Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty

1. Moral/Philosophical

Whether guided by principles of faith (“thou shalt not kill”), logic (why do we kill people who kill people to prove that killing people is wrong?), or proper governance (the state should not kill its own citizens), the vast majority of free, modern democratic societies have rejected the death penalty as unnecessary and unjust.  The United States stands along-side China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea as countries that annually execute the greatest number of people.

2. Innocence

There have been over 150 exonerations from death row nationwide since 1973.  Virginia came within days of executing Earl Washington Jr. before he obtained counsel, who were eventually able to prove his innocence through DNA evidence.  The majority of capital cases have no biological evidence to test.  Because the criminal justice system is not foolproof, capital punishment inevitably carries with it the risk of executing innocent persons.

Virginia LawThe University of Virginia Law School has an Innocence Project Clinic. Click here to visit their website and watch a video about their mission.

3. Arbitrariness

Race plays a role. Researchers in Virginia found that a person is more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death when the victim is white vs. when the victim is black. [Virginia Joint Legislative and Review Commission of the Virginia General Assembly, Review of Virginia’s System of Capital Punishment (2000)].  Among persons executed for interracial murders in the US: white defendant/black victim = 15 executions, black defendant/white victim = 228 executions. (Death Penalty Information Center)

Geography Determines Execution Rates. Since 1977, more than 80% of all US executions have been carried out in the south. During that time, Virginia has executed 110 persons, which is second only to Texas during the same period of time. In Virginia, murder convictions ending in the death penalty are twice as likely in suburban and rural jurisdictions as in urban jurisdictions.

4. Cost

No cost study has yet been done in VIRGINIA. Other jurisdictions that have conducted studies have found that that a system with death as the maximum penalty costs significantly more than a system in which life imprisonment is the maximum penalty. In MARYLAND, a recent study found that it costs:

$1.1 million to prosecute a capital eligible case in which the death penalty is not sought.

$1.8 million to prosecute a capital-eligible case in which prosecutors unsuccessfully sought the death penalty

$3 million to prosecute a capital-eligible case resulting in the death penalty

(Urban Institute, The Cost of the Death Penalty in Maryland, March 2008)