Death Penalty
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Last updated on: 3/3/2014 11:20:09 AM PST

Should the Death Penalty Be Allowed?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Bruce Fein, JD, General Counsel for the Center for Law and Accountability, in an American Bar Association website article titled "Individual Rights and Responsability - The Death Penalty, But Sparingly" (accessed June 17, 2008), offered the following:

"Abolitionists may contend that the death penalty is inherently immoral because governments should never take human life, no matter what the provocation. But that is an article of faith, not of fact, just like the opposite position held by abolitionist detractors, including myself... The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense, and thus subject even to butchery to satiate human gluttony. Moreover, capital punishment celebrates the dignity of the humans whose lives were ended by the defendant's predation."


June 17, 2008 - Bruce Fein, JD 

Alex Kozinski, JD, Circuit Judge in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a Nov. 7, 2002 Hoover Institution "Interview," stated the following:

"Immanuel Kant said it best. He said a society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else's life is simply immoral. So the question really... when the system works and when you manage to identify somebody who has done such heinous evil, do we as a society have a right to take his life? I think the answer's plainly yes. And I would go with Kant and I would say it is immoral for us not to."


Nov. 7, 2002 - Alex Kozinski, JD 

Richard A. Devine, JD, State's Attorney for Cook County in Illinois, in an Apr. 30, 2003 State Attorney's website section titled "Statement on the Death Penalty in Illinois," offered the following:

"Our position has been and remains that the death penalty is appropriate for the worst of the worst, people who have committed crimes so atrocious that they are no longer fit to be among us. Up until now, the people of Illinois, through their lawmakers, have said that death is appropriate for the most heinous crimes and criminals. We are now at a point where we should re-examine whether this remains our policy. We do not have the death penalty because prosecutors have said we should. It is the law of our state. If the law is changed to make life in prison without parole our most serious punishment, prosecutors statewide will, despite whatever personal feelings they may have, follow the law. The legislature must debate this most important issue and reach a decision to give us all a clear understanding of how the worst crimes will be punished."


Apr. 30, 2003 - Richard A. Devine, JD 

Steven D. Stewart, JD, Clark County Prosecuting Attorney, in an Office of the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's website section (accessed July 22, 2008) and titled "A Message from the Prosecuting Attorney," offered the following:

"Along with two-thirds of the American public, I believe in capital punishment. I believe that there are some defendants who have earned the ultimate punishment our society has to offer by committing murder with aggravating circumstances present. I believe life is sacred. It cheapens the life of an innocent murder victim to say that society has no right to keep the murderer from ever killing again. In my view, society has not only the right, but the duty to act in self defense to protect the innocent."


July 22, 2008 - Steven D. Stewart, JD 

Eliot Spitzer, JD, Former Attorney General and Governor of New York, in a June 13, 2000 hearing on "Postconviction DNA Testing of New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Before the Senate Judiciary Committee," available at the judiciary.senate.gov website, stated the following:

"Our federal and state constitutions are replete with rights we afford the accused -- the right to notice of charges, the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to confront witnesses, the right to counsel, the right against self-incrimination. We as a society have made a profound commitment to avoid punishing the innocent. This is particularly important to those of us who support the death penalty in appropriate circumstances. We have determined that there are instances when the crimes are so egregious that society’s ultimate punishment -- the death penalty -- may be appropriate. But the imposition of this punishment can be justified only if we make full use of all available tools to aid in the determination of guilt or innocence."


June 13, 2000 - Eliot Spitzer, JD 

Cass R. Sunstein, JD, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, in a Mar. 2005 Stanford Law Review article cowritten with Adrian Vermeule and titled "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions and Life-Life Tradeoffs," wrote the following:

"...on certain empirical assumptions, capital punishment may be morally required, not for retributive reasons, but rather to prevent the taking of innocent lives. In so saying, we are suggesting the possibility that states are obliged to maintain the death penalty option..."


Mar. 2005 - Cass R. Sunstein, JD 

Charles E. Rice, JSD, Professor Emeritus at Ave Maria School of Law at the University of Notre Dame, in a Sep./Oct. 1998 Catholic.net article titled "Showdown in Texas, The Pope vs. The Culture of Death," offered the following:
"The only situations in which anyone ever has the moral right intentionally to kill anyone are the just war, capital punishment and a justified rebellion. But no one ever has the right intentionally to kill the innocent. The just war and capital punishment are decreed by the state, which derives its authority from God... The right to kill intentionally, therefore, can properly be asserted only by those responsible for the common good..."

Sep./Oct. 1998 - Charles E. Rice, JSD 

Mark H. Creech, Reverend & Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc, in a Jan. 18, 2007 article titled "A Christian Response to Death Penalty Issues," available at the RenewAmerica website, wrote the following:

"If the death penalty is just retribution, which it is, then it should be administered. If the death penalty can never be administered by a flawless judicial system, which it cannot, then suspending executions to improve its administration will never make it more just."


