There is a lot of debate about the death penalty. Today Emma and Brittany discuss the top arguments for and against and discuss the harm in giving government the power to take lives.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: For a lot of our episodes, we keep it pretty lighthearted, but just as a heads up today, we’re gonna talk about a topic that is a bit more serious. Now, a lot of you may have heard of the death penalty before, but for those who haven’t, it’s when a state gives the government the right to kill people convicted of certain crimes. So it’s also sometimes referred to as capital punishment in 27 states. So over half of the states in America, there is a death penalty on the books. And the main way that it’s enforced nowadays is through something called legal injection. And this is when people convicted of certain crimes are basically given a shot that’s filled with a deadly poison that stops their body from working. And you have to be convicted of very serious crimes to be sentenced to the death penalty. And one of the main ones is murder. But there are some other things that can get you the death penalty in certain states. So before lethal injection was invented in the 1980s, electrocution was used to carry out the death penalty, and it’s actually still used as a secondary method in many states. So, I know that a lot of folks have different opinions on whether or not the death penalty should be part of our laws. And I understand that even listening to this podcast, some of you guys might have different opinions on that, and that’s totally okay. We’re just kind of talking through,  talking through some reasoning on this and why Brittany and I both are opposed to the death penalty. So, Brittany, why don’t you give us some of the reasons that you’ve heard from people who support the death penalty, and maybe we’ll just talk through those and how people may be able to see the other side on this.

Brittany: Yeah, and I think I have a really interesting perspective because I, wasn’t in high school very pro-death penalty. So, I’ve been there. So, all right. Some crimes are so bad. People think, you know, people need to die for committee them retribution is a word that, that we’ve not retribution. Sorry. Restitution yes is a word that we’ve used before on another podcast. We forgot the word then I forgot the word this time. So restitution is this idea, you may have heard an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. This, idea that you know, let’s say I steal a car from Emma, that if I get caught and convicted, I need to either pay her what the car costs or I need to replace the car. So there’s a lot of people that believe, cuz an I for and I is a Bible verse, and a lot of people believe that, means, you know, if somebody, if you kill somebody, somebody should have the right to take your life because that would be restitution. Another reason is that people think that it’s gonna deter, meaning it will stop future crimes. There were times when and there are still places where if you get caught stealing, they cut off your hand. And part of the reason they do that is to send a message to other people saying, this is what’s gonna happen to you if you, you know if you try to steal from me. So there’s, that’s another reason people think, okay, maybe there will be fewer murders or fewer capital crimes, as we’ve talked about, if we execute people and then other people say, oh, I, don’t wanna do that because I don’t, I don’t wanna be executed. So another reason and this was the reason I, and the main reason that I was pro-death penalty a long, long time ago, and that’s that it costs a lot of money to keep people in jail. Which is surprising because jails have such horrific like, like it’s just, where does the money go is what I’d like to know. Cause they’re really horrible places. Yeah. So, a lot of people believe that the taxes that it costs us to keep people in jail are just too high and that it would save money,  just putting them to death. Another thing is it would stop serial killers, let’s say from re-offending, right? Once you take the problem away, you no longer have a problem. And I mean, I don’t know if we wanna go over why some of these are wrong. Maybe I’ll just mention Yeah. One thing is that you can never be, you know, sure that somebody has committed a crime. There didn’t use to be DNA n evidence and, things like that. So we have a lot of new science and things that show that, hey, maybe people aren’t really guilty, so we don’t really have the right to take their life, um as far as it costs too much to keep them in jail. That might be true, but again, are you willing, are you willing to look somebody in the eye and say, you should die for not doing that? So, but again, these are understandable reasons. Yeah. Again, I said I used to be pro-death penalty, so I understand where people are coming from. So I get it, but now we can Yeah. You know, kind of talk about the anti.

Emma: Yeah. Yeah. So kind of going through some of those ones that Brittany just listed off,  you know, actually the Tuttle Twins is a part of an organization called the Libertas Institute, which I’m not sure if you and Connor have talked about that on here at all.

