conscience and remorse.

  • I’m sorry, JCB, I meant to write “I have to agree,” I had the wrong word in my head. D’oh!

  • Anthony Grande

    “The sole fact that Williams wrote children’s books while on death row has apparently blurred the reasoning of many.”

    Then Roger said: an you cite the people who used this as a sole justification for their opinion? Your use of it reveals what little you know of the arguement.

    He shouldn’t have to cite anyone because EVERYONE used this as the justification for saving him.

    The death penalty must be abolished because no human has the right to end another human life early. I support life for innocent unborn babies to brutal vicious killers. The maximium punishment should be life in prison.

    The death penalty would work if the gap between the crime to the punishment was shortened to like 1 or two years. We would see crime drop dramatically but who would want to live in this type of society?

  • JCB

    Thank you all for your comments. Specially Mark and Anthony. Thanks Anthony for pointing out to Roger that the only one without any true knowledge about Tookie´s case is him.self.

    I can truthfully relate with the struggle between who gives life and who can or can´t take it. I have formed my opinion, not disregarding this neuralgic issue, but taking into account the times we live in, which really worry me sick. I think desperate times like these require desperate measures. I see the death of this type of killers as a transition of that being, which is necessary to restore the balance of our society. It´s not a matter of revenge but of balancing out for the well being of all, the harm done.

  • Anthony Grande

    You put up a good argument for the death penalty there. But I still have to disagree because one that executes is one that murders. No human should have the power to take away another human’s life because we are all equal.

  • JCB

    “You put up a good argument for the death penalty there.”

    Despite the fact we disagree and stand on opposite sides of the argument, I appreciate your kind comment. That´s the way it should be in the real world!! =o)

  • Don’t you think it makes more sense to force a criminal to suffer for the rest of their lives than to make it easy for them and just KILL them? Most criminals probably don’t have lives worth living anyway, I’m sure they’d probably PREFER death. Not to mention, with the number of appeals allowed for the death penalty (and rightly so), it is more expensive to execute someone than it is to have them in jail for life.

  • Anthony Grande

    Chris, I don’t know about that. Knowing that another man is going to strap you down and end your life like it is worth nothing can be pretty harsh.

    JCB, yeah I wish we could all be nice to one another in the real world because then there would be no reason to have the death penalty.

  • Yeah, but think about criminals whose lives are so horrible that they have nothing to live for.

  • JCB

    I think the suffering of most of these criminals who sit all their life imprisoned can´t be compared to what they have done. Most of them develop a frame of mind that allows them to study, create ministries, learn a skill, become erudites in any give topic since they have plenty of time to read, etc. It´s like going away to camp but forever. They not only become an economic burden to the system while imprisoned but also in most of the cases, it´s the goverment who is picking up the tab for their numerous appeals, since most of the can´t afford their legal fees.

    And Chris, since the fact of the matter is that we don´t live in a society where we can respect and treat our fellow man with respect, desperate measure are neccesary to restore order.

    Thanks again for your comments

  • Okay…sitting in prison doesn’t compare, but somehow a quick and peaceful death does?

  • JCB

    Granted. A peaceful death doesn´t compare to the probably very, violent death of the victim. The true point of comparison here is to live or die on account of having senseless taken someone elses life. It´s not fully comparable but as I said in my article “the most equitable justice available, is been served”

  • But like I said…to most criminals, death doesn’t mean the same thing it means to us.

  • JCB

    Well touché my friend. That precisely strengthens my point. Justice is being served to the victims, thier family and us all remaing elements of society, not for the criminal. The lesson has been learned if the criminal feels it is appropiate to die.

  • But MY whole pint is, death of the criminal is NOT justice to the victims, because the criminal is not suffering in death.

  • JCB

    I respectfully disagree. I think the very instinctive nature of most humans beings, will feel relief with the death of the criminal that took their loved one away. To say the least, the rest of us probably feel safer with that guy dead than in prision for life.

