Everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. Everyone fears punishment; everyone loves life, as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill.
Him I call superior who has put aside weapons and renounced violence toward all creatures. He neither kills nor helps others to kill.
The death penalty is not and never will be the solution to violence in our society. As we invest in vengeance, we divest in compassion. As we support retribution, we neglect restorative justice. We cannot be a community of compassion and unity if we choose to destroy one another, or if we allow the state to do it in our name.
Buddha Shakyamuni explicitly objected to capital punishment because it is based on cruelty and killing, thus contravening the first Precept. He said that judges who hand down cruel punishments and the executioners who implement them practice wrong (literally kurūra, ‘cruel’) livelihood and generate much negative karma for themselves.
Just as a son is punished out of the desire to make him worthy, so punishment should be inflicted with compassion and not through hatred. Once you have judged angry murderers you should banish them without killing them.
Through compassion you should always generate an attitude of help even for all those embodied beings who have committed appalling crimes. Especially generate compassion for those murderers, whose crimes are horrible; those of fallen nature are receptacles of compassion from those whose nature is great.
If you live in Texas, please consider giving your support to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty http://tcadp.org/. If you live elsewhere, please support local efforts to end this cruel practice.