Jan. 18, 2007 - Mark H. Creech 

George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd President of the United States, in a June 23, 2000 CNN.com article "Bush Death Penalty Stance Could Be Campaign Issue," wrote the following:
"I’m going to uphold the law of the land and let the political consequences be what they may. If it costs me politically, it costs me politically... No case is an easy case... I also keep in mind the victims, and the reason I support the death penalty is because it saves lives. That’s why I support it, and the people of my state support it too."

June 23, 2000 - George W. Bush, MBA 

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, in a Mar. 23, 2006 New England Journal of Medicine article titled "When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions," wrote the following:
"I have personally been in favor of the death penalty. I was a senior official in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign and in the administration, and in that role I defended the President's stance in support of capital punishment. I have no illusions that the death penalty deters anyone from murder. I also have great concern about the ability of our justice system to avoid putting someone innocent to death. However, I believe there are some human beings who do such evil as to deserve to die. I am not troubled that Timothy McVeigh was executed for the 168 people he had killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, or that John Wayne Gacy was for committing 33 murders."

Mar. 23, 2006 - Atul Gawande, MD, MPH 

John C. McAdams, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University, in an Autumn 1998 Law and Contemporary Problems article titled "Racial Disparity and the Death Penalty," wrote the following:

"That inequity in the application of the death penalty requires its abolition is an argument that will be made only by people who do not like it for other reasons. The inequity argument is a pretext, not a reason. Between an inequitable death penalty and no death penalty, I would prefer an inequitable death penalty, just as I would prefer an inequitable tax system to no tax system, and inequitable policing to no policing. I say this because I think it likely that executions deter murders, and it is clear that a majority of Americans - white and black - think that justice requires executions for the most heinous crimes."


Autumn 1998 - John C. McAdams, PhD 

David B. Muhlhausen, PhD, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Data Analysis of the Heritage Foundation, in an Aug. 28, 2007 Heritage Foundation website article titled "The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives," wrote the following:

"While opponents of capital punishment allege that it is unfairly used against African–Americans, each additional execution deters the murder of 1.5 African–Americans. Further moratoria, commuted sentences, and death row removals appear to increase the incidence of murder... Americans support capital punishment for two good reasons. First, there is little evidence to suggest that minorities are treated unfairly. Second, capital punishment produces a strong deterrent effect that saves lives."


Aug. 28, 2007 - David B. Muhlhausen, PhD 

Louis P. Pojman, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at West Point Military Academy, in an essay titled "Why the Death Penalty Is Morally Permissible," from the 2004 book edited by Adam Bedau and titled Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case, wrote:

"Public executions of the convicted murderer would serve as a reminder that crime does not pay. Public executions of criminals seem an efficient way to communicate the message that if you shed innocent blood, you will pay a high price... I agree... on the matter of accountability but also believe such publicity would serve to deter homicide."


2004 - Louis P. Pojman, PhD 

Kent Scheidegger, JD, Legal Director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, in a National Online Youth Summit of the American Bar Association website section (accessed Aug. 7, 2008) and titled "Spring 2001: Does Capital Punishment Have a Future?,": offered the following:
"The death penalty serves three functions. First, for some crimes any lesser punishment is inadequate as a matter of basic justice... Second, an executed death sentence absolutely guarantees the killer will never kill again. A life sentence does not. There are many cases of people killed by murderers who were paroled, escaped, killed within prison, or who arranged murders from within the prison... Third, I believe that an effective, enforced death penalty deters some murders."

Aug. 7, 2008 - Kent Scheidegger, JD 

Roger Clegg, JD, President and General Counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, in a June 11, 2001 National Review Online article titled "The Color of Death: Does the Death Penalty Discriminate?," wrote the following:

"No one seriously believes that Timothy McVeigh is being put to death because he is a white male. He is being executed because he is a cold-blooded killer, with the reasonable hope that his death will advance the safety and security of the rest of us, whatever our skin color. The same is true for the other cold-blooded killers being put to death."


June 11, 2001 - Roger Clegg, JD 

Chris Clem, JD, Former State of Tennessee House Representatives (R-Lookout Mountain), in a Jan. 31, 2002 statement in response to a press release about the cost of capital cases as reported by the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, stated the following:

"Executions do not have to cost that much. We could hang them and re-use the rope. No cost! Or we could use firing squads and ask for volunteer firing squad members who would provide their own guns and ammunition. Again, no cost."


Jan. 31, 2002 - Chris Clem, JD 

The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), in a Mar. 2003 article titled "Prosecutors' Perspective on California's Death Penalty," available at www.cdaa.org, offered the following:
"The death penalty is the will of the people of California. It was restored by voter initiative in 1977, and every subsequent measure to expand its provisions, most recently with the addition of a gang-murder special circumstance in March 2000, has been overwhelmingly approved. The simple fact of the matter is that Californians want to reserve the ultimate punishment of death for those murderers whose actions so truly shock the conscience that life in prison is not adequate."

Mar. 2003 - California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) 

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), in a June 13-14, 2000 "Resolution" at a SBC meeting that took place in Florida, stated the following:

"Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention... support the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death..."


