By Riley Ping Medvigy and Grayson Dimick

The Analy High School drama department’s production of Dead Man Walking has inspired many to take a look at the arguments surrounding the death penalty, both for and against its abolishment. Here are two student perspectives on the topic.

Arguing for the Death Penalty- by Riley Ping Medvigy

The late director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Edgar Hoover, once asked, “Have you ever thought about how many criminals escape punishment, and yet, the victims never have a chance to do that?” The capital punishment is a necessary and just system which is an essential element of California’s government. Its purpose is to bring justice to all those deserving, and although the structure has become severely flawed, readjustments may be made without entire abolishment of this crucial practice.

Capital punishment is a necessary installation in California, but needs to be revised.

  1. Capital punishment deters prospective murderers and saves potential victims.
  • Ernest Van Den Haag, professor of law at Fordham University, states common sense along with statistics suggest that “the death penalty will deter murder” because “people fear nothing more than death.”
  • In an excerpt from the American Catholic bishop’s letter states, “Any punishment to have deterrent value must be swift, sure and certain”, which targets the endless appealing process.

It is lawful and just to punish criminals based on the magnitude of the crime committed.

  • J. Budziszewski, PhD, expressed that, “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him” and the wrongdoer should “pay a price equivalent to the harm he has done.” This is not to be confused with revenge because of the difference in motives.
  • Death is an appropriate punishment for murder since anything less “would seriously deprecate the value of human life.”

Because of the nature of the capital punishment, it is impossible to ensure there will be no miscarriages of justice.

  • Attorney Steven Stewart also argues that mistakes are bound to be made in any system “which relies upon human testimony for proof”, yet this should not serve as a reason to repeal for the same reason that the risk of a car crash should make cars illegal. He suggests, “We should be vigilant to uncover and avoid such mistakes.”

Annulment of capital punishment in California is unnecessary to correct its imperfections. Perfection cannot be promised in such a human process, but reforms can be put in place to improve the system. The death penalty is key to preventing future murders and to bringing justice to those which cannot be prevented. The ratification of the bill to end capital punishment in California would be detrimental to the balance of law and order.

Abolishing the Death Penalty- by Grayson Dimick

Waste and abuse- the central components of the California death penalty. For the past 33 years, prisoner after prisoner has been piled up on death row, with little prospect of actually being executed. The backlog of prisoners coupled with a record budget deficit has lead many to realize that the death penalty is anything but the “strongest and most effective death penalty law in the nation” Californians were promised in 1977. Due to savings, abolishing capital punishment in California would clearly result in numerous benefits for the state’s society.

Abolishment of the death penalty is necessary, for the status quo is unsustainable and detrimental.

One of the main purposes of the death penalty is to act as a deterrent, yet it fails to do so.

  • Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan states that studies claiming that capital punishment deters killers “fall apart under close scrutiny,” and are full of technical and conceptual errors.
  • According to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88% of criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a proven deterrent to homicide. 87% of experts believe abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.

The death penalty is administered too slowly to be effective.

  • According to the Loyola Report, the average lag between conviction and execution is more than 25 years. A condemned man in California is more likely to die of old age than execution.

The California government cannot afford to be wastefully spending.

  • A report by Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review states death row prisoners cost $184 million more per year than if they had been sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
  • According to the ACLU of Northern California, if the state abolished capital punishment today and allowed all 714 inmates to die a natural death in prison, California would save $4 billion.


The abolishment of capital punishment is vital, for the excessive costs of the death penalty are not justified in its efficiency or ability to deter. The debate over capital punishment in the golden state is not about merits or morality of the death penalty, for that is a far more gray area. Rather, it is about priorities. The price tag doesn’t make sense in a state that faces a $26 billion budget deficit. Our government has a duty to promote the general welfare, yet they lay off teachers, police officers, and firemen by the thousands, cut social welfare programs, and strip funding from our education, while millions are spent on each individual death row prisoner. California doesn’t punish depraved killers; rather, the status quo punishes the innocent- children, students, the elderly, the poor, and the taxpayers.