ProCon.org contacted the 2008 Presidential candidates to ask their positions on the question "Should the death penalty remain a legal option in America?" If no response was received, ProCon.org conducted research to find quotes from the candidates on the issue.
Candidates' positions are categorized as Pro (Yes), Con (No), Not Clearly Pro or Con, or None Found. Candidates who have changed their positions are listed as Now their most recent position. Candidates who have withdrawn or who no longer meet our criteria are listed after the active candidates below.
Should the death penalty remain a legal option in America?
Baldwin, Chuck(Cst) - Pro
Chuck Baldwin, Founder and Minister of the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL, issued the following statement through his Communications Director, Mary Starrett, in an Aug. 11, 2008 email to ProCon.org:
"The Supreme Court should in no way interfere with the ability of the duty of the states to impose the death penalty in appropriate circumstances. At the Federal level, the government has usurped responsibility in the criminal justice area. It was recognized in the early days of our republic when there were only three crimes subject to Federal jurisdiction; piracy, counterfeiting, and treason. That has now increased to some 4,450 crimes. We should go back to the original limit." Aug. 11, 2008
Bob Barr, former US House Representative (R-GA), stated in an Aug. 8, 2007 article titled "Troy Davis’ ‘Day in Court’ Brought Travesty of Justice" on his official candidate website:
"I am a firm believer in the propriety and historic soundness of the death penalty. But, as a proponent of our Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights, I believe just as strongly in the fundamental fairness that lies at the heart - or should lie at the heart - of our criminal justice system. Because of its obvious finality, the death penalty must be employed with as close to absolute fairness and certainty as humanly possible." Aug. 8, 2007
"I support the death penalty for heinous crimes in which the circumstances warrant capital punishment. I have supported legislation that sought to expand the number of federal crimes punishable by death, including terrorism and narcotics trafficking by drug kingpins." Aug. 20, 2008
Cynthia McKinney, former US House Representative (D-GA), stated in her May 1, 2007 Green Party Presidential Candidate Questionnaire:
"In 1994, I voted to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment in the Federal Criminal Statutes. In 1995 I voted in opposition to making federal death penalty appeals more difficult. In 1996, I voted to maintain the right of habeus corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. In 2001, I voted to support a moratorium on the death penalty; and for funding for DNA testing; as well as to require DNA testing prior to any federal executions." May 1, 2007
Ralph Nader, attorney, author, and political activist, was quoted in a Nov. 2, 2000 article titled "Campaign 2000: Nader and Buchanan Stances on Election Issues," published in The Daily Texan:
"Since I was a law student at Harvard, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since they're given no competent legal counsel defense in many cases. It's a system that has to be perfect. You cannot execute one innocent person." Nov. 2, 2000
Barack Obama, US Senator (D-IL), stated in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream:
"While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes- mass murder, the rape and murder of a child- so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment." 2006
(Candidates who have withdrawn or who no longer meet our criteria appear below in black and white and in alphabetical order by party.)
3rd Parties / Independents
Biden, Joe (Withdrew on Jan. 3, 2008)
Brownback, Sam (Withdrew on Oct. 19, 2007)
Gravel, Mike (Withdrew on May 27, 2008)
Clinton, Hillary (Suspended campaign on June 7, 2008)
Gilmore, Jim (Withdrew on July 14, 2007)
Imperato, Daniel (No longer met criteria on Mar. 21, 2008)
Dodd, Chris (Withdrew on Jan. 3, 2008)
Giuliani, Rudy (Withdrew on Jan. 30, 2008)
Keyes, Alan (No longer met criteria on June 23, 2008)
Edwards, John (Withdrew on Jan. 30, 2008)
Huckabee, Mike (Withdrew on Mar. 4, 2008)
Kubby, Steve (No longer met criteria on Mar. 21, 2008)
Kucinich, Dennis (Withdrew on Jan. 25, 2008)
Hunter, Duncan (Withdrew on Jan. 19, 2008)
McEnulty, Frank (No longer met criteria on Mar. 21, 2008)
Richardson, Bill (Withdrew on Jan. 10, 2008)
Paul, Ron (Withdrew on June 12, 2008)
Smith, Christine (No longer met criteria on Mar. 21, 2008)
Vilsack, Tom (Withdrew on, Feb. 23, 2007)
Romney, Mitt (Withdrew on Feb. 7, 2008)
Tancredo, Tom (Withdrew on Dec. 20, 2007)
Thompson, Fred (Withdrew on Jan. 22, 2008)
Thompson, Tommy (Withdrew on Aug. 12, 2007)
Biden, Joe(D) - Pro
Joe Biden, US Senator (D-DE), stated in a June 20, 2002 press release titled "Biden Statement on Supreme Court Decision on the Execution of Mentally Retarded Individuals":
"As the author of two major federal crime laws that extend the availability of the death penalty to sixty additional crimes, I support capital punishment as a crime-fighting technique. But we must implement the death penalty in a way that is consistent with our values as Americans. Just as we would not execute a 12-year-old, I have long argued that we should not execute a mentally retarded person whose mental capacity might be far more limited. That's why I led the fight in 1990 to oppose the extension of the federal death penalty to mentally retarded persons." June 20, 2002
John Edwards, former US Senator (D-NC), stated in a Feb. 26, 2004 Democratic Presidential Debate moderated by Larry King in Los Angeles, CA:
KING: ...Senator Edwards, I know you agree with capital punishment.