June 13-14, 2000 - Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) 

WithChrist.org, in a website section (accessed June 17, 2008) titled "Capital Punishment - Death Penalty," offered the following:

"The Death Penalty is moral and just. Judicial death for the purpose of maintaining justice or righteousness is well established in human history. However, the rise of death penalty executions in the United States against a backdrop of liberalism has triggered protests from various anti-capital punishment factions. Often shouting the loudest are liberal religionists and clergy who erroneously claim to speak for God. These folks are grossly confused and seriously wrong."


June 17, 2008 - WithChrist.org 

Sheik Ahmad Ash-Sharabasi, former Professor of Islamic Creed at Al-Ahzar University in Cairo, Egypt, in a Fatwa reprinted on www.islamonline.net (accessed July 25, 2008), stated:
"[A] murderer deserves death penalty because he has trespassed against the whole society by killing one of its members."

July 25, 2008 - Sheik Ahmad Ash-Sharabasi 

Shahid Athar, MD, President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America, in an article titled "Capital Punishment - A Faith Issue in an Islamic Perspective," published on www.islam-usa.com (accessed July 25, 2008), wrote the following:

"There are three crimes for which the death penalty is justified: (a) In lieu of an unjust and proven murder, life for life; (b) adultery (zina) committed by a married person, either confessed by him or her four times, or if the act is witnessed by four people; and apostasy from Islam after willingly accepting it, declaring an open revolt against Islam, threatening the solidarity of the Muslim community."


July 25, 2008 - Shahid Athar, MD 

Nathan Diament, JD, Director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in a transcript of a June 5, 2001 appearance at the Pew Forum's event titled "Religious Reflections on the Death Penalty," stated:
"...[W]e're not about to take the position of abolition [of the death penalty], because the teaching that, again, the need for implementing justice, particularly with regard to crimes of murder, for society, is a critical component of Jewish teaching as well."

June 5, 2001 - Nathan Diament, JD 

Carl F. H. Henry, ThD, PhD, Founder and Editor of Christian Today, in his 1988 book titled Twilight of a Great Civilization, wrote:

"Nowhere does the Bible repudiate capital punishment for premeditated murder; not only is the death penalty for deliberate killing of a fellow human being permitted, but it is approved and encouraged, and for any government that attaches at least as much value to the life of an innocent victim as to a deliberate murderer, it is ethically imperative."


1988 - Carl F. H. Henry, ThD, PhD 

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, in its 1967 resolution 2-38 of the New York convention of the Synod, dictated:

"God has delegated His authority of punishing evil-doers to civil magistrates in place of parents; in early times, as we read in Moses, parents had to bring their own children to judgment and sentence them to death. Therefore what is forbidden here applies to private individuals, not to governments. Therefore be it Resolved, That The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod declare that capital punishment is in accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions."


1967 - Lutheran Church Missouri Synod 

Steven Plaut, PhD, Associate Professor of Finance and Business in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Haifa (Israel) in an Apr. 23, 2004 JewishPress.com article titled "Judaism's Pro-Death Penalty Tradition," wrote:

"...[T]he preservation of human dignity requires capital punishment of convicted murderers. The position of Judaism is opposite of the position espoused by liberals. It is precisely because of man's creation in God's image that capital punishment is declared justified and necessary. Human dignity requires execution of murderers, not compassion for their souls.

Moreover, capital punishment is regarded in Judaism as a favor for the capital sinner, a form of atonement and redemption. Ordinary murderers are allowed to achieve atonement for their souls in their execution. Only especially vile murderers - such as false witness whose lies are discovered after the person who was framed has been executed, or a man who sacrifices both his son and his daughter to the pagan god Molokh - are denied execution because they are regarded as beyond redemption through capital punishment. Again, execution preserves human dignity, it does not defile it.
"


Apr. 23, 2004 - Steven Plaut, PhD 

Parmatmananda Saraswati, Co-ordinator of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, in an Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 Hinduism Today article titled "Capital Punishment: Time to Abandon It?," wrote the following:

"Capital punishment is allowed under Hindu tradition. Lord Rama is the embodiment of dharma, yet he killed King Bali, who had stolen his own brother's wife... Sometimes I feel that the crimes today are even more heinous than in the past. Hence capital punishment, if sanctioned by the scriptures, should continue."


Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 - Parmatmananda Saraswati 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in an Apr. 9, 2007 website section titled "The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers," offered the following:

"It [capital punishment] is immoral in principle, and unfair and discriminatory in practice... No one deserves to die. When the government metes out vengeance disguised as justice, it becomes complicit with killers in devaluing human life and human dignity. In civilized society, we reject the principle of literally doing to criminals what they do to their victims: The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonist's house. We should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death... Capital punishment is a barbaric remnant of uncivilized society."


