Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

In Memorium: Hugo Adam Bedau

Long-time death penalty scholar Hugo Adam Bedau died on August 13, 2012 .  Dr. Bedau had been the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, and is best known for his work on capital punishment.  Dr.  Bedau frequently testified about the death penalty before the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures. He authored several books about the death penalty, including  The Death Penalty in America (1964; 4th edition, 1997), The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment (1977), Death is Different (1987), and Killing as Punishment (2004), and co-authored In Spite of Innocence (1992).  This last book, written with Prof. Michael Radelet of the University of Colorado and Constance Putnam (Dr. Bedau’s wife), contained one of the best early collections of people who had been wrongly convicted in death penalty cases. In 1997, Bedau received the August  Vollmer Award of the American Society of Criminology, and in 2003 he received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU of  Massachusetts.  Dr. Bedau was a founding member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  He was a personal hero of mine and he will be missed in the struggle.

August 24, 2012 Posted by | capital punishment, ethics, heroes, obituaries | Leave a comment

Geography of the Death Penalty in the United States

STATES WITHOUT THE DEATH PENALTY AND YEAR OF ABOLITION:

Alaska 1957–Abolished the death penalty in process of becoming a state.  Only 12 people executed during AK’s time as a territory.

Connecticut 2012 Voted to abolish in 2009, but vetoed by governor.

Hawai’i 1957–Abolished the death penalty in process of becoming a state.

Illinois 2011–De facto moratorium since mid-1990s.

Iowa 1965

Maine 1887

Massachusetts 1984

Michigan 1846–Michigan never had the death penalty, but formally outlawed it in the process of becoming a state.

Minnesota 1911

New Jersey 2007 –New Jersey Supreme Court struck down its death penalty statute as violating the state constitution. Legislators debated rewriting the statute, but, instead, formally abolished the death penalty and commuted the death row inmates to life without parole sentences.

New Mexico 2009–In 2009 the NM legislature voted to abolish the death penalty for all future crimes, but left unchanged the status of the two inmates on death row. Theoretically, they could still be executed.  Attempts to reinstate the death penalty have gone nowhere.

New York 2007–In 2004, the NY Court of Appeals ruled that part of NY’s death penalty was a violation of the state constitution. In 2007, they ruled that this applied to all remaining inmates on NY’s death row.  New York formally abolished the death penalty that year.

North Dakota 1973

Rhode Island 1984

Vermont 1964

West Virginia 1965

Wisconsin 1853

Also–District of Columbia 1981

STATES WITH THE DEATH PENALTY

Alabama

Arizona

Arkansas

California  Repeal by ballot measure likely in November 2012.

Colorado Legislature came 2 votes short of repeal in 2010. Continued efforts at repeal would probably succeed in CO in near future.

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maryland  Repeal efforts have led to stricter standards and momentum is building for repeal.

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska  Repeal efforts have frequently come close–twice passing the legislature to be vetoed by different governors and several times falling only a few votes short in the legislature.

Nevada

New Hampshire  Last remaining state with death penalty in New England, NH is ripe for a major repeal effort by abolitionists.

North Carolina  Repeal efforts are growing and very organized. I predict that NC will be the first state of the former Confederacy to abolish the death penalty.

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon  Moratorium on executions in place. OR is a prime state for abolitionists to target for repeal.

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas  Leader in executions–and in death sentences overturned by federal courts.

Utah

Virginia  Has passed TX in numbers of death sentences per year and trying to catch up in number of executions!

Washington  Like OR, Washington should be a prime target of abolitionists in the state-by-state repeal process.

Wyoming

Also:

U.S. Federal Govt. has the death penalty for several crimes, though it hasn’t executed anyone in decades.

U.S. Military has the death penalty, though it hasn’t used it since the end of the Vietnam War.

Prediction–The pace of abolition will pick up state-by-state as more DNA exonerations make headlines.  IF the U.S. Supreme Court is shifted by Democratic appointments even by 1-2 justices, then when the number of states without the death penalty reaches 25, the Supreme Court will probably strike down the death penalty nationwide. If not, by the time 30 states have abolished the death penalty, we will have a good chance of passing abolition by means of a Constitutional amendment.  My guess is that, in a worst case scenario, the death penalty is abolished in the United States by 2050.

I am assuming that the Catholic Church will continue its campaign against capital punishment, joined by the Historic Peace Churches, mainline Protestants, and an increasing number of younger evangelicals.  Jewish voices, long opponents of the death penalty, will get louder. The racial inequalities of the death penalty will become more and more apparent–as will the economic ones.  The error prone nature of the death penalty will become more and more obvious with DNA releases more common. International pressure will continue to isolate the country and treat the U.S. and its death penalty as a moral pariah.  These factors could speed up that 2050 date–but wars or violent crime waves could slow it.  But the end of this moral outrage against which I have fought since I was 16 is coming.  The high tide of pro-death penalty feeling in the U.S. was in the 1990s and that tide is fast receding.

 

April 13, 2012 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics | Leave a comment

Connecticut Votes (Again!) to Repeal the Death Penalty!

Last night, Wednesday 11 April 2012, the lower chamber of the Connecticut legislature followed its senate in voting to repeal that state’s death penalty.  Again. CT voted to repeal the death penalty in 2009, but then-Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT) vetoed the legislation.  This time Gov. Daniel Malloy (D) has vowed to sign the bill. This makes CT the 17th state in the U.S. to either abolish the death penalty or to forbid it from the time of statehood onward. It is also the 5th state in the last 5 years to abolish the death penalty.  We may get two abolitions this year since CA, with the nation’s largest death row, is attempting to repeal its death penalty by ballot measure this November.

Meanwhile, congratulations to CT!

