Thoughts on the death penalty (part 1)

cameron todd willingham

The death penalty has been on my mind lately as the Jodi Arias trial (impossible to escape) nears its conclusion. Without a doubt the death penalty will be on the table for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev when he goes to trial as well. I used to believe in the death penalty for the most heinous of killers, which these two are, but I’ve come to believe that it needs to be abolished no matter how brutal the crime.

What changed my opinion was the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was a Texas man convicted and sentenced to die for the 1991 deaths of his three children in a house fire that was supposedly started by him. Evidence for arson included the burn pattern of the fire and the fact that accelerant appeared to have been used. However, an independent fire expert determined that the fire department’s analysis was flawed and there were alternate explanations for the fire appearing to be an arson. The prosecution declined to hear these arguments however, and Willingham was sentenced to death. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, dismissed any calls for Willingham’s life to be spared as anti-death penalty protests.

While Arias and Tsarnaev are certainly guilty of their crimes, for every one of them who is guilty without a doubt, there is a Cameron Todd Willingham who may have been an innocent man sentenced to die. For that reason alone the death penalty needs to be abolished. The United States is one of the only Western nations with the death penalty still on the books which is shameful. If our nation is going to protest stonings and beheadings in other nations, then we need to end “an eye for an eye” on our own soil. No innocent person should die and certainly not for political reasons or because the prosecution did not want to admit they were wrong. To have that happen is an irreversible miscarriage of justice. At least a living person who is incarcerated can work to prove their innocence and be alive if redeemed.

Before begging for her life again, Jodi Arias stated, “Death is the ultimate freedom.” No killer should be given that sort of freedom. Let Jodi Arias and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spend the rest of their natural lives alone, pondering the gravity of their crimes. Despite the fact that terrible people who showed their victims no mercy are being allowed to live, abolishing the death penalty shows mercy and gives a second chance to those who may be innocent.

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