Apr. 9, 2007 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 

Bloomberg View wrote in its Feb. 23, 2014 editorial "Ban the Death Penalty" at bloombergview.com:
"Executions should be banned by act of Congress for this simple reason: Experience has shown that the death penalty doesn't serve the cause of justice… How likely is it, really, that a killer will be more deterred by the risk of the death penalty than by having to spend the rest of his life in prison? The claim fails the test of common sense. Criminologists and police chiefs say the death penalty just doesn't influence murderers -- partly because its application is so haphazard… It's true that the purpose of punishment is not only deterrence but also retribution. But this doesn't justify the popular view that killers should be killed, any more than it would support the idea that rapists should be raped or thieves stolen from. To be just, retribution must be measured and restrained. That's the difference between justice and revenge…

The extraordinary crimes that would justify the death penalty are difficult to imagine, much less define, before the fact. And, even in exceptional cases, the requirement to prove guilt beyond any doubt is hard to satisfy. (What does ‘beyond any doubt’ actually mean? Is a psychopath guilty beyond any doubt?) Let's allow that it would have been right to execute Hitler. But let's also recognize that restricting the death penalty to the few cases where it would be both just and safe is impractical. The best pragmatic course is not to use the death penalty more sparingly but to abolish it outright."

Feb. 23, 2014 - Bloomberg 

The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN), in its website section titled "Death Penalty Policy Center" (accessed June 23, 2008), offered the following:

"It is the position of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network to oppose the death penalty as it is currently applied in the United States and to press for the immediate abolition of capital punishment... Our position is compelled by a moral imperative, our belief that the death penalty is immoral and constitutes an unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment that is at odds with our best traditions, fosters a culture of violence, and teaches our children the wrongheaded lesson that the way to settle scores is through violence, even to the point of taking a human life."


June 23, 2008 - Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) 

Thurgood Marshall, JD, late Justice of the US Supreme Court, in a June 29, 1972 Furman v. Georgia concurrent opinion, stated:

"[Capital punishment] violates the Eighth Amendment because it is morally unacceptable to the people of the United States at this time in their history. In judging whether or not a given penalty is morally acceptable, most courts have said that the punishment is valid unless 'it shocks the conscience and sense of justice of the people.' Assuming knowledge of all the facts presently available regarding capital punishment, the average citizen would, in my opinion, find it shocking to his conscience and sense of justice. For this reason alone, capital punishment cannot stand."


June 29, 1972 - Thurgood Marshall, LLB 

George Ryan, Governor of Illinois at the time of the quote, in a speech given Jan. 11, 2003 at Northwestern University College of Law, stated:

"Because our three year study has found only more questions about the fairness of the sentencing; because of the spectacular failure to reform the system; because we have seen justice delayed for countless death row inmates with potentially meritorious claims; because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious - and therefore immoral - I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death... Because of all of these reasons today I am commuting the sentences of all death row inmates. This is a blanket commutation."


Jan. 11, 2003 - George Ryan 

The United Nations General Assembly, on Nov. 1, 2007, in an 104-54 vote to which the US was a primary opponent, adopted a non-legally binding moratorium on the death penalty:

"The General Assembly... Recalling also the resolutions on the question of the death penalty adopted over the past decade by the Commission on Human Rights in all consecutive sessions... in which the Commission called upon States that still maintain the death penalty to abolish it completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions... Considering that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity, and convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, that there is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable... Welcoming the decisions taken by an increasing number of States to apply a moratorium on executions, followed in many cases by the abolition of the death penalty,

1. Expresses its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty;

2. Calls upon all States that still maintain the death penalty to:

(a) Respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty... (c) Progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed; (d) Establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty...
"


Nov. 1, 2007 - United Nations (UN) 

Amnesty International, in a website section titled "Death Penalty Q&A," available at www.amnesty.org (accessed Aug. 6, 2008), offered the following:
"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights."

Aug. 6, 2008 - Amnesty International 

William J. Brennan, Jr., JD, former US Supreme Court Justice, in a July 2, 1976 Gregg v. Georgia, dissenting opinion, stated the following:

"Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity, but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment; therefore the principle inherent in the Clause that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment."


July 2, 1976 - William J. Brennan, Jr., JD 

Bryan Stevenson, JD, Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and Founder-Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, in his 2004 article "Close to Death: Reflections on Race and Capital Punishment in America," from Debating the Death Penalty: Should America Have Capital Punishment? The Experts on Both Sides Make Their Best Case, wrote:

"Embracing a certain quotient of racial bias and discrimination against the poor is an inexorable aspect of supporting capital punishment. This is an immoral condition that makes rejecting the death penalty on moral grounds not only defensible but necessary for those who refuse to accept unequal or unjust administration of punishment."


2004 - Bryan Stevenson, JD 

Jed S. Rakoff, JD, US District Judge in the Southern District of New York, ruled that the death penalty violates the due process clause of the 5th Amendment in his July 1, 2002 ruling in US v. Quinones:

"[T]o this Court, the unacceptably high rate at which innocent persons are convicted of capital crimes, when coupled with the frequently prolonged delays before such errors are detected (and then often only fortuitously or by application of newly-developed techniques), compels the conclusion that execution under the Federal Death Penalty Act, by cutting off the opportunity for exoneration, denies due process and, indeed, is tantamount to foreseeable, state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings."