April 12, 2012 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics, human rights, Just Peacemaking, political philosophy | Leave a comment

New Year’s Prayer: Ending the American Death Penalty by End of Decade

The first social cause I joined, as a teenager in Florida, was the movement to abolish the death penalty.  It was a hard time to be against executing convicted murderers.  In the early 1960s, polls showed that most Americans (but not a large majority) wanted to abolish the death penalty. But the social unrest of the decade, combined with rising crime rates, much of it related to increased drug abuse, changed that view. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state death penalties as then written as unconstitutional violations of the 8th Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” in 1972 (Furman v. Georgia), the public reacted angrily at the Court’s “liberalism.” State legislatures quickly acted to change their death penalty statutes to meet the Court’s standards (consistent application and a 2-stage trial in which guilt was decided prior to a decision between death and life imprisonment) and in 1976, the Supreme Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that these revised statutes passed constitutional muster.  The public roared its approval and rushed to find candidates to execute.  By the early 1990s, popular support for capital punishment in the U.S. was at an all-time high.  Bill Clinton interrupted his campaign for U.S. president in 1992 to rush home and sign a death penalty execution order as governor of Arkansas. When Clinton won the nomination, he changed the Democratic platform, long opposed to the death penalty, to support it. As president, Clinton expanded the federal death penalty to include over 50 crimes.  Support for the death penalty remained high despite growing evidence that it was applied in a racially biased manner (if the victim is white, the odds increase that the prosecution will ask for the death penalty and black killers of white victims are far more likely to draw a death sentence than white killers of black victims). In 1987, the Supreme Court acknowledged that racial bias in McClesky v. Kemp but ruled that it had to be proven in each particular case in order to be unconstitutional. (The logic of McClesky contradicts that of Furman and Gregg since the acknowledgement of racial bias is an acknowledgement of arbitrariness which Furman and Gregg ruled had to be eliminated, but by the time of McClesky the Court’s makeup was far more conservative.) In 1993, the Supreme Court even ruled that, absent other constitutional issues, even new evidence that the convicted defendant is actually innocent is not sufficient to prevent execution (Herrera v. Collins)!

During all this time, public support for the death penalty remained high, to the extreme frustration of abolitionists like myself. All our moral arguments fell on deaf ears.  But, then developments began which started to unravel this.  First, throughout the decade of the ’90s, the number of executions increased dramatically. As this happened, people’s theoretical support for the death penalty began to be in tension with a discomfort at the sheer volume of executions.  Next, journalism students in Chicago ran a series of investigative articles showing the Illinois death penalty system to be very broken–full of errors that made the execution of innocent people likely.  They showed that, since the restoration of the death penalty post-Gregg, more people had been freed from Illinois’ death row (because of new evidence of innocence) than had been executed.  This story became national news and alarmed much of the public (although many governors rushed to assure their citizens that their states had no such problems–despite evidence to the contrary). In 2000, Illinois Gov. Ryan, a Republican, ordered a moratorium on executions “until he could be morally certain that no innocent person would be executed in Illinois, and before he left office, he cleared the IL death row by commuting all sentences to life imprisonment.  The Illinois legislature tried to reform the death penalty system, but public support continued to decline.

Meanwhile, DNA science began in the ’90s to demonstrate that many convicted criminals–including those convicted by several eyewitnesses–were wrongly convicted–even many on death rows.  More sentences were overturned and more people exonerated and released after years on death rows.  As the new decade dawned, even with the advent of a “war on terror,” executions declined sharply across the nation.  Abolitionists began to make headway for the first time in decades.

Then the costs of the death penalty became clear. Like most abolitionists, I am uncomfortable with the idea that money should be a factor. Human life should always trump monetary concerns. But most supporters of the death penalty believe that it is cheaper than life imprisonment and, since they believe murderers have forfeited a right to life, they believe that keeping such people alive at taxpayer expense is unwarranted. But the facts are otherwise. Study after study has shown that the death penalty is more expensive than life imprisonment without parole. Nor is it just the appeals process that is expensive: capital cases take extra security and capital trials cost extra, especially the two-stage sentencing process. While on death row, the expenses continue, including the need to keep death row inmates separate from the general prison population while working through the appeals process.  The state of Maryland just concluded an exhaustive study showing that the death penalty was costing taxpayers an avge. of $37 million per case, far more than murder cases where the death penalty is off the table.  In the midst of economic hard times, recognition of the economic costs of capital punishment opens the door for many otherwise “law and order” legislators to hear arguments for the reliability of life imprisonment without parole and moral arguments against the death penalty.  Both New Mexico and Illinois cited the costs of the death penalty when they abolished it.  As countries in the European Union are refusing to export the chemicals needed for lethal injections, these costs will continue to rise.

In 2004, the New York State Supreme Court struck down part of the NY death penalty as a violation of the state constitution.  In 2007, the state legislature prevented an attempt to re-write and restore that death penalty. This was the first state abolition of capital punishment since Massachusetts and Rhode Island abolished capital punishment in 1984! But things were about to pick up speed. New Jersey’s legislature abolished capital punishment in 2007.  New Mexico abolished its death penalty in 2009. Several states came close to abolishing their death penalties in 2009-2011: Colorado came within 2 votes of abolishing the death penalty in 2009.  Connecticut did vote to abolish the death penalty, but the Republican governor vetoed the legislation. In 2011, CT’s new governor, a Democrat, said he would sign legislation to abolish the death penalty, but he did not put forth effort to get it through the state legislature and an emotional case led the legislature to fall short.  Maryland’s Democratic governor actually campaigned on abolishing the death penalty. He has not yet succeeded, but he continues to push such legislation. New Hampshire came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2010.  The State of Washington came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2011.  In 2011, Illinois finally abolished it’s death penalty altogether.  This now brings the number of states without capital punishment to 16, plus the District of Columbia.

In 2012, Maryland, Ohio, Kansas, and Connecticut all are introducing legislation to abolish the death penalty.  I think the chances of passage are very good in Connecticut and Maryland.  Ohio is hard to call. In many ways, it is conservative, but it is also next door to Michigan which hasn’t had the death penalty since becoming a state in 1846! More and more influential people are speaking out against the death penalty.  The state where passage is least likely is Kansas, which is deeply conservative, but, like Ohio, it is next door to a state without the death penalty(Iowa) that is similar in culture, so anything is possible. I think it is possible that Colorado and New Hampshire will also abolish the death penalty in the near future.  Even in Kentucky, where I live, there is a growing movement for a moratorium on executions–an important first step in abolition.

