Below are listed some reasons to oppose the death penalty, none of which are my own:
The death penalty is racist. – I don’t oppose the death penalty for this reason, because you could simply increase the number of white people killed, thus solving the problem of racism, and I would still oppose the death penalty just as much.
The death penalty risks killing innocent people. – I don’t oppose the death penalty for this reason. If you could prove to a certainty that everyone on death row was guilty, I would still oppose the death penalty.
The death penalty is biased against poor people. – See above regarding racism.
The death penalty has a long and costly appeals process. – I don’t oppose the death penalty for this reason, because you could simply speed up the process by revoking the right to appeal, thus solving the problem of delay, and I would still oppose the death penalty.
The death penalty doesn’t bring the kind of comfort to victims that they think it will. – If the death penalty was extremely comforting to victims, and brought them closure and joy, I would still oppose the death penalty.
The death penalty is not an effective deterrent. – If the death penalty were an effective deterrent, I would still oppose the death penalty.
I oppose the death penalty because I believe it’s immoral to kill anyone who does not pose an immediate physical threat to someone else. And since it’s almost always possible to eliminate the threat that even the most hardened killer poses, I don’t believe we can ever justify killing someone. And for me, that’s the end of it. There’s not really any other element to the calculus. It’s a very strong instinct I have, it’s not shared by most, a lot of people would recoil in revulsion at it, but I can’t get rid of it, because it’s far too essential a belief. Frankly, I suspect there are plenty of people who oppose the death penalty who have similarly nonrational reasons, but who end up making all of the above arguments because they are persuasive to others, rather than because they are their own reasons. That is to say, I think plenty of people who use the argument about risks of executing the innocent are not really interested in the real level of risk of executing the innocent, they are absolutists like myself who are disgusted by the spectacle of a person being lethally injected. But because it’s hard to persuade someone else to be disgusted by something they’re not disgusted by (since disgust is largely instinctual), we end up making the above arguments, even though we’d still be unhappy even if every single one of those problems were excised. Because I want to be honest, however, I feel it’s important to be clear on why I oppose the death penalty. It’s not because it’s racist or risky or costly; it’s because every single usage of it fundamentally assaults my sense of justice.