The Dying Death Penalty: Momentum for repeal is growing nationwide
More and more Americans are concerned that the death penalty is an ineffective, expensive, unfair system that risks executing an innocent person and harms families of murder victims. And they are recognizing that these problems can’t be fixed.
Seven states have repealed the death penalty since 2007
- New York and New Jersey ended the death penalty in 2007. New Mexico did the same in 2009. Illinois repealed in 2011, Connecticut in 2012, Maryland in 2013, and Nebraska in 2015, bringing the total to 19 states without the death penalty.
Maryland tried everything to make the death penalty more accurate: a moratorium, two studies, and the most extensive set of reforms the nation has seen. The end result was a system that was more complex, more costly, more arbitrary, more agonizing to victims’ families, and it still couldn’t eliminate the risk of executing an innocent person. They finally concluded the death penalty is a failure.
More states are poised to follow suit or have suspended executions
- Four governors suspended executions in the last several years, calling into question the entire death penalty system when they did so:
- Washington’s governor called the death penalty "too flawed" to use.
- Colorado’s governor said the death penalty was "not making our world a safer or better place."
- Oregon's governor referred to the death penalty as "an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice." The subsequent governor kept executions on hold, recognizing the need to have a "broad discussion" around keeping or disposing of the death penalty.
- Pennsylvania, with one of the country's largest death rows, has executions on hold after the governor fulfilled a campaign promise to impose a moratorium, calling the death penalty "ineffective, unjust and expensive."
- Delaware passed death penalty repeal legislation through their state Senate in both 2013 and 2015.
- New Hampshire passed repeal legislation through their state House by a whopping 225-104 bipartisan vote, and came within just one vote of passage in the state Senate in 2014.
- More than five million people in California voted to end the death penalty in a 2012 ballot initiative.
- Montana and Colorado passed repeal legislation through one chamber of their legislatures in recent years.
Death sentences and executions have plummeted nationwide
- Executions are down by 10% compared to last year and by 64% compared to 1999.1
- All of 2014’s executions took place in just 7 states.2
- Death sentences are down by 77% since 1996.3
- Eighty-five percent of U.S. counties have not had a single case resulting in an execution in over 45 years.4
A majority of Americans prefer alternatives to the death penalty
- Support for the death penalty has dropped nearly 20% over the last two decades, according to national polls by Gallup5 and Pew Research6. Recent national polls also show that a majority of Americans would prefer alternatives, such as life without parole, for those convicted of murder, instead of the death penalty.7
- Even people who are invoked to justify the death penalty are speaking out against it:
- Hundreds of families of murder victims across the country have called on lawmakers to end the death penalty because of its long and uncertain process, which diverts millions of dollars from services they need to rebuild their lives.
- A majority of police chiefs say the death penalty is not an important public safety tool.8
- Conservatives have banded together to shatter the myth that conservatives automatically support the death penalty. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a project of EJUSA, launched in 2013 and has since attracted hundreds of supporters, over 1,000 media stories, and endorsements from such prominent figures as Richard Viguerie, Jay Sekulow, and Ron Paul.
- Several recent polls have also found growing support for repeal among conservatives. A 2013 North Carolina poll found that 65% of those who call themselves “somewhat conservative” and 50 percent of those who identify as “very conservative” support replacing the death penalty with life without parole if restitution was paid to victims’ families.9
- 1. According to "The Death Penalty in 2014: Year-End Report" by the Death Penalty Information Center, there were 35 executions in 2014, 39 in 2013, and 98 in 1999.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. "The Death Penalty in 2013: Year-End Report" by the Death Penalty Information Center.
- 5. “Death Penalty,” Gallup, 2014.
- 6. “Less Support for Death Penalty, Especially Among Democrats,” Pew Research Center, April 16, 2015.
- 7. “New Low Preference for the Death Penalty,” ABC News, June 5, 2014.
- 8. "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty
in a Time of Economic Crisis" by the Death Penalty Information Center.
- 9. "Poll: N.C. residents reject death penalty," The Charlotte Post, March 4, 2013.
People from across the political spectrum and from every strata of society are frustrated with the death penalty’s inherent flaws. More and more are ready for repeal. Are you? Join the movement at www.ejusa.org/signup.