California, which has the largest number of people on death row (although Texas, Virginia, and Florida are responsible for the vast majority of executions in this country), is poised to put abolition of the death penalty on the ballot for the public to vote up or down.  Both sides will mobilize this year, and it will be intertwined with the national elections this year.  If California abolitionists succeed in abolishing the death penalty this year, it will have a tremendous influence on other states. If the effort fails, but comes close, it will return in the next year or so and I predict it will pass.

The momentum on this issue has finally turned toward abolition in the United States.  The international isolation is also having an effect.  U. S. citizens don’t like being told what to do by others (although we constantly assume that we have the right to tell the rest of the world what to do).  Disapproval of the death penalty by other nations, especially in Europe, usually makes Americans defensive.  But the international and diplomatic isolation DOES have an effect.  U.S. lawmakers have already found that they often cannot get nations to extradite suspected murderers or suspected terrorists unless they receive guarantees that the suspect won’t be executed.  This lack of cooperation is frustrating and has led the U.S. State Department to testify before Congress that an abolition of the federal and military death penalties would greatly aid cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts.

Religious leaders are helping, too. Of course, the most of the mainline denominations of the National Council of Churches have long been on record as opposing the death penalty, but quite often these statements were very far from the beliefs of most laity in those very denominations.  But the strong opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, especially beginning in the 1980s, has gone beyond statements to catechetical instruction at the parish level, leading more and more Catholic laity (including elected Catholic public officials) who oppose the death penalty.  Several faith groups have organized around this issue and that has, again, changed the landscape of the debate.

So, my prayer and hope (which I believe to be realistic) is that by the end of this decade (2020) we will see the death penalty eliminated in the United States.

If you would like to help make this prayer happen, take action:  1)Write your state legislators, governors, and U.S. Representatives and urge them to support abolition, especially as co-sponsors of bills for abolition or a moratorium on executions. 2) Write letters to the editorial pages of local papers supporting abolition, especially if a bill for abolition is nearing an important hearing or vote. Legislator and elected officials pay far more attention to letters to the editor than to most letters and phone calls and far more than to email petitions. They assume that every letter on a subject represents 5-10 others who feel the same way. 2-3 letters on a given subject in a short time will get at least a legislative aid assigned to research an issue. 3) Get your church, synagogue, mosque or civic association to pass a resolution against the death penalty and have the press cover this.  4) Join an anti-death penalty organization in your area.

 

January 1, 2012 Posted by | capital punishment, ethics | 4 Comments

Anti-Death Penalty Organizations in the U.S.

I.  Faith-Based Groups

II. National Organizations

III. State Groups

May 29, 2011 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics, human rights, nonviolence, political violence, violence | 4 Comments

R. I. P.: Marie Deans–Victims’ Advocate and Death Penalty Foe

I have just learned the sad news of the passing of Marie Deans on 15 April 2011.  Marie Deans, whose mother-in-law was slain by an ex-convict, hated the way that pro-death penalty zealots used the pain of victims’ survivors to justify the death penalty.  As other rationales for the death penalty (deterrance of violent crime; retribution) became more publicly suspect, prosecutors came more and more to beg juries to execute prisoners in order for victims’ families to “gain closure.” New studies have shown that victims’ family members do NOT gain “closure” through the death penalty system and resent being used this way.  Marie Deans knew that years ago from personal experience and she founded Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation in 1976 as a safe space for victims’ families to speak out against the death penalty.  (Today, there is also the related group, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights.)

Although today the tide seems turning against the death penalty in America, Marie Deans struggled against it during the decades when support gained every year and opponents were often lonely and frustrated.  She was a self-taught mitigation expert who testified repeatedly in sentencing hearings against the death penalty.  As a result of her efforts, only 2 of the 200 people she represented at sentencing hearings were ultimately executed.  Her greatest triumph was the exoneration of Earl Washington, Jr., a Virginia death row inmate with mental disabilities whose false confession was the result of police coercion and intimidation.  Washington was awarded more than $2 million in damages in a lawsuit against the police. 

Marie Deans showed that one can seek compassionate justice for victims–without creating new victims.  Rest in peace, faithful witness.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | capital punishment, ethics, heroes, human rights, nonviolence, obituary | Leave a comment

A (Politically) Conservative Argument Against the Death Penalty

In the wake of Illinois’ abolition of the death penalty, conservative attorney and author Scott Turow has written an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune called “The Right Has Reason to Applaud.”  In the article, Turow advances three (3) politically conservative arguments for abolishing the death penalty.

