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.
Six states will have repealed the death penalty in the last six years
- New York and New Jersey ended the death penalty in 2007. New Mexico did the same in 2009. Illinois repealed in 2011 and Connecticut in 2012. And on May 2nd 2013, Maryland’s Governor signed legislation making it the 18th state 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.
Other states are considering following suit
- Delaware passed repeal legislation through their State Senate and many observers say it could soon pass in the State House.
- More than five million people in California voted to end the death penalty in a 2012 ballot initiative.
- Oregon’s Governor suspended all executions in 2011, calling the death penalty “an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.”
- Montana, Colorado, and New Hampshire all passed repeal legislation through one chamber of their legislature in recent years. The Kansas Senate came within one vote of passing repeal legislation.
- Seventeen states have considered bills to repeal the death penalty this year alone. And more have considered studies or significant reforms to the system.
Death sentences have plummeted across the country.
- Death sentences dropped by 75% since 1996. In 2012, only nine states carried out executions – the fewest number to do so in 20 years.
- A full 90% of US counties did not sentence a single person to death in the second half of the last decade. Even Texas has only a handful of counties that use the death penalty.
The shaded areas are the counties that had only 2 or more death sentences between 2004 and 2009. As this map shows, we are really not a death penalty nation, just a handful of death penalty counties.
(Map by Harvard University legal scholar and attorney Rob Smith)
A majority of Americans prefer alternatives to the death penalty
- An October 2011 poll found death penalty support had reached its lowest point in four decades. Another 2011 poll found that nearly two-thirds of the public prefers punishments such as life without the possibility of parole over the death penalty.
- Even those people who are invoked to justify the death penalty are speaking out against it. Hundreds of families of murder victims across the country have signed on to say the death penalty’s long and uncertain process harms them and diverts millions from the real needs of homicide survivors. A majority of police chiefs also say the death penalty is not an important public safety tool.
- 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 this year at the CPAC conference. Hundreds of conservatives signed up to join. The most common question we heard at our launch was, “Where have you been? I thought I was the only conservative who thought
the death penalty should be repealed.”
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.