  • Troy

    …You do realize, people in prisons often kill themselves, or at least attempt to do so, because their lives suck so bad, right? Dying is the easy way out. We view the loss of our own lives as something terrible, because we have lives worth living. But these people, just don’t. And I think having a nice, long, shitty life is a much better punishment in the long run than a nice, quick, painless death. Like someone else said before, it’s not ABOUT justice for the families of these murderers’ victims… it’s about revenge. And as understandable as those feelings of hatred and wanting to get back at someone who hurt someone you love are, the truth is, we must learn to overcome those kinds of emotions to progress as a society. If everything we did to punish people for their wrong-doings was based on getting simple revenge, then where the hell would we be? By that logic, someone could justify killing someone else because they hit their pet with their car. Or let’s say someone killed someone else’s family member. Would that justify that person then going out and kill their relative’s murderer? No. They’d face the same penalty as the murderer. Because it’s still killing. It’s still murder. “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

  • Troy

    Also, let’s not forget that these murderers have families of their own. I’m sure many of them have families that still love them, reguardless of what they’ve been accused of. What gives us the right to take away the life of someone that THEY care for?

  • Anthony Grande

    “I think the suffering of most of these criminals who sit all their life imprisoned can´t be compared to what they have done.”

    If they are guilty of something terrible then let’s let the higher being take care of them. We are humans and the criminals are humans. We are equal. We should not be able to, by law, end the life of our equals.

  • JCB

    It´s not a matter of hatred. Again it´s about justice. You have failed to establish a congruent example. The death of pet hit by a car is an accident. Brutal murders like the ones commited for example by the “Green Acres” killer, who explained justified when interviewed by the police that he killed 40 something women for free sex –because for prostitutes he had to pay–, is not an accident but deliberate criminal intent.

    We are not saying that everything should be eye for an eye, but with something as precious as life itself, equitable relief should be sought. Freedom can never be held in a higher esteem than life. That´s why the death penalty truly serves it´s purpose not life behind bars.

  • Troy

    But the EMOTIONS involved are the same. That’s not the only example I gave, either. My POINT, is that the reason people want to sentence a loved one’s murderer to death is because they want revenge. Whether they realize it or not. And when it comes to INTENTIONALLY killing someone, which is EXACTLY what the death penalty IS, murder is STILL MURDER. No matter what the reason behind it is. No matter what that person may have done in during their life, what makes it okay for any one person or group of people to kill THEM? They’re still killing. How can we say that it’s wrong for someone to murder another person, but that it’s okay to turn around and murder them? Also, many of these murders are VERY mentally ill. In their minds, what they’ve done was justified. They often believe that their killing these victims is okay, or right, or good, because they’re prostitutes, or because they upset the murderer in some way, or whatever their reason may be. But, though they may really and truly believe these things, that still doesn’t make what they’ve done RIGHT.

  • Whaa’? That doesn’t even make any sense.

  • But like Troy ALREADY said…it ISN’T about Justice. And THAT’S the point.

  • Troy

    If it’s justice you really want, then sentence them to suffer. There’s no way that a quick, painless death, that SAVES you from a long lifetime of misery, could ever compare to what the victims must have felt. A lifetime in prison will never truly simulate that suffering either, but it’s the best that can be done without resorting to something completely barbarian.

  • JCB

    You are missing the whole picture here. The purpose of the death penalty, asides from justice being served, is to deter individuals into committing this sort of crime. I feel confident that if the appeals process where limited to 1 or 2 years after sentencing, it would have a measurable, discouraging effect on crime rates of this sort.

    In terms of the philosophy of law itself, the real efficacy of a law is determined by how it affects the behavior of its subjects. A law serves or not its purpose, if the consequences of breaking it, discourge people to do so. This is what the death penalty as we know it has failed to accomplish.

    On the other hand, our system is not designed to inflict suffering on lifers and death rowers. On the contrary, it is designed to help adapt and accomodate that inmate for a life behind bars. By no means, is justice being served, nor is the law impacting its subjects as any efficacious law should.

    Paradoxically, our constitution grants the application of death penalty but would regard maybe as a cruel and unjust punishment, any harm (or suffering, using your own words Troy) done to that inmate. I rest my case.