  1. Capital punishment is one more government program that has failed.  Those of us who are not conservatives can safely ignore the conservative cant that implies that “government programs” usually or always fail–and that therefore we should just do away with government programs (and as much government) as possible.  Obviously, if one believes that government exists to make lives better, to promote the common good and help people do together that which they cannot easily do as individuals, then programs and policies are going to be experimental–and can fail.  Goals can need to be accomplished via different means.  A shift from an impractical approach to good ends (in this case, criminal justice) to a better one is no indictment against government. So, liberals, progressives, moderates and just people with common sense can safely ignore the “government is bad” conservative screed.  But we have every reason to agree with Turow that the death penalty is a “government program” that has failed–and failed rather spectactulary.  As Turow says, the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty (as then practiced) in 1972 as an unconstitutional violation of the 8th Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” due to the arbitrary and discriminatory way in which it was applied (Furman v. Georgia).  States scrambled to rewrite their capital punishment statutes and in Gregg v. Georgia (1974), the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could be Constitutional if it could be applied in a just and fair manner.  Turow notes that this has been a giant failure of an experiment as states have completely failed to apply the death penalty in a just and fair manner.  Instead of death being the sentence for the worst crimes, it has usually been meted out to those represented by inept attorneys, usually  overworked and public defenders with little time and few resources to devote to the case  or court appointed attorneys  with little motivation.  Race continues to be a factor in who is and is not executed, especially the race of the victim. . And, as Turow found when he worked for then-Gov. George A. Ryan (R-IL), the innocent still end up on death row in a frighteningly his percentage of cases.
  2. The death penalty is a huge waste of taxpayer money.  As Turow notes, the death penalty is far more expensive than life imprisonment without parole.  This may be counterintuitive, but is nonetheless true.  It takes longer (and therefore costs more money) to prepare for a capital case.  All capital cases must go through two stages, one for finding of guilt and one for sentencing–and that costs money.  Usually, those indicted for capital crimes cannot be released on bail while awaiting trial because of flight risks and so must be housed at state expense.  Security for capital trials is higher.  Prisoners on death row must be housed separately from the general population and either given separate exercise facilities or separate times in the exercise yard while awaiting execution and this is expensive.  The appeals process, without which far more innocent people would be executed than even currently, is both expensive and time consuming–so that the average length of time from a death sentence to execution in the U.S. is ten years.  Conservatives concerned about saving taxpayer money from waste and inefficiency should naturally oppose the death penalty in the U. S. system of justice.  Thurow agrees that if the death penalty could be shown to save lives, by deterring violent crime, it might be worth it.  But there has been no credible study showing deterrence and many showing just the opposite, that violence increases in the wake of executions throughout the area in which the execution is published.  States and nations without the death penalty typically have lower violent crime rates than jurisdictions with the death penalty.
  3. The death penalty is incompatible with the conservative notion of limited government.  Here is a very strong argument that is seldom heard in conservative circles, surprisingly.  The conservative-libertarian view that the powers of government must be strictly limited supports drawing a clear line prohibiting a democratic government from ever taking the lives of its own citizens.  That way, a regime that vanquished its political enemies or executed despised minorities, no matter the legal rigamarole, as an outlaw.  (As a democratic socialist, I’ve always said that libertarians, while disastrous in their economic views, are excellent partners in the struggle for civil liberties.)

Here is one progressive who hopes that Turow’s arguments find a wide audience with his fellow conservatives.  As a Christian, I find the death penalty to be deeply immoral–and I welcome the help of political conservatives in the struggle to abolish this evil from our midst.

March 19, 2011 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics, human rights, political philosophy | 5 Comments

Breaking: Illinois Abolishes the Death Penalty!

What an Ash Wednesday present! As the Chicago Tribune details, Gov. Pat Quinn (D-IL) this morning signed into law the bill that abolishes the death penalty in Illinois. There were 15 death row prisoners remaining and Gov. Quinn also commuted their sentences to life imprisonment! 

Illinois has been the center of the 21st C. resurgence of the movement to abolish the death penalty in the United States.  In the 1990s, the public support for the death penalty was the highest ever in U.S. history.  The federal government greatly expanded the number of federal crimes which would carry the death penalty (although no federal executions have taken place since 1976) and, at the state level, executions were becoming frequent.  Even generally-liberal New York, which had not had the death penalty since 1972, reinstated it in 1995 in response to an upsurge in violent crime in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Then, in the late 1990s, a group of journalism students from Northwestern University uncovered numerous flaws in the cases of many people on the Illinois death row, finding evidence of innocence in numerous cases.  Working with the Innocence Project, and sometimes using the (then-still-new) science of DNA testing, the students managed to show conclusively that several of the inmates of Illinois’ death row were innocent and obtained their releases.  A series of newspaper articles followed showing the many grievous errors in the Illinois system of capital punishment and that, since 1976, Illinois had released more false-accused prisoners from death row than it had executed!  Calls for a moratorium on executions and an investigation of the entire system were widespread throughout the state–even though Illinois was then dominated by conservative Republican legislators.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan (R-IL) imposed a moratorium on executions in Illinois–the first victory for death penalty opponents in the U.S. in two (2) decades!  Ryan’s last act as governor was to commute all the sentences of those then on death row in Illinois.  The Illinois legislator attempted to “fix” the system by putting in far more safeguards against accidental execution of the innocent.  This was a compromise between pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty forces in the state legislature, which were pretty evenly balanced.  The new legislation (compromise) was shepharded through by a young IL state senator named Barack Obama (D)–who has never revealed his opinion as to the morality or Constitutionality of the death penalty per se.  Throughout the first decade of the 21st C., bills to abolish the death penalty were introduced into the state legislature, but always died in one chamber or another.

Meanwhile, DNA exonerations across the nation were doing more than any other factor to change public opinion in state after state against the death penalty.  Prior to exonerations using DNA testing, most Americans did not really believe that innocent people wee sentenced to death.  The average American trusted the reliability of eyewitness testimony far more than is warranted, as studies show.

In 2004, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty violated the state’s constitution which, in certain areas of criminal law, is stricter than the U.S. Constitution.  A subsequent movement by pro-death penalty advocates to amend the New York Constitution in order to reinstate the death penalty failed miserably.

In 2007, New Jersey became the first U.S. state in nearly 30 years to abolish the death penalty legislatively.

In 2009, New Mexico abolished the death penalty. 

In 2010 the Colorado legislature fell just 2 votes short of repealing the death penalty–and the legislation has been reintroduced this year.

In 2009, Connecticut’s legislature narrowly voted to abolish the death penalty, but the bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT). In Nov. 2010, Dan Malloy (D-CT) was elected governor.  The death penalty was not an issue in the campaign, but abolitionists hope to pass repeal again this year and have hope that the new governor will sign the repeal.

In 2010, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in Maryland. He campaigned on it. The MD legislature responded only by passing a law raising the level of evidence for the death penalty.  O’Malley plans to reintroduce the legislation to abolish it.

Now, Illinois has become the 16th state (plus the District of Columbia) to abolish the death penalty. This brings the number of states in the U.S. with the death penalty to its lowest level since 1978.

Bills to abolish the death penalty are currently pending in FL, KS, MD, MT (passed the Senate and headed to the House), and Washington State. Of those, the bills in MD, MT, and WA have the most chance of passing this year.  Georgia has introduced two bills that would restrict the death penalty.  Kentucky has introduced a bill that would disallow the death penalty in cases of mental illnesses (not just mental retardation or insanity). 