KING: ... why do you favor capital?
EDWARDS: Because I think there are some crimes -- those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty. And I think there are some crimes that deserve the ultimate punishment." Feb. 26, 2004
Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, stated in a Dec. 17, 2001 CNN.com article titled "Giuliani: Consider Death Penalty for American Taliban Fighter":
"When you commit treason against the United States of America, particularly at a time when the US is in peril of attack and further attack, I believe the death penalty is the appropriate remedy to consider." Dec. 17, 2001
Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, in the Nov. 28, 2007 CNN/YouTube Republican Presidential Debate, stated:
"I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix." Nov. 28, 2007
Duncan Hunter, US Representative (R-CA), stated in the Sep. 27, 2007 Republican Presidential Debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD:
"I think there is a need for the death penalty. And it's called deterrence. And that means that, when that Charles Manson is getting ready to pull the trigger on an innocent American, just maybe the idea passes through his mind that he, himself, is going to lose his life.
Now, that might only deter five percent, 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent. It does deter some people. And for that reason, the death penalty, dealing with some very rough, very ruthless people, is necessary." Sep. 27, 2007
Alan Keyes, former Assistant US Secretary of State, stated in the "Death Penalty/Child Sentencing" section on his official candidate website (accessed Apr. 2, 2008):
"I believe that there are certain circumstances in which the death penalty is in fact essential to our respect for life... I believe that there are circumstances under which it is essential, in fact, that we have and apply the death penalty in order to send a clear moral message to people throughout our society that we will not tolerate that kind of disrespect for life." Apr. 2, 2008
Steve Kubby, a Libertarian candidate and founder of the American Medical Marijuana Association, stated in a Nov. 9, 2007 email to ProCon.org:
"As a presidential candidate, my purview is twofold. It encompasses the death penalty for federal crimes, as well as the issue of ensuring that due process of law prevails in the states. I oppose capital punishment and would work to abolish the death penalty for federal crimes. Given the recent revelations of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases at the state level, I would also direct the Attorney General and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to monitor due process issues and intervene where necessary to ensure that criminal defendants receive the full protections due them under the Constitution." Nov. 9, 2007
Dennis Kucinich, US Representative (D-OH), stated at the June 28, 2007 Democratic Presidential Debate in Washingon, DC:
"...[A]s President I'll do everything I can to end the federal death penalty which I've already introduced legislation for in the past because we need to have an approach that recognizes the discrimination which exists in our justice system." June 28, 2007
Frank McEnulty, an Independent candidate and President of Our Castle Homes, in a Nov. 13, 2007 email to ProCon.org, stated:
"I am not opposed to the death penalty and I believe that it is an important legal option in our justice system. However, I also believe that the death penalty system has gotten to the point where it is becoming not only impractical, but also economically unfeasible. I see the system slowly moving away from death to life in prison without parole and would not stand in the way of that migration if that is what the people continue to demand." Nov. 13, 2007
Ron Paul, US Representative (R-TX), stated in an Aug. 25, 2007 interview with John Lofton titled "Exclusive Interview: Ron Paul on God/Government; Abortion; Homosexuality; and Much More" on The American View:
"Well, all states have the right to impose capital punishment. But I have become so skeptical of the federal government that under our system... the federal government has made so many mistakes and with DNA evidence now revealing so many errors that I don't even like the idea of our federal government pretending that they know whose life they are going to take because of their total ineptness in just about everything they do. As far as the state goes, yes capital punishment is a deserving penalty for those who commit crime." Aug. 25, 2007
Tom Tancredo, US Representative (R-CA), on July 25, 2003 co-sponsored the "Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act of 2004" (H.R.2934):
"Whoever, in the course of committing a terrorist offense, engages in conduct that results in the death of a person, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life." July 25, 2003 "Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act of 2004" (H.R.2934)
Fred Thompson, former US Senator (R-TN), stated in a June 27, 2007 The Fred Thompson Report article titled "Common Sense on Capital Punishment" on ABC Radio Network:
"Our country seems to be able to come to the right conclusions over time, even when we're being told over and over again that we're wrong. When I say the right conclusions, by the way, I mean conclusions supported by honest research and real evidence. I've got a good example -- capital punishment.
For decades, the self-proclaimed smart kids have been telling us that the death penalty just doesn't work. The people with the top jobs in academia and the news business have scoffed at the American people's insistence that executions prevent murder...
The reliable two-thirds of Americans who have always supported the death penalty probably wouldn't be surprised to find out that study after study has shown that the death penalty deters murders. Some studies show really dramatic effects, with each execution of a murderer deterring as many as 18 or more murders. That's according to Emory University professors, who found as well that delaying execution also leads to further murders. Most studies have concluded that some number of murders between three and 18 are prevented for every application of capital punishment...
Certainly, the use of DNA evidence to clear long-held prisoners from murder charges proves that we need to be more careful about handing out death sentences; and science must be used even more and earlier in the criminal process to protect the innocent and convict the guilty. However, these studies are important in properly analyzing the effect of the death penalty." June 27, 2007