Brittany: I don’t think we have. No.

Emma: Yeah, yeah. But Connor actually, not only does he write the Tuttle twin’s books, but he is the president of the Libertas Institute, which is basically.

Brittany: He wears many hats. I dunno, how does anything done?

Emma: He does, I don’t know how he gets it all done, but he somehow finds the time.   so Connor actually has done a lot of policy research in this area and on this specific issue, and Connor is another person who used to believe in the death penalty and now is against it. And, the main reason that he says, kind of like Britney said, is that you can never really be positive that someone is a hundred percent guilty. It’s, almost impossible sometimes to tell whether or not someone has committed murder or committed another one of these crimes. And even if you do believe that at the end of the day if someone committed murder, they should die as their punishment. We really have very, very little,  certainty that we’ve gotten that a hundred percent correct. And there have been a lot of people that have been exonerated of death penalty crimes after the fact where if the death penalty had been passed onto them, they would’ve been killed for something that they did not do. And some of ’em have been killed for things they didn’t do. And yes, there are plenty of cases throughout history of people who have been put to death for crimes where it’s very questionable whether or not they actually did it. The evidence is shaky, but they, were basically wrong place, wrong time, convicted of something that they didn’t do, and it cost them their life. And that’s, I think, for a lot of people, that’s sort of what opens their eyes to the fact that this might not be a good way of punishing people because our government is fallible. And we talk about that all the time on this podcast. We talk about how the government might have good intentions for something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the actions that they take are going to be what’s just, and what’s right. So there, can be, you know, people who believe, yeah if we know for sure someone was guilty of murder, they might deserve to die, but we don’t actually know for certain whether they did it or not. And we talked, on a recent podcast episode about the Salem witch trials and the Harvard professor who said, it’s better to let 10 people who are guilty go than have one innocent person die.   that’s I think a really interesting part of this argument is that we can never be a hundred percent sure. But going through that list and kind of talking through some of those things, Brittany mentioned, is the deterrent factor. So a lot of people believe that having the death penalty on the books, it acts as a deterrent. So basically prevents people from committing certain crimes. But when you actually talk with people, there have been all kinds of studies that have been done of people in prison who are on death row who have committed these crimes, and they’re asked, you know, if there was a death penalty, would that have stopped you from committing this crime? And the answer is overwhelmingly no. So the data shows us that the death penalty is not actually a deterrent for people committing crimes. And like Brittany said, relative to it costs too much to let these people live in jail. I understand that argument as well, but it’s actually completely the opposite. Interesting. Many states spend so much money on, you know, passing the death penalty to people because it’s so expensive legally because obviously if you are someone who has been accused of this crime, you’re convicted of it and you get the death penalty, you’re going to appeal that as many times as you possibly can because our court has a system of appeals where if you.

Brittany: And nobody wants to be put to death, like without No, absolutely sure.

Emma: Yeah, anybody is going to appeal the death penalty. So there’s this appeals process and the most comprehensive death penalty study in the country found that the death penalty cost North Carolina $2.16 million more per execution over the cost of sentencing murderers to life imprisonment. So that if your, point of view on this is just from a financial, from a spending point of view, it’s actually far more to have the death penalty in your state. And it’s more money that you as the taxpayer are paying rather than, you know, putting these people in jail for life. And as Connor says, throw away the key and let them live out their sentence there. So, it’s a counterfeit promise, the death penalty because of a long court-mandated appeals process that tells victims, and family members that they’ll have justice when the defendant is dead, only to see them live on for decades and even be glorified in the media surrounding each public appeal. So that’s another element is, obviously, I can understand if you have gone through something if your family has lost a loved one due to a murder, you’re not going to want to see that murderer’s face in the news every couple of months when this appeals process is going on. And it ends up dragging these people through an even more brutal process, rather than just saying, Hey, the, you know, the murderer or the person who has made this aggression is going to be put away and you’re not going to ever have to hear about them ever again. So, that’s another factor of it. Brittany, do you wanna talk about sort of innocent people being sentenced versus actually executed? How, death row sort of works and that whole process? Because I know it’s, it might sound at face value, like you, you get accused and then you immediately are, are put to death. But can you, can you give us some details on sort of how that works?