There are also, I must sadly report, bills to reinstate the death penalty or expand it, pending in several states:  NH, which has not executed anyone since 1974 and which, two years ago, fell only a few votes shy of abolition, last November elected a very conservative legislature and governor. There are now 2 bills in NH which would expand use of the death penalty, one which would make it mandatory for all murders.  NJ has introduced a bill to reinstate the death penalty for the murder of a police officer, child, or while committing an act of terrorism.  NM has introduced a bill to reinstate, but since it would take 2/3 of both houses of the legislature, passage seems unlikely.  NY has introduced a bill to reinstate the death penalty for murder of police or corrections officers. Because of the NY Supreme Court ruling, it seems unlikely this will pass–or would be upheld if it did.  Utah has passed a bill that greatly restricts appeals and stays of execution–but the governor has not yet said if he will sign it.  (It seems unconstitutional.) VA introduced a bill to expand the death penalty to co-conspirators in cases of rape where the victim is murdered, but it was defeated in committee.  WV has introduced a bill to reinstate the death penalty, but passage appears very unlikely.

Today’s good news in Illinois gives new energy to the movement to abolish the death penalty nationwide. Joy as we head into the season of penitance!

March 9, 2011 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics | 1 Comment

The Death Penalty Around the World

In this second installment, I am still mapping the geography of capital punishment before turning to arguments about it.  Looking at the U.S., we saw 15 states (plus the District of Columbia) without the death penalty and 35 states (plus the federal government and the U.S. military) with the death penalty.  But several of those states seemed poised to eliminate it: In 2010, Connecticut passed repeal, but it was vetoed by the governor.  The same thing had happened to New Hampshire in 2000 and a threat by the governor to veto it led to repeal failing in the 2010 NH senate after passing the house.  Colorado came within 2 senate votes of passing repeal.  Illinois’ legislature has passed repeal and waits to see if the governor will sign it. Repeal movements are getting stronger in states as diverse as Nebraska, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington State, and even Kentucky and Tennessee.  So, how does this compare to the situation globally?

As shown in this nice color-coded map, there are 139 nations which have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.  Of that number:  95 nations (including the entire European Union, Canada, Mexico, much of Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and much of the Southern Cone of Africa) have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.  Many of these have gone further and changed their constitutions to make certain that a crime wave cannot easily restore the death penalty.  Another 9 countries (Bolivia, Brazil, the Cook Islands, El Salvador, Israel, Fiji, Kyrgystan (!), Latvia, and Peru) have eliminated the death penalty for ordinary crimes (i.e., reserving it for war crimes or political assassinations or murders in the military).  An additional 35 countries have the death penalty on the books, but have not executed anyone in over 10 years and have not sought the death penalty for longer. (Death penalty opponents still work to get this “practical” abolitionist countries to go further and eliminate the penalty from the books.)

That leaves only 58 countries where the death penalty is retained in both law and ordinary practice. 

Five (5) countries account for the vast majority of executions yearly.  Those five nations are China ( 470 executions in 2007, 1,718 excutions in 2008, and thousands in 2009); Iran (317 in ’07, 346 in ’08, and 120+ in ’09); Saudi Arabia (143 in ’07, 102 in ’08, and 69+ in ’09); Pakistan (135 in ’07; 36 in ’08; 120 in ’09) (Pakistan sometimes trades off with Iraq, the Sudan, or Syria), and the United States (42 in ’07, ’37 in ’08, and 52 in ’09). The United States should look in shame at being regularly listed alongside the world’s greatest abusers of human rights!

The other trend to note globally is that the direction and momentum is toward abolition.  Since 1976 (the year that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that states with re-written capital punishment laws that are “fair” and not “arbitrary in application” could resume executions), 81 nations have abolished the death penalty–and the pace is increasing.  As an American, I find it embarrassing that my country has a more ruthless punishment than Turkey (abolished in ’04), Kyrgystan, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, or Bosnia-Herzogovina!  Hong Kong won the right to remain death-penalty free even after being returned to China in 1997!

This isolation hurts the U.S. in fighting crime and terrorism since abolitionist countries usually will not extradite accused criminals to countries that retain the death penalty unless they have assurances that the person will not be executed.  On December 10, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted for a global moratorium on executions (109 “yes” votes, 41 “no” votes, 35 abstentions, and 7 absences).

January 31, 2011 Posted by | blog series, capital punishment, ethics, human rights, U.S. politics, violence | 1 Comment

U. S. States and the Death Penalty

Yes, Gentle Readers, I am following the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and throughout the Middle East VERY closely. But other than my prayers for the protesters, I don’t have anything blog-worthy to say. I always support people’s right to be free and always believe in nonviolence and always pray that toppling dictators will actually lead to liberal democracy rather than anarchy, failed states, new dictators, or theocracies.  One never knows.  Self-determination is messy. So, I offer my prayers and I wait to see, and I hope my govt. and others will not stand with the dictators but with the people. But I don’t fool myself into thinking that I have any insight into this that one cannot find better elsewhere.  So, I will resist the urge to pontificate and simply continue to pray.

But the death penalty is a moral and legal issue that I have followed since my teens. I’ve written on it many times.  So, I want to write a series of posts on the moral and legal dimensions of the death penalty. I will be making a case for abolition. Now, I am a pacifist and, as such, believe that lethal violence or deadly force is always and everywhere wrong, whether done by private individuals or the state.  But I won’t be arguing the case on pacifist grounds. If one is pacifist, one already believes the death penalty to be wrong.  So, I will be arguing against the death penalty in terms that should apply to those who believe violence is sometimes justifiable.  I want to argue against the death penalty from several directions over the next month:  Christian theological arguments; arguments from other faiths (since we live in a pluralistic democracy); arguments based on legal justice; arguments based on constitutional and international law; sociological arguments concerning what does and what does not lower violent crime rates; even economic arguments (loathe as I am morally to put a pricetag on human life) and the science that shows that we convict the innocent and have sent the innocent to death row.  Because abolishing the death penalty is considered a “liberal” viewpoint and I am a political liberal (of sorts–a democratic socialist), I want to pay particular attention to conservative arguments against capital punishment, including the testimony of police officers, prison officials, and conservative political and religious leaders. I also want to pay close attention to victims of crime, especially the family members of murder victims.