July 1, 2002 - Jed S. Rakoff, JD 

Michael L. Radelet, PhD, Professor and Associate Chair at the Department of Sociology of the University of Colorado at Boulder, in an Aug. 29, 2001 University of Colorado News Center website presentation titled "Top Death Penalty Expert Joins CU-Boulder Faculty," stated the following:

"Even if one concedes, for the sake of argument, that some people like Timothy McVeigh deserve to die, we run into all sorts of problems drawing the line between who deserves to live and who deserves to die... At the end of the day, we make so many mistakes in making those decisions that the only clear lesson is that we do not deserve to kill."


Aug. 29, 2001 - Michael L. Radelet , PhD 

Stephen B. Bright, JD, Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, in an Oct. 27, 2007 Wisconsin Law Review article titled "Will the Death Penalty Remain Alive in the Twenty-First Century?," wrote the following:
"Do we want a hateful, vengeful society, one that turns its back on its children and then executes them, that denies its mentally ill the treatment and the medicine they need and then puts them to death when demons are no longer kept at bay... If we here in the United States examine our own system, face its flaws, and think about what kind of society we want to have, we will ultimately conclude that, like slavery and segregation, the death penalty is a relic of another era, that it represents the dark side of the human spirit, and that we are capable of more constructive approaches to the problem of crime in our society. And we will then join the rest of the civilized world in making permanent, absolute and unequivocal the injunction 'Thou Shall Not Kill.'”

Oct. 27, 2007 - Stephen B. Bright, JD 

Tom Head, Civil Liberties Guide at About.com, in an About.com - Civil Liberties section article titled "History of the Electric Chair" (accessed June 9, 2008), wrote:
"The death penalty never brings back the victims of violent crime, but it makes all of us killers by proxy--and gives our government the ominous power to decide which citizens may live and which citizens may die."

June 9, 2008 - Tom Head 

John Paul Stevens, JD, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, in an Apr. 16, 2008 concurrent opinion in Baze v. Rees, stated the following:

"Current decisions by state legislatures, by the Congress of the United States, and by this Court to retain the death penalty as a part of our law are the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process that weighs the costs and risks of administering that penalty against its identifiable benefits, and rest in part on a faulty assumption about the retributive force of the death penalty... The recent rise in statutes providing for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole demonstrates that incapacitation is neither a necessary nor a sufficient justification for the death penalty. Moreover, a recent poll indicates that support for the death penalty drops significantly when life without the possibility of parole is presented as an alternative option. And the available sociological evidence suggests that juries are less likely to impose the death penalty when life without parole is available as a sentence... Our society has moved away from public and painful retribution towards ever more humane forms of punishment. State-sanctioned killing is therefore becoming more and more anachronistic... Full recognition of the diminishing force of the principal rationales for retaining the death penalty should lead this Court and legislatures to reexamine the question... 'Is it time to Kill the Death Penalty?' ...The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived."


Apr. 16, 2008 - John Paul Stevens, JD 

Edwin H. Sutherland, PhD, late President of the American Sociological Society and considered by many the father of American criminology, in his 1974 book titled Criminology, concluded the following:

"The death penalty does not fit into the system that is being developed for the treatment of criminals, which is individualization on the basis of the character and personality of the offender rather than punishment on the basis of the crime committed. Some criminals, of course, cannot be reformed by known methods, but there are none whose reformation should not be attempted. The death penalty, as a compulsory penalty for any offense, is therefore an anachronism or rapidly becoming such. The group which uses the death penalty is incensed at the crime, emotions run high until the execution and then the members of the group sit back with a contented feeling that their duty has been done. They burn up their energy in an emotional flash, which should be used for the correction of the conditions that have produced the crime. When the death penalty is used, errors of justice are irreparable. Though most mistakes are prevented by the judicial system or by executive clemency, some occur, due to the pressure of public opinion, the decisions of judges, the personnel of the jury, the laws of evidence, the unreliability of testimony or even of confessions. Finally, the infliction of the death penalty has a very bad effect on the prisoners and staff of the institution in which it is inflicted. The morale of the institution is shattered by the strain and nervous excitement."


1974 - Edwin H. Sutherland, PhD 

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), in a website section titled "Learn More," available at the NCADP website (accessed Aug. 12, 2008), offered the following:

"As the public comes to understand that the death penalty operates unfairly, harms the very people it purports to help and drains precious resources from solutions that prevent crime, hold people accountable and keep our communities safe, more will demand that policy makers support measures to narrow the scope and reach of the practice and ultimately repeal death penalty statutes."


Aug. 12, 2008 - National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) 

Russ Feingold, JD, US Senator (D-WI), in a feingold.senate.gov website section (accessed Aug. 7, 2008) titled "Death Penalty," offered the following:
"I oppose the death penalty because it is inconsistent with basic American principles of justice, liberty, and equality. In January 2007, I introduced the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act to abolish the federal death penalty. I have introduced similar bills in past Congresses in my continued effort to end state-sponsored executions."

