Deciding life or death

The Trail staff comments on the death penalty
Editor’s note

In the Trail’s regular Monday morning pitch meeting, the story of a Georgia man facing lethal injection later this month arose. The staff began talking about and disagreeing with the death penalty in general – no staff member appeared to agree with the death penalty.

These opinion pieces stem from that staff-wide conversation.

Willie Pye is facing the death penalty on March 20, 2024, after being imprisoned 30 years for the kidnap, robbery, rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend Alicia Yarbrough in 1996. Georgia has not had an execution in more than four years.

The Trail will follow this story. 

I will just never see Jesus agreeing with the death penalty. That is why I have to be against it.

I am against the death penalty and my reasoning is very simple. Now I understand the death penalty, I even agree with a lot of the arguments that are for it but the one thing that counters my understanding is my faith. I am a follower of God, a Christian. I can’t see a situation where Jesus gives the command for the firing squad to open fire. I can’t see Jesus walk over and press the button that releases the lethal injection. I can’t see Jesus ever agreeing to kill someone, no matter the mistakes and sins they have committed. 

This isn’t about seeing someone rot in jail feeling tortured and living to the guilt of their actions because let’s be honest, if they can commit the crimes that warrant the death sentence, they won’t be bothered by what they did. This isn’t about the family feeling revenge and validated. 

Another issue is with innocents being charged wrongly. It doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes it does and taking the life of someone only for their innocence to be proven after they have been killed… we have killed an innocent person. There is zero justifying that.

One of the interesting things I find about the controversy surrounding the death penalty is how people can be pro-choice and anti-death penalty. The idea is so similar. People don’t agree with the death penalty because they don’t think that the government or a group of people should be able to kill another person but they are perfectly fine with a woman having an abortion and killing the baby inside them. Morally, which should you want to save, the convicted murderer or the innocent baby? It is interesting that they don’t want to kill a convict but they are more than willing to abort a growing baby. I think it is a hypocritical stance on the death penalty when you can agree to murder a baby but disagree on the death penalty. 

All of that to say, my biggest arguments are back to my faith. I will just never see Jesus agreeing with the death penalty. That is why I have to be against it. It isn’t my right to judge someone for life or death. He wouldn’t murder someone, so I can’t feel justified to agree with the death penalty. As a Christian, I can’t be okay with the death penalty. 

Who decides what punishment is fit for such crimes?
(Rebekah Bushmire)

Nobody has the right to take away a human life. How could you place the value of a human life in the hands of a jury? To say these people are in charge of allowing you to live or die is inhumane. However, the argument can be made that the inhumane criminal charges placed upon the prosecuted deserve inhumane action; but could the uncertainty of passing the great divide be fulfilling to the victims of such heinous acts? Locking the criminal for life in a cell is a punishment worse than death– to think, to rethink and to live alone and demented in their legacy of terror and disgust. Then again, the argument of space within prisons. But this also brings into question the morality and “correctness” of the justice system; who decides what punishment is fit for such crimes? Why are these powers able to make such judgements? If your life is put into the hands of twelve humans, then how could this possibly meet the justice demands of the entirety of humanity? 

The death penalty is inhumane. However, this is a disgustingly and dementedly confusing question of morality. Who am I to answer? Who are you to answer? Who is to answer after all? 

My big controversial opinion – I believe in change.
(Rebekah Bushmire)

I don’t believe in the death penalty. That’s not my controversial opinion.

My big controversial opinion – I believe in change. Giving the sentence of a death penalty takes away any kind of possibility of change or growth. There are a ton of people who have found faith in prison, changed their ways, and gone out better. Better Way Ministries is an organization founded on faith that has wonderful rates of rehabilitation for many men coming out of prison. While some criminals should not be released back into society, isn’t the rehabilitation of ex-cons evidence enough of change?

Beyond change, no judge, jury, or individual, should have the right to take away a human life. In any other context, execution is premeditated murder.

Furthermore, the judicial system is not accurate enough to deem someone unworthy of life. Consider the case of Tod Willingham, who was accused of burning down his home to murder his children, and was executed months before the evidence came out that proved him innocent. Evidence not even related to the case was used against him, such as past domestic violence claims, metallica posters, and incorrectly identified burn patterns. Willingham lost his life due to unfair claims and incorrect evidence. What change Willingham could have brought to the world upon being released from jail, what contributions he could have given to society, the world will never know.

The death penalty should be abolished.

One person losing their life is one life too many.
(Rebekah Bushmire)

The death penalty is always a difficult discussion. I think that criminals who have committed heinous crimes should be punished. Some may agree that if you take a life, then you owe a life, but I personally think that no one should have the power to end someone’s life in the name of justice. Under what circumstances does a person deserve to be killed? If it’s when a person kills another, then in my opinion, there should be way more people receiving the death penalty. I understand that murdering a whole town versus murdering one person looks a lot worse in numbers, but for me, a life is a life. One person losing their life is one life too many.

If someone is truly a monster, then the worst possible punishment for them would be to live the rest of their lives with their actions on their conscience. Murderers should sit in prison with a constant reminder of how they ripped a person away from their family, friends and place in the world. Another reason why I disagree with the death penalty is the fact that there have been people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime, and an innocent person lost their lives just because a group of people voted for it.

We can’t prove their innocence after they are dead.
(Rebekah Bushmire)

The death penalty is cruel, yes, but I believe that it’s an easy way out for those who are given it. If you committed a crime worthy of the death penalty you should be spending the rest of your life behind bars. I get the fact that if you killed someone you should get the same retribution, but I personally believe that having to stay in jail knowing you will never be released, is mental torment. Just that alone is worth the cost of a life. We also must add that proof is not always solid in court and people can be wrongly accused. When they get put on death row for something they didn’t do, we can’t prove their innocence after they are dead. Yes, there are pardons, but it doesn’t reverse the fact that they are dead.

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