Brittany: Yeah. That’s not true. You know, since 1973, at least 186 people who’ve been wrongly convicted and sent or have, have been,  sorry, exonerated me. Wait, sorry, I think I read that statistic wrong. So basically at least 186 people who were put to death should have been exonerated or were later found to not be guilty. But that’s just who we know of. So one thing that I’ve really loved and I wrote about this years ago, is the importance of these new true crime documentaries. And here’s why I wanna focus on that. There wasn’t DNA evidence. In fact, one of my favorite comedians, John Elaney has a bit where he goes, you know, back in the day it was, people would go to a murder scene and they’d be like, oh, here’s some blood, let me clean that up. And they wouldn’t even think about testing the blood because they didn’t have the technology to run blood tests and say, oh, this DNA matches this person. You know, Jack the Ripper, one of the most infamous serial killers, they didn’t have the technology to take DNA evidence and say, this is who it is. And so it’s been a mystery for decades on who this man was, but now we have a lot of this. So they’ve even gone back and run some tests now of old cases and been like, oh dear. Like, this person was innocent. Oops. Yeah. And we talked about this with the Salem Witch trials, that you can’t take something back. So very dangerous. So, and again, this is just what we know. So that’s really scary to me. There was a whole show making a murder, and I’m not gonna comment on whether or not I think he’s, guilty or innocent, though I do have very strong opinions. but were they were running new tests on things that this guy had been in jail forever for, a crime that he married would not have committed? And there’s just new ways of testing evidence now. So it’s really scary to me, especially the fact that the state, the government can have the power to do this to you. You know, they, shouldn’t have the power to take your life. That’s a very, very dangerous precedent. I think we need to be very careful about this because again, imagine what science is gonna be like in 20 years. You know, we might be able to tell without a shadow of a doubt. So it’s very scary to me.

Emma: Yeah, exactly. And you know, once again, we are, we believe in small government, we believe in giving people their individual rights. And one of the most precious rights that we have, it was even outlined in the Declaration of Independence, is life. We have a right to live. We have a right to live freely. And obviously, that doesn’t mean that you can just go harm people and have no consequences. No. But if you cannot be proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s wrong for the government to take away that right to live even if you’re living in jail. There are all sorts of things that can happen when you’re in jail, where you can learn and you can read, and you can become a productive person and better yourself. And for some people, they do use that time as a chance to better themselves. And, you know, just something as serious as taking away someone’s life, taking away their heartbeat, that is very, very serious. And when you have a distrust of the government, I think it should come naturally with that, that you don’t trust the government to always make the best decisions when it comes to who should live and who should die. So as we close up here, there’s one thing I would love to plug in our show notes. It is called the Rethink Why Video? The Libertas Institute, like I said, Connor is the president of that. They have done some really excellent work in helping people rethink the death penalty who maybe, maybe do believe in it and maybe do think it’s a good thing. And they have some amazing stories from people who,  I’m not gonna give it away, but who have been impacted. And it’s really fantastic. It’s only a 10-minute video. And if what we said today challenged you in any way if you disagree, thank you for listening. Thank you for sticking with us. I would really encourage you to watch that video and see how you feel and see if it, has any sort of change in your opinion. And at least be open to potentially changing your mind on this. Because I understand a lot of us, earlier on were a pro-death penalty. And I know many people who are very vocally against the death penalty started out being against it or who are very much against it now. Started out being for it.

Brittany: I should say. Yep. I’m one of them.

Emma: Yes, me too. So,  so thank you for sticking with us guys. Give that video a watch, and we will talk to you all again soon.

Brittany: Talk to you soon.