The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and violates the right to life. It's hard for me as a Swede to understand that a country such as USA still have that kind of punishment. For many people and nations the USA serves as a model, so it is to me very difficult to imagine how you can persuade nations like Burma and China to respect basic human rights when you don't do it yourself. Body A.

Concerning the Death Penalty Capital punishment -- the death penalty -- is supposed to select the worst criminals who committed the worst murders and punish them and protect society by taking their lives. In numbers far beyond our greatest fears, innocent people are being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Nationally, more than 75 innocent people have been freed from death row in the last 20 years. Here in Illinois alone, we " ve executed 12 and we " ve exonerated 11. That's almost a 50% error rate on the most fundamental question of guilt or innocence. B.

The poor are often represented by incompetent or underfunded lawyers. Some people are on death row not because they committed the worst crimes, but because they had the worst lawyers. In Illinois, as in most places, there are no minimum standards for death penalty defense work. Any lawyer can defend a client in a capital case, with no experience. There is some very good lawyer ing going on in death penalty cases in Illinois, but there's also some very bad lawyer ing. C.

The death penalty is extremely expensive. It costs far more to execute someone than to lock them up in a maximum security prison for the rest of their life. In Florida, it costs S 3. 2 million per death case, six times the cost of a life sentence; in Texas, $2.

3 million, three times the cost of sentencing a defendant to 40 years in a single cell in that state's high security prison. Wouldn't it really be better to spend those millions of dollars on programs that might actually do something to reduce or prevent crime? Hire more police officers, improve education, provide better prenatal care, take your pick! D. The death penalty hasn't been shown to be a deterrent to committing murders. Since 1976, the number of executions and the size of death row have steadily increased. Yet there has been virtually no change in the national murder rate. And the murder rate remains higher in death penalty states than in non-death penalty states.

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, states with the death penalty have homicide rates of 7. 4 to 100, 000; states without the death penalty have a homicide rate of 4. 9 to 100, 000 Conclusion It's natural to feel the need for revenge when a loved one is murdered. But what society needs is a system of criminal justice, not a system of criminal vengeance. Many places in this country get along fine without it: here in the Midwest, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin all seem to be relatively civilized and peaceful places, even without the death penalty.

In addition to the United States, the countries with the most documented executions in 1997 include China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Libya and Afghanistan. Is this really the international company that we want to be keeping?