Argument: Life in prison is a sufficient punishment; execution is excessive

Issue Report: Death penalty


James Bernstein. “The Death of McVeigh: A Time to Reflect”. Letter to the New York Times. 13 June 2001 – The loss of freedom for the remainder of one’s life is no mild punishment. We do not need the death penalty to express society’s utter repudation of those who would take the lives of others.

William Brennan, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, dissenting opinion in Gregg v. Georgia. 1976. – Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality and in its enormity, but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment; therefore the principle inherent in the clause that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment.[1]

Supreme Court of Canada, United States v. Burns, February 15th, 2001. – There is no convincing argument that exposure … to death in prison by execution advances Canada’s public interest in a way that the alternative, eventual death in prison by natural causes, would not.[2]

J. Joseph Curran, Attorney General of Maryland, in an official statement. 30 Jan. 2003. – I support with the strongest conviction the need to severely punish those who have committed these unspeakable wrongs. They have taken a life. They have caused incomprehensible suffering for the victims’ families. They have forfeited the right to live among us. We now have a way to punish them which we lacked when we reinstated the death penalty. Life without parole puts people away for the rest of their lives, with no hope or possibility of ever getting out. Let me be absolutely clear: they die in prison.[3]

John Holmes, former Harris County District Attorney. – You’re not going to find 12 people back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the alternative is throwing away the key.[4]

Frank D. Hargrove Sr., R-Hanover. Richmond Times-Dispatch. 14 Nov. 2000. – One of the responsibilities of government is to protect the public. I have voted for the death penalty over the years numerous times. But now that we have life without parole I believe that addresses the situation without a sentence that is irreversible.[5]