Before doing any of that, however, I want to spend this first post in the series describing the geographical lay of the land, so to speak, in the U.S.  My next post will map out the other countries which have the death penalty, those which have abolished it, and those which have it on the books, but have not executed anyone in a decade or more.  Getting a sense of “where we are” in the world may help us see where we need to be going.  Since I live in the United States, one of the few industrialized nations with the death penalty, I will start with a state by state analysis here. Note: I indicate the number of women on death row in states with the death penalty, not because I am sexist, but because both historically and currently there is more resistance to executing women than men.  Governors and presidents used to grant clemencies routinely, without it being a sign of being “soft on crime,” but since the Supreme Court ruled in 1976 (Gregg v. Georgia) that executions could continue, few governors have been willing to grant clemency for fear of political consequences.

In alphabetical order, these are the states which do not have the death penalty:

  1. Alaska: Had executed only 12 people in it’s history (both as a territory and state) prior to the Supreme Court’s temporary ban on the death penalty in 1972 and did not seek to reinstate the death penalty after the ban was lifted in 1976, even though it is usually considered a conservative state. Only has 3.1 murders per 100,000 people per year.
  2. District of Columbia: (A federal city which has a greater population than Idaho and needs to become a state with full representation in Congress.) Had executed 118 people before 1972 and zero since, never seeking to reinstate the death penalty after 1976. Averages 24 murders per 100,000 people.
  3. Hawai’i:  Had executed 49 people prior to 1972and none after 1976, not seeking to reinstate the death penalty.  Averages 1.7 murders per 100,000 people (which is not the impression one would get watching Hawai’i Five-O).
  4. Iowa: 45 executions before 1972, zero since then, not seeking reinstatement of the death penalty.
  5. Massachussetts: Prior to 1972: 345 executions. After 1976: Zero.  There have been a few attempts to reinstate the death penalty, but they have never garnered much popular support nor made it very far in the state legislature.  2.6 murders per 100,000 people.
  6. Maine:  Prior to 1972: 20 executions. After 1976: Zero.  2 murders per 100,000 people.
  7. Michigan: Prior to 1972: 13 executions. After 1976: Zero.  6.3 murders per 100,000 people.
  8. Minnesota: Prior to 1972: 66 executions. After 1976:  1.4 murders per 100, 000 people.
  9. New Jersey: Prior to 1972: 361. After 1976: Zero.  New Jersey reinstated the death penalty in 1982 but did not execute anyone.  In 2007, the New Jersey legislature abolished the death penalty.  The governor then commuted the sentences of the 8 people on death row.  Despite its reputation as a haven for organized crime, there are only 3.4 murders per 100,000 people in NJ.
  10. New Mexico:  Prior to 1972:  73 executions. After 1976: 1.  New Mexico reinstated the death penalty in 1979, but did seldom sentenced anyone to death and did not execute anyone until the year 2001.  In that time, 4 innocent persons were freed from death row and 5 cases had enough doubts that a series of governors, both Republican and Democratic, granted clemency and commuted the sentences to life. In 2009, the New Mexewico legislature abolished the death penalty and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), signed the bill into law. Because the law was not retroactive, New Mexico still has 2 people on death row, but there is a campaign to urge the governor to commute their sentences.  New Mexico has 8.7 murders per 100,000 people.
  11. New York:  Prior to 1972: 1,130 executions. After 1976: 0.  There was little desire for years in NY to reinstate the death penalty, but the rising crime rate of the 198os and early 1990s, led the legislature to reinstate the death penalty in 1995, although it could not be imposed for accessories to the crime, as in many states.  It was seldom sought and juries seldom imposed it and no one had been executed. In 2004, the New York Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty violated the state constitution and it was struck down. There are 4 murders per 100,000 people in NY.
  12. North Dakota: Prior to 1972:  8 executions. After 1976: 0.  The death penalty was never reinstated after 1976.  Murder rate: 0.5 per 100,000 people.
  13. Rhode Island:  Prior to 1972: 52 executions. After 1976: 0.  The death penalty was never reinstated. There are 2.9 murders per 100,000 people in Rhode Island.
  14. Vermont: Prior to 1972: 26 executions.  After 1976: o.  The death penalty was never reinstated.  There are 1.1 murders per 100,000 people.
  15. Wisconsin:  Prior to 1972: 1 execution. After 1976: 0. The death penalty was never reinstated. There are 2.5 murders per 100,o00 people.
  16. West Virginia:  Prior to 1972: 155 executions. After 1976: 0.  There have been a few attempts to reinstate the death penalty in West Virginia, but they have not gotten very far.  There are 3.3 murders per 100,000 people.

In alphabetical order, here are the states which have the death penalty:

