John Morrison

It should be clear that the death penalty does just the opposite of promoting decency and respect for life. It dehumanizes people and promotes murder. It can never be applied fairly. - John Morrison

Helen Prejean

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The profound moral question is not, "Do they deserve to die?" but "Do we deserve to kill them?" - Helen Prejean

Eberhard Arnold

We ourselves must no presume to shorten the life of any human being. That would be no less than a crime against God. If we believe that death is the last enemy, then we shall not offer him our hand to serve him by killing men. - Eberhard Arnold

Coretta Scott King

Forgiving violence does not mean condoning violence. There are only two alternatives to forgiving violence: revenge, or adopting an attitude of never-ending bitterness and anger. For too long we have treated violence with violence, and that's why it never ends. - Coretta Scott King

Helen Prejean

People say that executing criminals does not take away from their dignity-- if it is done with dignity. But the fact of the matter is that whether you're waiting to die by lethal injection-- waiting to for the poison to flow down your veins--or waiting for a bullet, or waiting for a rope, or waiting for gas, or waiting for the electric current--there is no difference: there is no lesser or greater dignity in dying. The practice of the death penalty is the practice of torture. And by the time people I have been with finally climb into the chair to be killed, they have died a thousand times already because of their anticipation of the final horror. - Helen Prejean

Helen Prejean

Money and influence decide who is considered for a parole hearing, what the decision is likely to be and what the Governor's decision is likely to be. It is that, not your behavior in prison that decides your release. - Helen Prejean

Helen Prejean

In the example given (patently patriarchal: the woman is considered the negotiable property of her male master), it is clear that punishment is to be measured out according to the seriousness of the offense. If the child is lost but not the mother, the punishment is less grave than if both mother and child are lost. Only and eye for an eye, only a life for a life is the intent of this passage. Restraint was badly needed. It was not uncommon for an offended family or clan to slaughter entire communities in retaliation for an offense against one of their members. - Helen Prejean

Helen Prejean

I tell myself that I had simply better accept the fact that the death penalty is here to stay in our society, at least for a while, and there is nothing I can do about it. Maybe, in time- after how many executions? - people will come to realize the futility of randomly selecting a few people to die each year. - Helen Prejean

Larry Mattera

If violence is objectivated institutionally as an expression of a society's collective political will to justice, institutions of violence will necessarily become formative of society. The more profoundly a society comes to rely on institutionalized violence as an instrument of its political purpose, the more tightly will institutionalized violence entangle society and the more formative of societal identity violence will become. - Larry Mattera

Helen Prejean

The application of the death penalty is like a lottery because such a small percentage of murderers get the death penalty- 1 or 2 percent of the thousands who commit homicide every year. And of those receiving death sentences, only a fraction are executed. Most people think this one or two percent who go to death row must have committed the most heinous, pre meditated, cold-blooded murders, but you see in many, many of these cases panic murders by defendants who have a history of child abuse or have had head injuries or who are mentally retarded, or outright insane. - Helen Prejean

Robert Camus

To assert, in any case, that a man must be absolutely cut off from society because he is absolutely evil amounts to saying that society is absolutely good, and no one in his right mind would believe this today. - Robert Camus

Russ Feingold

It's just really tragic after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years we can't leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution. - Russ Feingold

Ralph Nader

Since I was a law student, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since they’re given no competent legal counsel defense in many cases. It’s a system that has to be perfect. You cannot execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for those of you who are interested in the economics it, it costs more to pursue a capital case toward execution than it does to have full life imprisonment without parole - Ralph Nader

Anthony Kennedy

When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity - Anthony Kennedy

William J. Brennan

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. - William J. Brennan

Jesse Ventura

How come life in prison doesn't mean life? Until it does, we're not ready to do away with the death penalty. Stop thinking in terms of "punishment" for a minute and think in terms of safeguarding innocent people from incorrigible murderers. - Jesse Ventura

Ramsey Clark

A humane and generous concern for every individual, his health and his fulfillment, will do more to soothe the savage heart than the fear of state-inflicted death, which chiefly serves to remind us how close we remain to the jungle. - Ramsey Clark

John Kerry

I know something about killing. I don't like killing. And I don't think a state honors life by turning around and sanctioning killing. Now, that's just a personal belief that I have - John Kerry

Al Gore

I support the death penalty. I think that it has to be administered not only fairly, with attention to things like DNA evidence, which I think should be used in all capital cases, but also with very careful attention. If the wrong guy is put to death, then that’s a double tragedy. Not only has an innocent person been executed but the real perpetrator of the crime has not been held accountable for it, and in some cases may be still at large. But I support the death penalty in the most heinous cases. - Al Gore

John Paul Stevens

I think this country would be much better off if we did not have capital punishment.... We cannot ignore the fact that in recent years a disturbing number of inmates on death row have been exonerated - John Paul Stevens

