From yesterday's Birmingham News, "Death penalty diminishes humanity for all citizens," by Robert and Rachel Meeropol:
Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty, and with that in mind, we urge the United States to outlaw this horrible punishment.
As the son and granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, executed by the U.S. government after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage at the height of the McCarthy period in 1953, we have a personal reason to abhor the death penalty.
As attorneys, we view the death penalty as a fundamental human rights abuse. And as citizens, we are ashamed the death penalty is still being carried out in our country.
There are many compelling reasons to abolish the death penalty.
First of all, the death penalty diminishes the humanity of everyone it touches.
Second, since our system of justice can never be mistake-free, it is inevitable that an error will be made in a capital case and an innocent person will be executed. In fact, DNA evidence has demonstrated the innocence of at least 17 Death-Row inmates since 1993, according to the Innocence Project.
Third, the question of cost is also compelling. At a time when states face massive budget shortfalls, a study examining the cost of the death penalty in Kansas found that death penalty cases are 70 percent more expensive than comparable nondeath-penalty cases.
Fourth, the death penalty disproportionately falls on poor people and people of color. Blacks and Latinos make up more than 55 percent of the current Death Row population, despite comprising only about 25 percent of the U.S. population.
Fifth, the death penalty is not an effective deterrent. States that use it don't have lower murder rates than states that do not.
Finally, there is a more fundamental reason. In the aftermath of World War II, the United States took a leadership role in drafting an "international bill of rights" that recognized all people have certain inherent rights. This core human rights document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, put it simply: Life is a human right.
This makes the death penalty our deepest human rights abuse.