Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Falling out of love with the death penalty

Though a majority of Americans back capital punishment, surveys find growing unease over it.

read more | digg story

This statement is accurate, to a point. As I have repeatedly pointed out, when respondents are asked the question, "Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for convicted murderers?" a majority respond that they support the death penalty. Yet as Gallup shows, this majority continues to decline. The Gallup poll (among others) also shows that when respondents are asked the same questions faced by capital jurors (life in prison w/o parole versus death), support for the death penalty drops considerably.

40 years ago, the U.S was on the verge (or so many people thought) of abolishing the death penalty. Public support was low, and between 1968 and 1976, there were no executions. Currently the size of death row is declining and the number of death sentences imposed has also decreased. The number of executions in 2007 was low thanks to a quasi-moratorium while we await the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the future of lethal injection.

International pressure to abolish the death penalty continues to escalate. The United Nations just passed a resolution calling on member nations to impose a moratorium.

It seems that a few issues are driving the change of opinion - innocence, the cost, the failure rate, and the toll on the victims' families are just a few.

Perhaps 2008 will see more progress toward abolition of this failed policy.

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