Stephen Bright

It can be argued that rapists deserve to be raped, that mutilators deserve to be mutilated. Most societies, however, refrain from responding in this way because the punishment is not only degrading to those on whom it is imposed, but it is also degrading to the society that engages in the same behavior as the criminals - Stephen Bright

Bryan Stevenson

The reality is that capital punishment in America is a lottery. It is a punishment that is shaped by the constraints of poverty, race, geography and local politics - Bryan Stevenson

George Ryan

[I am] haunted by the demon of error - error in determining guilt and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die - George Ryan

George Ryan

In the US the overwhelming majority of those executed are psychotic, alcoholic, drug addicted or mentally unstable. They frequently are raised in an impoverished and abusive environment. Seldom are people with money or prestige convicted of capital offenses, even more seldom are they executed - George Ryan

David Atwood

When we don't fund Child Protective Services, there are consequences for all of us. Violence manifests itself. Mental health services in Texas are extremely poor. The answer is not to wait until they do something to get them help. - David Atwood

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I have yet to see a death case among the dozen coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial... People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Pat Brown

The most glaring weakness is that no matter how efficient and fair the DP may seem in theory, in actual practice it is primarily inflicted upon the weak, the poor, the ignorant and minorities - Pat Brown

Desmond Tutu

To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice - Desmond Tutu

Gerald Heaney

Imposition of the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. Decision of who will live and who will die for his crime turns less on the nature of the offense and the incorrigibility of the offender and more on inappropriate and indefensible considerations: the political and personal inclinations of prosecutors; the defendant's wealth, race and intellect; the race and economic status of the victim; the quality of the defendant's counsel; and the resources allocated to defense lawyers. - Gerald Heaney

Lewis Lawes

As if one crime of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually, can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively - Lewis Lawes

Gregory Ruff

I have never heard a murderer say they thought about the death penalty as consequence of their actions prior to committing their crimes. - Gregory Ruff

Albert Camus

Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders. - Albert Camus

Peter Norden

Previously, Pope John Paul has taken a position on capital punishment . . . and given clear teaching on the value of all human life, not just innocent human life. - Peter Norden

Paul Simon

As long as you have capital punishment there is no guarantee that innocent people won't be put to death. - Paul Simon

Elizabeth Fry

Does Capital punishment tend to the security of the people? By no means. It hardens the hearts of men, and makes the loss of life appear light to them; it renders life insecure, inasmuch as the law holds out that Property is of greater value than life. - Elizabeth Fry

Henry Louis Mencken

The argument that capital punishment degrades the state is moonshine, for if that were true then it would degrade the state to send men to war... The state, in truth, is degraded in its very nature: a few butcheries cannot do it any further damage.

Helen Prejean

If we believe that murder is wrong and not admissible in our society, then it has to be wrong for everyone, not just individuals but governments as well. - Helen Prejean

Marquis De Sade

The law which attempts a man's life is impractical, unjust, inadmissible. It has never repressed crime -- for a second crime is every day committed at the foot of the scaffold. - Marquis De Sade

Bertrand Russell

The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses. - Bertrand Russell

George Orwell

Most people approve of capital punishment, but most people wouldn't do the hangman's job. - George Orwell

Walter Benjamin

The killing of a criminal can be moral — but never its legitimation. - Walter Benjamin

Voltaire

Let all the laws be clear, uniform and precise. To interpret laws is almost always to corrupt them. - Voltaire

Napoleon

The art of policing is, in order not to punish often, to punish severely – Napoleon

Justice Antonin Scalia

There have been Christian opponents of the death penalty just as there have been Christian pacifists, but neither of those positions has even been predominant in the church. Its current predominance is the handiwork of Napoleon, Hegel and Freud rather than of St. Thomas and St. Augustine. – Justice Antonin Scalia

Geoffrey Fisher

The long and distressing controversy over capital punishment is very unfair to anyone meditating murder. - Geoffrey Fisher quotes

Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Laws are rules established by men who are in control of organized violence for the non fulfillment of which those who do not fulfill them are subjected to personal injuries, the loss of liberty, and even capital punishment - Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Ambrose Bierce

Capital Punishment, a penalty regarding the justice and expediency of which many worthy persons - including all the assassins - entertain grave misgivings - Ambrose Bierce

Bill Clinton

Supporters of capital punishment bear a special responsibility to ensure the fairness of this irreversible punishment - Bill Clinton

Michel de Montaigne

One of the uses of our system of justice is to warn others… We are reforming, not the hanged individual, but everyone else – Michel de Montaigne

Justice Antonin Scalia

There have been Christian opponents of the death penalty just as there have been Christian pacifists, but neither of those positions has even been predominant in the church. Its current predominance is the handiwork of Napoleon, Hegel and Freud rather than of St. Thomas and St. Augustine. – Justice Antonin Scalia

John McAdams

If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call. – John McAdams

George Savile

Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen – George Savile

Thomas Fuller

Law cannot persuade, where is cannot punish – Thomas Fuller

Mary Wollstonecraft

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world – Mary Wollstonecraft

George Walker Bush

I don’t think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don’t think that’s right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people’s lives – George Walker Bush

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

If the death penalty is to be abolished, let those gentlemen, the murderers, do it first – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

French:

Si l’on veut abolir la peine de mort en ce cas, que MM. les assassins commencent

Source:
Shapiro, F. R. (2006). The Yale book of quotations. (F. R. Shapiro, Ed.) Yale University Press.