  1. Alabama: Prior to 1972:  708 executions.  After 1976: 50 executions.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1976. There are currently 201 people on death row, including 5 women.  1 clemency was granted since 1976 and 6 innocent people freed from death row.  The first execution after reinstatement was in 1982.  There are 6.9 murders per 100,000 people.
  2. Arkansas: Prior to 1972: 478 executions. After 1976: 27. The death penalty law was reinstated in 1973, but could not go into effect until 1976.  The first post-reinstatement execution was in 1990. There are currently 42 people on death row.  One clemency has been granted and zero innocent people freed from death row.  6.2 murders per 100,000.
  3. Arizona: Prior to 1972: 104 executions. After 1976: 24.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1973 but could not legally take effect until 1976. 135 people currently on death row, including 2 women.  First execution after reinstatement was in 1992.  8 people freed from death row due to innocence.  0 clemencies granted. 5.8 murders per 100,000. 
  4. California: Prior to 1972: 709 executions. After 1976: 13.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1974 but could not legally take effect until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1992.  Current death row population is 607 including 16 women.  3 innocent persons freed from death row; zero clemencies.  5.3 murders per 100,000 people.
  5. Colorado: Prior to 1972:  101 executions. Since 1976: 1 execution.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1975 but could not legally take effect until after 1976.  First (and only) execution since reinstatement: 1997.  Current death row population: 3.  Since abolition, Colorado seems to like the death penalty in theory more than practice, and even in theory support is waning. In 2010, the Colorado legislature fell just 2 votes shy of abolishing the death penalty.  The governor, a devout Catholic who knows his church is against the death penalty, was seriously considering signing the bill if it passed. Murder rate per 100,000 is 3.5.
  6. Connecticut: Prior to 1972: 126 executions. Since 1976: 1 execution. The death penalty was reinstated in 1973, but could not take effect until 1976. Date of first (and only) execution since reinstatement: 1994.  Current death row population: 10. In 2010, the CT state legislature narrowly abolished the death penalty, but the bill was vetoed by the governor and there was nowhere close to the votes to override her veto.  CT legislators say they will try again.  3 murders per 100,000 people.
  7. Delaware: Prior to 1972:  62 executions. After 1976: 14 executions.  Current death row population: 19.  The death penalty was reinstated in 1974, but did not take effect legally until after 1976.  First post-reinstatement execution: 1992.  4.6 murders per 100,000 people.
  8. Florida:  Prior to 1972:  314 executions.  After 1976:  69 executions.  Current death row population:  398, including 2 women.  First execution after reinstatement: 1979.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 23. Number of clemencies: 6.  There is an annual average of 5.5 murders per 100,000 people.
  9. Georgia: Prior to 1972:  950 executions. After 1976: 49 executions.  Current death row population: 106, including 1 woman. Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until after 1976.  First post-reinstatement execution: 1983.  5 innocent persons freed from death row.  7 clemencies granted.  Note: Georgia may be thought to have some kind of special love affair with capital punishment since both the Supreme Court decision which state that state death penalties, as then written, were unconstitutional (Furman v. Georgia, 1972) and the decision which allowed states with new (and supposedly fairer/less arbitrary) death penalty statutes to resume executions (Gregg v. Georgia, 1976) were in response to Georgia cases. But it is clear that Georgia has sentenced to death and executed less than several other states.
  10. Idaho:  Prior to 1972: 26 executions. After 1976: 1 execution.  Current death row population: 17, including 1 woman.  Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1994.  1.4 murders per 100,000 people.  1 innocent person freed from death row and 1 clemency granted. Like Colorado, Idaho seems to like the death penalty better in theory than practice.
  11. Illinois:  Prior to 1972: 348 executions. After 1976: 12 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976. First execution after reinstatement: 1990.  Current death row population: 15.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 20. Number of clemencies granted 172.  Note: In the late 1990s, a number of journalism students found major errors in Illinois’ death penalty including numerous cases where someone was on death row, but probably innocent.  At the time, 1 more person had been freed from death row than had been executed. Reading the articles and noting the huge error-rate, then governor Ryan (R) in 2000 imposed a moratorium on executions and, just prior to leaving office in 2003, granted clemency to all prisoners on death row. That moratorium has not been lifted. The Illinois legislature first tried to overhaul the death penalty, but this year (2011) the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty. As of my current writing, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has not decided whether to sign or veto the bill to abolish.
  12. Indiana: Prior to 1972: 131 executions. After 1976: 20 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until 1976. First execution since reinstatement: 1981.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 2. Clemencies granted: 3.  4.8 murders per 100,000 people.
  13. Kansas: Prior to 1972; 57 executions. After 1976: zero.  Death penalty reinstated in 1994.  Current death row population: 10. Zero people freed from death row and zero clemencies granted.  4.2 murders per population. Note: Kansas only reinstated the death penalty during the 1990s–a decade which saw the largest public support for the death penalty since World War II. It still seems to like it more in theory than in practice since there have been no executions.
  14. Kentucky:  Prior to 1972: 424 executions.  After 1976: 3 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1975, but not legally effective until 1976.  Current death row population, 35 including 1 woman.  1 innocent person freed from death row; 2 clemencies granted.  4.1 murders per 100,000 people.
  15. Louisiana:  Prior to 1972: 632 executions. After 1976:  28 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until 1976.  Current death row population: 85 including 2 women.  First execution after reinstatement: 1983.  8 innocent persons freed from death row and 2 clemencies granted.  11.8 murders per 100,000.  Note: A study this year shows that in Louisiana, one is 97% more likely to receive death as a sentence for murder if the victim is white than if some other race.  This should be mean that LA’s death penalty violates the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment.
  16. Maryland:  Prior to 1972: 309 executions. After 1976: 5 executions. Death penalty reinstated in 1975, but not legally effective until 1976.  Death row population: 5.  First execution after reinstatement: 1994.  1 innocent person freed from death row. 2 Clemencies.    7.7 murders per 100,000.  Note: The current governor of MD, Martin O’Malley (D-MD), has continued to push the MD legislature to abolish the death penalty and has imposed a moratorium on executions until the death penalty is abolished. The MD legislature has so far responded by raising the standard of evidence of guilt in capital cases and with other barriers, all of which O’Malley has signed into law, but they have not yet abolished the death penalty.  O’Malley continues to push for abolition.
  17. Missouri: Prior to 1972:  285 executions. After 1976: 67 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1975, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1989.  Current population of death row: 53.  3 innocent persons freed from death row.  3 clemencies granted.  6.4 murders per 100,000 people. 
  18. Mississippi:  Prior to 1972:  351 executions.  After 1976: 13 execution.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1983.  Current population of death row:  61 including 3 women.  3 innocent persons freed from death row. Zero clemencies granted.  6.4 persons murdered per 100,000.
