Friday, March 2, 2012

At the Death House Door

        I recently viewed a documentary that contained a message that was powerful enough to change my stance on the use of the death penalty. This film was At the Death House Door  and  it follows the remarkable career of Carroll Pickett, who served 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous Walls prison unit in Huntsville, Texas. During that time he presided over 95 executions, including the very first lethal injection done anywhere in the world. After every execution, Pickett recorded an audiotape account of that day which portrayed his views on each matter. The film also tells the story of Carlos De Luna, a convict whose execution affected Pickett more than any other. Pickett firmly believed that the man was innocent at the time of the execution and two Chicago Tribune reporters eventually revealed the evidence that strongly suggested he was right and that the death penalty should have not be administered. In Texas, the death penalty is commonly applied however its use has been very debated throughout the history of the United States criminal justice system. I personally believe that Texas is, in fact, wrong with their administration of the death penalty. In order to understand why I have taken this stance I will show various reasons that demonstrate that the death penalty is a very poor decision to make. 
         First, and most important,  the death penalty is an irrevocable punishment, so it demands that there is no infallibility from the human beings who are part of the criminal justice system that impose death. Since human beings are with out a doubt fallible, innocent people have been executed in the past and will continue to be executed in the future unless the death penalty is abolished. An example can be seen in At the Death House Door with Carlos De Luna. The movie explains how he was executed for the fatal stabbing of Texas convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez in 1983. However, there was new evidence found after the execution by reporters Maurice Possley and Steve Mills that casted doubt that DeLuna was actually guilty. The reporters claimed that another man, Carlos Hernandez , who had a record of similar crimes and repeatedly confessed to the murder actually was the culprit. In addition, Carroll Pickett who was his executioner also claimed that DeLuna was innocent. This example demonstrates that errors can be made in executions were innocent individuals are killed for crimes that they actually did not commit. I believe that this alone should be reason enough to abolish the penalty due to the fact that errors can easily be made in the criminal justice system that leads to wrongful deaths of innocent people. Does it make any sense to use the death penalty if there is even a slight chance that one person might be wrongly executed? I think not.
        My next reason in favor of abolishing the death penalty deals with the fact that I feel the penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. I consider the death penalty cruel, inhuman, and a degrading punishment. The Declaration of Independence was created to promote fundamental rights as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. The Declaration proclaims each person's right to protection from deprivation of life, and it states that no one shall be subjected to cruel and/or degrading punishment. I feel that since the death penalty is the premeditated, cold-blooded killing of a prisoner in federal or state custody, it violates a individuals right to not be subject to that kind of punishment.
       My final reason against the death penalty is due to my religion. I believe that the death penalty clearly violates one of the most important commandments in the bible which is that of, “Thou shalt not kill.” I feel that this commandment does not have a sub-paragraph giving exception to the rule. Therefore, the death penalty is clearly against my beliefs. In addition, the bible also states that if somebody does evil to you, you do not pay them back with evil but you do everything possible to live in peace with all even if they harmed you. I believe that it is clear as to how this part of the bible shows that the death penalty is wrong. I feel that the death penalty endorses violence which goes against my religion so I think that it is an incorrect punishment.
       In conclusion, I definitely feel that the death penalty should be completely abolished from the United States criminal justice system. I believe that after viewing At The Death House Door, it is clearly wrong to allow the death penalty to occur within any state. The film's description on the case of Carlos DeLuna and how is was possible that he was wrongly executed demonstrates to me that humans can make errors in the criminal justice system. I strongly feel that since humans can easily make these types of mistakes, something as irrevocable as the death penalty should not be allowed to be carried out on individuals even if they are possible criminals. In addition, I think that the penalty is both a violation of human rights and my religion. Therefore, my overall stance is that the death penalty needs to be abolished as soon as possible so people such as Carlos DeLuna wont be killed for crimes that they did not even commit.




  1. I have to almost completely disagree with you. I am greatly in favor of the death penalty. I am proud to live in a country however where we can both have our own opinions. I think this topic is extremely controversial because it is dependent on beliefs. There is no clear right or wrong, it is very subjective. On your first point I am sure that there have been innocent people put to death and will continue to be. I however think that the percentage is so low that it is acceptable. I guess I almost have a utilitarian view of it as the positive outweighs the negative. As to your second point I don't think the death penalty is any more inhumane than the murder one had to commit to receive it. When someone commits murder they forfeit their rights when they unjustly take away the rights of another. The victim doesn't get a second chance; their family doesn't get a second chance, why should the person who made the decision to cause the pain get one. As to your third point I believe you are making a common mistake. The bible says though shall not commit murder. It does not say that all killing is unjust. More people have been killed in the name of god than anything else in history. I'm pretty sure there is something in the bible about an eye for an eye, so I could state that my religion actually calls for murders to be put to death and that it supports capital punishment. I would like to reiterate my first point here; these are my opinions and I respect the fact that you can disagree with them and have your own.

  2. 12) "At the Death House Door" Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?"

    The false innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are both blatant and legendary. Some examples:

    4) "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

    5) The 130 (now 140) death row "innocents" scam

    6) "Exoneration Inflation: Justice Scalia’s Concurrence in Kansas v. March", by Ward Campbell, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice, p 49, The Journal of the
    Institute for the Advancement of Criminal Justice, Issue 2, Summer 2008,

    7) "The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation", reports By United States Congress, Senate, 107th Congress, 2d Session, Calender no 731, Report 107-315. The Innocence Protection Act of 2002, (iv) The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation, p 65-69,

    8) "The Innocent and the Shammed", Joshua Marquis, Published in New York Times, 1/26/2006

    9) "Troy Davis & The Innocent Frauds of the anti death penalty lobby",

    10) "The Myth Of Innocence"­, Joshua Marquis, pu­blished in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminolog­y - 3/31/2005, Northweste­rn University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois

    11) Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review"

    13) "Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown", A Collection of Articles