The death penalty raises important questions about the right to life, who has a right to life, and under what circumstances a right to life can be taken away. I believe there are no circumstances under which capital punishment is justified. I will proceed to defend my claim that capital punishment is unjustified by arguing a position that killing is wrong because it deprives individuals of valuable futures.
To support my thesis that capital punishment is not justified, I will expand upon an argument made my Don Marquis in his essay “Why Abortion is Immoral” in which he argues that killing is immoral on the grounds that it deprives human beings of a valuable future. My argument is as follows:
1. Killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of his or her future.
2. Death row criminals are in the same moral category as other human beings with respect to the moral value of their lives.
3. The future of a criminal on death row is just as valuable as the future of a human being not on death row.
4. Any form of capital punishment is a form of killing.
5. Therefore, because killing is wrong, killing by capital punishment is also wrong under every circumstance.
My first premise states that killing is wrong because it deprives the victim of his or her future. Just as Marquis argues that abortion is wrong because it is killing an individual and depriving him or her of a valuable future, I argue that capital punishment is wrong because it too involves killing and depriving an individual of a valuable future. Marquis states, “When I am killed, I am deprived both of what I now value which would have been part of my future personal life, but also what I would come to value” (322). The value of an individual’s future is a subjective term. The value of something, in this case the value of a life, is not determined by external circumstances or the opinions of other people. The outside factors and conditions are irrelevant. Rather, the value is determined by how that person perceives his or her own life and these future experiences. Thus, when someone is killed, he or she is deprived of all the things that were of value and will be of value to him or her in the future. Causing this loss of a valuable future is ultimately what makes killing wrong and immoral because that individual has permanently lost the opportunity to enjoy his or her future experiences which are valuable to him or her.
My second premise states that death row criminals are in the same moral category as other human beings with respect to the moral value of their lives. The only factor which differentiates a criminal from a non-criminal is the fact that the criminal, usually irrefutably, violated community standards and the law to commit a crime. In the case of a criminal on death row, he or she would have had to have committed a serious capital crime to receive the death sentence. Since committing a capital offense is the only reason death row criminals are different from other human...