  19. Montana:  Prior to 1972:  71 executions.  After 1976: 3 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1995.  Zero innocent persons freed from death row and 1 clemency.  2.9 murders per 100,000 people.
  20. Nebraska:  Prior to 1972:  34.  After 1976:  3.  First execution after reinstatement:  1993.  Current population of death row: 11.  1 innocent person freed from death row and 0 clemencies.  2.2 murders per 100,000 people. In 2009, the Nebraska legislature considered abolishing the death penalty, but the bill died in committee for that session.  There has been an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty, but the state is considering its first execution since 1997.
  21. New Hampshire:  Prior to 1972: 24 executions.  After 1976:  0. Death penalty reinstated in 1991.  Zero executions since reinstatement.  Current death row population: 1.  Zero innocent persons freed from death row and zero clemencies.  0.8 persons murdered per 100,000 people.  In 2000, the NH legislature voted narrowly to abolish the death penalty, but Governor Shaheen (D) vetoed it and the legislature failed to override her veto.  In 2009, the House voted again to abolish the death penalty, but the bill died in the Senate when Governor Lynch (D) promised to veto it.  New Hampshire clearly does not like the death penalty, but reinstated it during the ’90s when the rising crime rate made it more popular than at any other time and is now finding it hard to eliminate again.
  22. Nevada:  Prior to 1972:  61.  After 1976:  12.  Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1979.  Current death row population:  77.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row:  1.  Clemencies granted: 1.  5.9 murders per 100,000.
  23. North Carolina:  Prior to 1972:  782 executions. After 1976:  43.  Death penalty reinstated in 1977.  First execution after reinstatement: 1984.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 8.  Number of clemencies: 5.  Current death row population: 167, including 4 women.  6.5 murders per 100,000 people.
  24. Ohio:  Prior to 1972:  438 executions.  After 1976:  40 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  In 1978, the U. S. Supreme Court declared that Ohio’s new death penalty statute did not meet the constitutional requirements of  Gregg v. Georgia (1976) and threw it out.  120 death row prisoners, including 4 women had their sentences commuted to life in prison.  Ohio then drafted a death penalty statute that passed constitutional muster which went into effect in 1981.   First execution after reinstatement: 1999.  Current death row population: 168 including 2 women.  Number of innocent persons freed from persons:  5.  Number of clemencies: 12. 
  25. Oklahoma:  Prior to 1972:  132 executions.  After 1976:  96 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1973, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement:  1990.  Current death row population:  84, including 1 woman.  10 innocent persons freed from death row; 4 clemencies granted.  6.2 murders per 100,000 people.
  26. Oregon:  Prior to 1972:  122 executions.  After 1976:  2 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1978. First execution after reinstatement: 1996.  Zero innocent persons freed from death row and zero clemencies granted.  2.2 murders per 100,000.
  27. Pennsylvania:  Prior to 1972:  1040 executions.  After 1976:  3 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1995.  Current death row population: 222, including 5 women.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 6. Zero clemencies granted.  5.2 murders per 100,000 people.
  28. South Carolina:  Prior to 1972: 641 executions.  After 1976:  42 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement:  1985.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 2. Clemencies granted: 0.  6.3 murders per 100,000 people.
  29. South Dakota:  Prior to 1972:  15 executions. After 1976: 1 execution.  Death penalty reinstated in 1979.  First execution since reinstatement: 2007.  South Dakota abolished the death penalty (hanging) in 1915, but reinstated it (electric chair) in 1933.   2.6 murders per 100,000 people.  In 2010, South Dakota introduced legislation to abolish the death penalty, but it did not pass.  The abolition of capital punishment is strongly supported by The Association of South Dakota Churches.  The voters of South Dakota seem to like the death penalty more in theory than practice. 
  30. Tennessee:  Prior to 1972:  335 executions.  After 1976:  6 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution since reinstatement:  2000.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row:  2. Number of clemencies granted: 2.  Current death row population: 90, including 2 women.  7.3 murders per 100,000.  In 2007, Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) imposed a three month moratorium on executions while a committee proposed new rules for fairer implementation. But nonetheless, Bredesen felt compelled to commute a sentence from death to life without parole on 11 January 2011 because the crime did not seem to meet TN’s “aggravating circumstances” criteria.
  31. Texas:  Prior to 1972:  755 executions.  After 1976: 465 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1982.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 12. Number of clemencies granted: 2.  Current death row population:  337, including 10 women.  5.4 murders per 100,000 people.  Texas has executed more people since 1976 than any other state, more than twice that of the next highest execution state (Virginia), despite the fact that two states (California and Florida) have larger death row populations.  The death penalty enjoys wide popular support in Texas, despite the fact that, when polled, most Texans reply that they think the state has probably executed innocent people.  Unlike most states, Texas has been more aggressive in executing people since reinstatement than before 1972–and shows no signs of slowing down.
  32. Utah:  Prior to 1972:  43 executions.  After 1976:  7 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1974, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution since reinstatement: 1977.  Zero persons freed from death row and zero clemencies granted.  Current death row population: 10.  1.3 murders per 100,000 people.
  33. Virginia:  Prior to 1972:  1,277 executions.  After 1976:  108.  Death penalty reinstated in 1975, but not legally effective until 1976. First execution after reinstatement:  1982.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 1. Clemencies granted: 8.  Current death row population:  15, including 2 women.  4.4 murders per 100,000. 
  34. Washington:  Prior to 1972:  105 executions. After 1976:  5 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1975, but not legally effective until 1976.  First execution after reinstatement: 1993.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 1. Clemencies granted: 0.  Current death row population: 9.  2.7 murders per 100,000.  Washington briefly abolished the death penalty in 1913, but reinstated it in 1919.  The Washington voters seem to like the death penalty more in theory than in fact.
  35. Wyoming:  Prior to 1972:  22 executions.  After 1976:  1 execution.  Death penalty reinstated in 1977.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 0. Number of clemencies granted:0.  Current death row poplation: 1.  2.4 murders per 100,000 people. 

In addition to the states, the U.S. government also imposes the death penalty for several crimes and so does the U.S. military.

U.S. Federal Death Penalty:  Prior to 1972: 340 executions. After 1976:  3 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1988.  Expanded in the Omnibus Crime Act of 1994.  First execution since reinstatement:  2001.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 0. Clemencies granted: 1. Current death row population: 59, including 2 women.  5.7 murders per 100,000 people.

U.S. Military Death Penalty:  Prior to 1972:  1,206 executions.  After 1976: 0 executions.  Death penalty reinstated in 1984.  Zero executions since reinstatement.  Number of innocent persons freed from death row: 0; Clemencies granted: 0.  Current death row population: 8.

    January 30, 2011 Posted by | blog series, capital punishment, ethics, human rights, justice, U.S. politics, violence | 1 Comment

       

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