IN MANY ways 2007 was a remarkable year in the history of the death penalty. Forty-two people were executed, the fewest since 1994 and down from last year's 53. According to a year-end report by the Death Penalty Information Center, fewer prisoners were sentenced to death in 2007 than in any year...
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Gallup polls measuring public attitudes regarding the death penalty show that a majority still support the death penalty when asked the traditional question of favor or support capital punishment for convicted murderers. However, when confronted with the same choice that capital jurors must face, support for the death penalty drops significantly.
The size of death row population also continues to decline. There are approximately 3,300 individuals currently awaiting execution. Perhaps I should say awaiting transfer from death row since that is what will happen with the majority given that most convictions and/or sentences are eventually overturned.
Thus not only is the death penalty in retreat around the world, but some progress is being made in the U.S. While New Jersey abolished it, several states are seeking to expand the category of eligibility to include child rapists.
We must continue to show that the death penalty is a failed public policy. It costs more than life in prison, especially when you consider the failure rate for convictions and sentences. The myth that all victim's families and friends want to see an execution is being debunked. So far, the Death Penalty Information Center reports 126 death row exonerations. The lack of general deterrence, despite the flawed research of several economists to the contrary, is another failure of this policy.
2008 promises to be a year of both progress and set backs for the death penalty experiment.