Potter Stewart

We are concerned here only with the imposition of capital punishment for the crime of murder, and when a life has been taken deliberately by the offender, we cannot say that the punishment is invariably disproportionate to the crime. It is an extreme sanction suitable to the most extreme of crimes. – Potter Stewart

Orrin Hatch

Capital punishment is our society’s recognition of the sanctity of human life. – Orrin Hatch

Nicolas Chamfort

Said a man ingenuously to one of his friends: "This morning we condemned three men to death. Two of them definitely deserved it." - Nicolas Chamfort

Victor Hugo

What does the law say? "Thou shalt not kill." How does it say it? By killing!" - Victor Hugo

Henry Ford

Capital punishment is as fundamentally wrong as a cure for crime as charity is wrong as a cure for poverty - Henry Ford

Benjamin Tucker

And capital punishment, however ineffective it may be and through whatever ignorance it may be resorted to, is a strictly defensive act, - at least in theory. - Benjamin Tucker

Ismail Mahomed

The burning of the house of the offender is not a permissible punishment for arson. The rape of the offender is not a permissible punishment of a rapist. Why should murder be a permissible punishment for murder? - Ismail Mahomed

Victor Hugo

Three things belong to God and do not belong to men: the irrevocable, the irreparable and the indissoluble. Woe to men if they introduce it in their laws! - Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo

Death penalty is the special and eternal sign of barbarism. Where death penalty is applied, barbarism dominates; where death penalty is rare, civilisation reigns. - Victor Hugo

Albert Einstein

I have reached the conviction that the abolition of the death penalty is desirable. Reasons: 1) Irreparability in the event of an error of justice, 2) Detrimental moral influence of the execution procedure on those who, whether directly or indirectly, have to do with the procedure. - Albert Einstein

Anton Chekhov

Capital punishment kills immediately, whereas lifetime imprisonment does so slowly. Which executioner is more humane? The one who kills you in a few minutes, or the one who wrests your life from you in the course of many years? - Anton Chekhov

Albert Camus

What will be left of the power of example if it is proved that capital punishment has another power, and a very real one, which degrades men to the point of shame, madness, and murder? - Albert Camus

Katharine Fullerton Gerould

Many of us do not believe in capital punishment, because thus society takes from a man what society cannot give. - Katharine Fullerton Gerould

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If we could do away with death, we wouldn’t object; to do away with capital punishment will be more difficult. Were that to happen, we would reinstate it from time to time. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Don Feder

Executing a murderer is the only way to adequately express our horror at the taking of an innocent life. Nothing else suffices. To equate the lives of killers with those of victims is the worst kind of moral equivalency. If capital punishment is state murder, then imprisonment is state kidnapping and restitution is state theft. – Don Feder

Thomas Szasz

If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why lawbreakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behavior. The aim of criminal law cannot be correction or deterrence; it can only be the maintenance of the legal order. - Thomas Szasz

Theodore D. Roosevelt

As regards capital cases, the trouble is that emotional men and women always see only the individual whose fate is up at the moment, and neither his victim nor the many millions of unknown individuals who would in the long run be harmed by what they ask. Moreover, almost any criminal, however brutal, has usually some person, often a person whom he has greatly wronged, who will plead for him. If the mother is alive she will always come, and she cannot help feeling that the case in which she is so concerned is peculiar, that in this case a pardon should be granted. It was really heartrending to have to see the kinfolk and friends of murderers who were condemned to death, and among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official caused me to lose sleep were times when I had to listen to some poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his punishment. - Theodore D. Roosevelt

Margaret Thatcher

I personally have always voted for the death penalty because I believe that people who go out prepared to take the lives of other people forfeit their own right to live. I believe that that death penalty should be used only very rarely, but I believe that no-one should go out certain that no matter how cruel, how vicious, how hideous their murder, they themselves will not suffer the death penalty. - Margaret Thatcher

Manfred F. Schieder

In the case of murder, the death penalty - issued by way of putting the culprit to sleep to then apply the lethal injection - is the time delayed procedure of self-defense as carried out by the representatives of the victim(s) who, at the time of the incident and due to the then existing circumstances, was/were unable to defend itself/themselves from the willful murderous attack. - Manfred F. Schieder