Aug.7, 2008 - Russ Feingold, JD 

John Dear, Jesuit Priest from the Society of Jesus, in a June 17, 2008 National Catholic Reporter article titled "Abolish the Death Penalty Now!", wrote:

"Capital punishment can claim nothing to commend it. It will not bring healing or justice or restitution. It offers no hope for a nonviolent society. It reinforces the heart-rending cycle of violence; it lays the burden of yet another murder. Execution gives death as social purpose ever greater sway... More, capital punishment is freighted with inconsistencies. Behind it lies an illogical maxim: we kill those who kill to show that killing is wrong. If we really believed that killing was wrong, the state would set an example; official killing would be banished."


June 17, 2008 - John Dear 

Ellen S. Kreitzberg, JD, Professor of Law at Santa Clara University, in a May 7, 2001 Ethics Today interview conducted by David Perry and aired on KSCU radio station, stated the following:

"Personally I'm against the death penalty and I'm against it in all circumstances... First, there are two things that happen when a murder or a tragedy occurs: One is the personal grief that the victim and the victim's family are going to feel, and there is no depth that can even measure how great that grief might be. The second thing is how do we punish the person who committed these acts?

We have always recognized that since we're a system of law and not of men or women, we can't allow an individual person's grief to dictate what the punishment should be. Even to the extent we do, executing McVeigh
[for example] is not going to bring back those children. Certainly if executing an individual would bring back a victim, I would be standing in line to encourage people to do that. It would seem that then there would be a greater purpose, a more noble purpose, but we know that's not going to occur. In fact, many people now state quite definitively that it doesn't bring the closure or the solace or the comfort that many of these victims look to, so it often gives a very false hope to the victims of these tragedies.

The second
[level] is we need to separate the individual, who maybe we can say on some scale deserves to die, from how the system works in its application in every case. While Timothy McVeigh is easy for us to identify, that doesn't make the system one that works. McVeigh was charged under a federal death penalty, which the Department of Justice's own study showed was unfairly and unevenly applied to persons of color and to persons in certain geographic areas. So we cannot uphold the system because we feel good about it in one particular case, when it is really not working most of the time. We have to ask, Does the system work? If the system is not working, we can't allow it to go forward even in the one awful case, the worst of the worst."


May 7, 2001 - Ellen S. Kreitzberg, JD 

Dan Markel, JD, Assistant Professor at Florida State University College of Law, in a Summer 2005 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article titled "State, Be Not Proud: A Retributivist Defense of the Commutation of the Death Row and the Abolition of the Death Penalty," wrote:

"I appealed to the notion that embedded within the confrontational conception of retribution is a commitment to respecting the dignity of every person, a dignity we affirm by punishing offenders for the consequences of their freely chosen and autonomous actions. Such respect for human dignity entails obligations to the offender as well as to ourselves, and among those is the obligation not to punish in a way that erodes human dignity. Capital punishment degrades dignity, on this view, because it unnecessarily extinguishes human life in the presence of viable alternatives. Taken together, these reasons counsel in favor not only of a blanket commutation, but also the abolition of the death penalty itself."


Summer 2005 - Dan Markel, JD 

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, a California-based Buddhist social activist organization, wrote the following in an Oct. 2006 article posted to its website, titled "Buddhism and the Death Penalty":
"We believe that capital punishment not only fails to serve as deterrence to violence and murder, but that it nourishes the seeds of violence that exist within each of us. We believe that there is no fair or practical way to arrive at a sentence of death..."

Oct. 2006 - Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) 

The Economist magazine, in a Dec. 14, 2005 The Economist article titled "After Tookie," offered the following:

"The Economist opposes the death penalty: state-sponsored killing is inhuman, its effectiveness as a deterrent is at best unproven and it is no less prone to miscarriages of justice than more easily reversible sentences. We would not under any circumstances have wanted to execute Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, who was killed by lethal injection in San Quentin this week..."


Dec. 14, 2005 - The Economist 

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in a June 28, 2007 NAACP website section titled "NAACP Remains Steadfast in Ending Death Penalty and Fighting Injustice in America's Justice System," wrote:

"The NAACP remains resolutely opposed to the death penalty... The government’s claim to the moral authority to exact the ultimate punishment is based on the belief that the punishment will be administered fairly and even-handedly. But even a cursory review of the death penalty at both the federal and state levels indicates that this is false."


June 28, 2007 - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 

Samvidananda Saraswati, Head of Kailash Ashram, in an Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 article "Capital Punishment: Time to Abandon It?" published in Hinduism Today, stated:
"Hinduism is full of compassion and forgiveness. Leave aside human beings, we are supposed to be kind even to insects and animals. We are not supposed to kill a small insect. Therefore, taking the life of a human being is a very big issue for us. Our Hindu dharma is very clear that use of violence against anyone is not allowed. Any other type of punishment may be given, but we should not take anyone's life. Our scriptures and Vedas do not favor capital punishment. They advocate the principle of nonviolence."

Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 - Samvidananda Saraswati 

Death Penalty Focus, an abolition of capital punishment advocacy organization, in its GuideStar.org entry (accessed Aug. 27, 2008), offered the following:

"We believe that the death penalty is an ineffective, cruel, and simplistic response to the serious and complex problem of violent crime. It institutionalizes discrimination against the poor and people of color, diverts attention and financial resources away from preventative measures that would actually increase public safety, risks the execution of innocent people, and does not deter crime. We are convinced that when the electorate is informed about the true human and financial costs associated with state-sanctioned killing, the United States will join the majority of nations throughout the world who have abolished it."


Aug. 27, 2008 - Death Penalty Focus 

Helen Prejean, MA, anti-death penalty activist and Catholic Nun of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, in a May-June 2000 Fellowship of Reconciliation website section titled "One Woman Talking: An Interview With Sister Helen Prejean," stated the following:
"I say in my talks that the death penalty epitomizes the deepest wounds in our society, which are militarism, poverty, and racism! We've got a social problem, so we send in the Marines. We target the enemy, dehumanize, terminate him. It's that same war-making spirit that makes the death penalty... We are just beginning to see a thaw in a huge glacier that we've been locked into with the death penalty since 1976. At least six states have initiatives for a moratorium, most recently in Illinois. Polls show that support is dropping. It's down to sixty-one percent from seventy-five percent. In 1999 it dropped five percent. I think people are more aware of the eighty-seven innocent people that have now come off of Death Row, that the supposed best criminal justice system in the world has a lot of flaws in it. I think it's raised consciousness about the death penalty, and how we don't need it."

May-June 2000 - Helen Prejean, MA 

Austin D. Sarat, JD, PhD, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College, in his 2001 book titled When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition, wrote:
"[S]tate killing contributes to some of the most dangerous features of contemporary America. Among them are the substitution of a politics of revenge and resentment for sustained attention to the social problems responsible for so much violence today; the use of crime to pit various social groups against one another and to generate political capital; what has been called an effort to 'govern through crime;' the racializing of danger and, in so doing, the perpetuation of racial fear and antagonism; the erosion of basic legal protections and legal values in favor of short-term political expediency; the turning of state killing into an invisible, bureaucratic act, which can divorce citizens from the responsibility for the killing that the state does in their name. In response I argue for what I call a 'new abolitionism.' This view suggests that the time may be at hand to condemn state killing for what it does to, not for, America and what Americans most cherish."

2001 - Austin D. Sarat, JD, PhD 

Richard C. Dieter, MS, JD, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, in Feb. 7, 2007 testimony to the Judiciary Committee of the Colorado State House of Representatives regarding "House Bill 1094 - Costs of the Death Penalty and Related Issues," stated:

"I believe it is appropriate to say that the House Bill 1094 [to abolish the death penalty] gives Colorado an opportunity to extricate itself from what many states are increasingly finding to be an ineffective and expensive burden. The clear national trend is away from a broad use of the death penalty, as indicated by a 60% drop in death sentences, a 45% decline in executions, a smaller death row, and a decreasing level of public support. In public opinion polls, there is a clear upward trend in support for life-without-parole sentences as a substitute for the death penalty... Moreover, the states without the death penalty have fared better in reducing their murder rates than states with the death penalty. The death penalty concentrates millions of dollars on a few people with almost no control over the outcome. (This does not even take into account the less tangible costs such as the risk of executing the innocent, or the divisiveness caused by the perceptions of racial unfairness.) It is true that you cannot put a price on justice. But you can put a price on programs with a proven track record in improving the safety of the community. A state has to choose where to put its limited resources."


Feb. 7, 2007 - Richard C. Dieter, MS, JD 

Bill O. Hing, JD, Professor of Law at the University of California Davis School of Law, in a June 30, 2008 report written as member of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice that was titled "Report and Recommendations on the Administration on the Administration of the Death Penalty in California - Supplemental Statement on Repealing the Death Penalty," offered the following:

"We support the recommendations of the Commission if Californians elect to continue the death penalty. However, we write separately because, after carefully considering all the information and evidence put before the Commission, we believe that the death penalty should be repealed. The death penalty is too costly, the possibility is high that a person who has been wrongfully convicted will be put to death, capital punishment inordinately affects communities of color, the imposition of the death penalty varies greatly from county to county, a low income defendant faces a troubling disadvantage when charged with a capital offense, the death penalty forecloses any possibility of healing and redemption, the death qualification juror requirement inherently and unjustly biases the process against the defendant, and California should follow the lead of other civilized societies who have concluded that the death penalty be abolished."


June 30, 2008 - Bill O. Hing, JD 

Dalai Lama, Tibetan Head of State and Buddhist spiritual leader, in a "Message Supporting the Moratorium on the Death Penalty," read by Kobutsu Malone, Zenji at the Apr. 9, 1999 event "Creating a Legacy," sponsored by peaceCENTER, stated:
"However horrible the act they have committed, I believe that everyone has the potential to improve and correct themselves. Therefore, I am optimistic that it remains possible to deter criminal activity, and prevent such harmful consequences of such acts in society, without having to resort to the death penalty. My overriding belief is that is is always possible for criminals to improve and that by its very finality the death penalty contradicts this. Therefore, I support those organizations and individuals who are trying to bring an end to the use of the death penalty... I wholeheartedly support an appeal to those countries who at present employ the death penalty to observe an unconditional moratorium."