    Nonetheless, I think it is urgent that all aspects of the application of the death penalty be thoroughly analyzed so as to conform it with the true facts of life.

  • RogerMDillon

    “The purpose of the death penalty…is to deter individuals into committing this sort of crime.”

    Is there any evidence that it does?

    The Death Penalty Information Center took the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for 2004 (Published October, 2005) and came up with these statistics:

    Average of murder rates among death penalty states in 2004: 5.1
    Average of murder rates among non-death penalty states in 2004: 2.9

    They also breal it down by state.

  • Anthony Grande

    The purpose of the Death Penalty is to reduce the murder rate and this doesn’t work. When one gets the Death Penalty they will sit on Death Row for 25 years and if they are still alive and lossed all appeals then they will get a painless death. Where is the scare or punishment at?

    For the Death Penalty to work we need to reduce the sentence to death span from 20-25 years to 2-4 years and then we will see the murder rate go down. But this is even more barbaric and how many innocent would be put to death with this policy?

  • JCB

    Roger: The determent factor of every law is a basic principle or element, that has to be present in every law. We don´t need evidence for that, as I said before it´s pure philosphy of law. We lawyer learn that in law school. There would be no sense to any law if didñ´t affect its subjects in any way.

    Anthony: I truly agree with you in that if appeals should be cut down to a couple of years, crime rates will go down. In terms of your concerns for innocent victims, visit this link for detailed stats. You will se that the number of exonerations has decreased consistently. As a matter of fact only 2 inmates were aquitted this year. I thinks the stats demostrate that the process is quite accurate and that it can be trusted.

  • Justin Berry

    I have talked to condemned people and asked them if they were scared to die the vast majority responded that they were not afraid.
    Why? Lethal injection is about as scary as Ambien.
    My next question was if we still had the electric chair how would you feel? To a man they all said that they would be scared shitless. I firmly believe that if we brought it back that the murder rates will drop dramatically.

  • Then Roger said: an you cite the people who used this as a sole justification for their opinion? Your use of it reveals what little you know of the arguement.

    Then Anthony said:He shouldn’t have to cite anyone because EVERYONE used this as the justification for saving him.

    BINGO! I couldn’t believe Roger’s demand that the poster cite examples. EVERYONE I saw with mine own lying eyeballs used this as reason to let Tookie go! Where the hell has Roger been?

    Not to mention the bogus Noble Prize nomination.

    By the way, JCB, I agree with everything in your post.

    Then you probably know that.

  • The suffering that we were referring to was not about justice or the system. We were referring to what you were saying about the families feeling like THEY’VE gotten justice, since that is what you seem to be focusing on here.

  • Yes, JCB, the statistics AS THE LAW STANDS NOW, say that exonerations have gone down. But that would no longer be the case if you reduced the appeals process, dear.

  • Shark

    It says in the Bible:

    “Thou Shalt Not Kill”

    End of debate.

    (Man, I hate those pesky liberal “activist judges.”)

  • JCB

    Justin: Interesting the hypothesis of bringing the chair back. Again, like I said in a previous post “Paradoxically, our constitution grants the application of death penalty but would regard maybe as a cruel and unjust punishment, any harm (or suffering, using your own words Troy) done to that inmate.”

    Pat Fish: Thanks for the pat in the back!

    Chris: No patronizing neessary so save the dear for your spouse, girl/boyfriend or your mother. The appeals process can be defintely be reduced to a couple of years without tampering with an inmates rights. In this day and age, you don´t need 20 years for an exoneration. It just take that long to confirm court decision after court decision a guilty veredict, like Tookies’ case.

    Shark: There is a constitutional separation between Church and State. Even though I respect your beliefs, it’s not a valid legal argument but a theological argument.

  • Shark

    “They would have done better with an axe.”
    George Westinghouse, after witnessing the first electric chair execution in 1890.


    JCB: “…There is a constitutional separation between Church and State. ..it’s not a valid legal argument but a theological argument.”

    If only you ran the country…. [sigh]

    (My biblical quote was meant as irony: right-wing conservative Christians — who will stop at nothing to cram the Bible and the 10 Commandments down America’s secular throat — are usually the most staunch supporters of the Death Penalty. Sorta like anti-abortion types who protest baby “murder” by killing doctors.)


