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Argument: State-sanctioned executions devalue the dignity of life

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Supporting quotations

Albert Camus, French-Algerian Philosopher and author (1913-1960), "Reflections on the Guillotine" - 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?


William Brennan, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice. "What the Constitution Requires". New York Times. 28 Apr. 1996 - One area of law more than any other besmirches the constitutional vision of human dignity ... The barbaric death penalty violates our Constitution. Even the most vile murderer does not release the state from its obligation to respect dignity, for the state does not honor the victim by emulating his murderer. Capital punishment's fatal flaw is that it treats people as objects to be toyed with and discarded ... One day the Court will outlaw the death penalty. Permanently.[1]


Justice Arthur Chaskalson, President of the South African Constitutional Court, Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, said in a 1995 court decision. - The right to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights and this must be demonstrated by the state in everything that it does, including the way it punishes criminals.[2]


James G. Exum, former North Carolina Chief Justice. The News & Record 8 Mar. 2000 - [Any death penalty law written by humankind] forever and always will be insufficient to decide who should live or who should die ... No matter how we try to dress it up -- doing it by lethal injection and very early in the morning -- it's still the ultimate, brutal act.[3]


Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General. from his book "Crime in America". New York Times. 7/3/1968. - Our motions may cry for vengeance in the wake of a horrible crime, but we know that killing the criminal will not undo the crime, will not prevent similar crimes by others, does not benefit the victim, destroys human life and brutalizes society. If we are to still violence, we must cherish life. Executions cheapen life.[4]


Arthur J. Goldberg (1908-1990), former Supreme Court Justice, 1976. - The deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest conceivable degradation to the dignity of the human personality.[5]


Hugo Adam Bedau. "The Case Against The Death Penalty". American Civil Liberties Union. 1992 - Opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent, and any policy of state-authorized killings is immoral.[6]


Archbishop Desmond Tutu - “The abolition of the death penalty is making us a civilized society. It shows we actually do mean business when we say we have reverence for life.”[7]


John Bright, English statesman and orator, 1868. - The real security for human life is to be found in a reverence for it. If the law regarded it as inviolable, then the people would begin also so to regard it. A deep reverence for human life is worth more than a thousand executions in the prevention of murder; and is, in fact, the great security for human life. The law of capital punishment while pretending to support this reverence, does in fact tend to destroy it.[8]


Edmund G. Brown, former Governor of California, who commuted the sentences of 23 condemned men during his two-term tenure. - Beyond its honor and incredibility, it has neither protected the innocent nor deterred the killers. Publicly sanctioned killing has cheapened human life and dignity without the redeeming grace which comes from justice metered out swiftly, evenly, humanely.

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