Apr. 9, 1999 - Dalai Lama 

Robert Sherrill, investigative journalist and author, in a Dec. 21, 2000 The Nation article titled "Death Trip: The American Way of Execution," wrote:

"If you tried to sell death-penalty stock on Wall Street, the Securities and Exchange Commission would have you prosecuted for fraud. Capital punishment doesn't achieve any of the things its backers promise it will, and it is a spectacular waste of time and money... Revenge? Is that what you want for your money? Well, there are plenty of men and women on the nation's death rows who rightly provoke that desire: mass murderers, murderers who killed for fun, murderers who killed for hire, who raped and tortured women, who raped and tortured children. There is, of course, a wide range of savagery represented on death row. Some is relatively simple, like the Georgian who killed his lover by jamming a screwdriver into his ear and twisting it, then tried to get rid of the body by cutting it up and flushing it down the garbage disposal. But you would be better off if you forgot about a-life-for-a-life revenge and began supporting the much cheaper and just as final LWOP [life without parole]."


Dec. 21, 2000 - Robert Sherrill 

The Lancet, a British peer-reviewed medical journal, in an Apr. 16, 2005 editorial titled "Medical Collusion in the Death Penalty: An American Atrocity," offered the following:

"Capital punishment is not only an atrocity, but also a stain on the record of the world’s most powerful democracy. Doctors should not be in the job of killing. Those who do participate in this barbaric act are shameful examples of how a profession has allowed its values to be corrupted by state violence."


Apr. 16, 2005 - The Lancet 

Rabia Terri Harris, Coordinator of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, wrote in her article "Islam and the Death Penalty," published on www.amnestyusa.org (accessed July 25, 2008):

"It is a far more serious error of Islamic ethics to demand a human death in circumstances when there are doubts about guilt or innocence, where the bereaved are not consulted about their wishes, and when the penalty is selectively applied based on the pernicious fantasy that some lives have more value than others. Islamic law, and Islamic taqwa, demand that we dissent from such a travesty of justice."


July 25, 2008 - Rabia Terri Harris 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, in an Aug. 28-Sep. 4, 1991 Churchwide Assembly meeting in Orlando, Florida, voted by two-thirds majority to adopt a policy that stated:

"Since human beings are fallible, the innocent have been executed in the past and will inevitably be executed in the future. Death is a different punishment from any other; the execution of an innocent person is a mistake we cannot correct. It is because of this church's concern regarding the actual use of the death penalty that we oppose its imposition."


Aug. 28-Sep. 4, 1991 - Evangelical Lutheran Church 

The National Council of Synagogues, in a statement from the National Council of Synagogues and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), published on the USCCB website, Dec. 3, 1999 and titled "To End the Death Penalty, A Report of the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation," offered the following:

"Recent statements of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism, and of the U.S. Catholic Conference sum up well the increasingly strong convictions shared by Jews and Catholics on the evil that is capital punishment... We affirm that we came to these conclusions because of our shared understanding of the sanctity of human life. We have committed ourselves to work together, and each within our own communities, toward ending the death penalty."


Dec. 3, 1999 - National Council of Synagogues 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in an Apr. 2006 USCCB website section titled "The Death Penalty," wrote:
"Since 1980, the U.S. Catholic bishops have taken a strong and principled position against the use of the death penalty in the United States. The Catholic Church opposes the use of the death penalty not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for how it affects society. Last November, the U.S. Catholic Bishops affirmed this position in their statement A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death. This statement complements the efforts of the Catholic Church for many years and is a part of a comprehensive Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty launched in March of 2005. Moreover, Pope John Paul II, in both The Gospel of Life and the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church, stated that our society has adequate alternative means today to protect society from violent crime without resorting to capital punishment."

Apr. 2006 - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) 

The United Church of Christ (UCC), in the July 1999 Twenty-Second General Synod Conference, in a document called "Call for Abolition of the Death Penalty," offered the following:

"Be it finally resolved that the Twenty-second General Synod of the United Church of Christ reaffirms the long-standing opposition within the United Church of Christ to the death penalty and urges the abolition of capital punishment as a means of working for justice..."


July 1999 - United Church of Christ (UCC) 

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, a professional association of Reconstructionist rabbis, in Apr. 2003 adopted the following resolution on the death penalty:

"Whereas both in concept and in practice, Jewish leaders throughout over the past 2000 plus years have refused, with rare exception, to punish criminals by depriving them of their lives;

And whereas current evidence and technological advances have shown that as many as three hundred people... have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes in America in the last century, which underscores the Jewish concern over capital punishment since all human systems of justice are inherently fallible and imperfect -

Therefore, we resolve that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association go on record opposing the death penalty under all circumstances, opposing the adoption of death penalty laws, and urging their abolition in states that already have adopted them."


Apr. 2003 - Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association 

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