    Anyway, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but a coupla things:

    1) I can’t imagine that the death penalty has deterred many murderers. I’ll bet you could ask most of them what the law is in their particular area — and *they probably couldn’t tell ya. To think that its main purpose is deterrence is a joke.

    *maybe that implies the Death Penalty folks need to do some better “marketing”(?)

    2) C’mon — Admit the Death Penalty is simply revenge — and I might respect that.

    BUT — in a society based on LAWS, there is really no room for the thoughts, desires, emotions, etc. of the victims’ families.
    Sorry, that’s the way it is; “we” — ie. “the state” don’t take into account emotional appeals from weepy relatives. We’re supposed to carry out the law.

    4) Read Albert Camus’ essay “Thoughts on the Guillotine” — if, by the end, you’re not against the death penalty — then you should head for Oz and petition the Wizard for a heart.

    Shark wrote about the Death Penalty a year ago. And it was funny, too.



  • RogerMDillon

    JCB wrote “The sole fact that Williams wrote children’s books while on death row has apparently blurred the reasoning of many.”

    I wrote “Can you cite the people who used this as a sole justification for their opinion?”

    What a shock that Abortion Grande, who thinks Julizzette is a “he”, and Patfish feel no one needs any proof to back up their claims.

    I’m in California and saw not one person use “the sole fact” that Tookie wrote children’s books. His defenders used more than that, not just that. But then you both never let facts get in the way of your opinions.

  • Stephen

    It’s funny how opponents of the death penalty often talk about how cruel it is and for all of those people I say, “what if it were your daughter or son, husband, wife or grandparents. What would you say if your daughter went to the market one day and was brutally raped, tortured, murdered and dismembered. Would you believe in the death penalty then? It’s very easy to be an opponent of capital punishment when it’s not your family victimized.

  • Pseudo prof

    The creator is the sovereign over lives but he also deligated that power(of death)and others similar to his representative on earth-Man.

    Don’t we everyday kill lesser animals for our sustenance and we don’t feel any remorse aboyt the act….why? because the Almighty has permitted us to; in the same token The Community or society of men have the full rights to cull and rid themselves by all means possible including capital punishment, the incorigible wrong-doers from among their midest.

    The individual is not sovereign over his life but the sovereignty belongs to us as the community…there for ot’s an offense to attempt self destruction by suicide but it’s alright if through fair jurisprudence and convention.

  • simi

    I agree with the fact that there should b no death sentence at all! who r we 2 kill what is made by god!

  • Anthony Buffum

    I like the idea of the death penalty because maybe it involves pain for those that have killed and caused families pain. Once a man or woman has committed murder in cold blood they have declared that they do not live by the principle of individual rights. If a man or women does not wish to live among us as a rational person, but as a predator, they do not deserve our rights. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. The most basic principle of justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. When someone plans and brutally murders another person, doesn’t it make sense that the punishment for the perpetrator also be death? While I believe that prompt and consistent executions would have a deterrent effect, there remains one great virtue, even for infrequent executions. The recidivism rate for capital punishment is zero. No executed murderer has or ever will kill again.

  • A.B

    thou shalt not kill

  • Wil

    Ok so i kill a bunch of people and then write some kid books so I’m innoccent? No that’s just one way to attempt to get out of the death penalty. When you judge someone you look at both sides, just because he wrote some kid book in prison doesn’t change anything, he still helped start Crips, he still killed four people. Just because you write some kid books means nothing. The guy should burn in hell.

  • Wil

    Many people who’ve murdered who’ve also been realsed from prison just do it again.
    Everyone has a right to live but that means that those murdered had the right to live also, right? It should be an eye for an eye.
    Here’s a few examples.

  • nstotlar

    i say the same thing as chris evans

  • Igor

    The death penalty has to be eliminated for the simple reason that the accused may be innocent. It happens so often that no one can ignore it.

    Executing an innocent person makes witnesses and advocates into potential murderers. Hence, anyone becomes a murderer, subject to the death penalty.