Death Penalty

Death Penalty Support Drops Below 50 Percent For First Time Since 1971

But capital punishment may be making a comeback in a number of states.

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Coming and going
Florida Department of Corrections/Doug Smith/Wikimedia Commons

Support for the death penalty among Americans has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 45 years, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.

Favorable views of capital punishment reached their high point at 80 percent in 1994 (the same year President Bill Clinon signed the Violent Crime Control Act, also known as "the crime bill"), but have been trending downward ever since. 34 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents continue to support the death penalty, with Republicans remaining the most staunch supporters at 72 percent. However, even GOP support has dropped in recent years.

Support for death penalty continues to fall

The news on national attitudes about the death penalty comes at a time when the status of a number of states' laws on executions are in flux. In Ohio, which last executed someone in January 2014 via lethal injection where the condemned took 26 minutes to die and "struggled and gasped audibly for air," Attorney General Mike DiWine has indicated the state intends to resume carrying out executions next year, according to Buzzfeed.

New Mexico's Republican Governor Susana Martinez has decided to make reinstating the death penalty an issue in her state's ongoing legislative election cycle, while in California, voters will soon decide on two propositions regarding the future capital punishment in the Golden State.

Proposition 66 will impose stricter limits and deadlines on prisoners' ability to file appeals, and according to the Los Angeles Times, also "requires attorneys appointed to the cases of indigent defendants who take non-capital appeals to accept death penalty appeals, and it exempts prison officials from the state's regulatory process for developing execution drugs." Another bill, Proposition 62, would end the death penalty in California and replace it with life without parole. Recent polls indicate the anti-death penalty proposition is likely to fail at the ballot box.

The Death Penalty Information Center notes that for the eighth consecutive year, the number of executions has declined nationwide to just 15 to date in 2016. 98 prisoners were executed in 1998.

Watch Reason TV's doc "The Battle for Death Penalty Transparency" below:

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  1. New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susana Martinez has decided to make reinstating the death penalty an issue in her state’s ongoing legislative election cycle…

    Is this in any voter’s list of top ten election issues?

    1. The death penalty has been a core part of the GOP “Law and Order” platform since Nixon. Its like abortion for the dems – when they run out of ideas, they trot it out again.

  2. It would be interesting to overlay the “support” line with a line showing violent crime rates. To me, it looks like the peak of support in the mid-’90s might coincide with the peak of the Crack Cocaine Wars.

    1. This is probably very astute.

  3. From a different topic, but still appropriate here:

    Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand.”

    – The Lord, as quoted in the Onion

    More from the post-9/11 presser:

    “I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you’d get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important,” said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. “I guess I figured I’d left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?”

  4. huh.

    Would be interesting to see that overlay between death-penalty and the crime rate. seems like the point there is, “when crime is at historic lows…. support/opposition ends up 50/50…. but when it rises? back to generally supported.”

    or maybe not. Sort of curious why there was a significant drop ’55-’67 or so… because that sort of bucks that whole theory.

  5. Who is the guy getting strapped into the electric chair in the still ‘cover’ for the video?

    In the past I have tried to figure out who he was and where/whence the picture came from, but have had no luck.

    1. I’m going to guess it was ganked from a Ken Burns America episode, or something like that.

      I’ve seen it used before in other contexts. the way he processes ‘old timey photos’ has a very distinct look…

    2. Here

      Execution by electric chair, Sing Sing Prison, New York, USA. Strapping the victim into the Death Chair. From ‘The Royal Magazine’, London, c1900
      Image ID: D96W5N
      Contributor: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo .

      It may also be from the same event captured here (jan 1 1898) It appears to be the same person, same characters.

      I think its a little sad neither bother to tell you the guy’s name.

    3. Odd…

      …but in the list of people executed by “the chair” in NY in that period.,,

      …none of the people mentioned seem to be ‘that guy’. At least as far as i can tell. At least no obviously “black dudes”. Most are white, or immigrants. And one woman! First in the world! East coast, baby!

      1. being the internet… other people have already had this debate

        The year may be wrong or the site of execution.

        On this the Wikipedia entry for people executed by the State of New York only lists one execution in 1898, Martin Thorn (crime being murder & dismemberment).

        Further research suggests that Mr. Thorn was a German barber, so probably not this photo….

        [?]OSUrower 4 points 5 months ago

        Another website does list another 1898 execution before Thorn, and it is a black male. He was ~18-20 year old Hadley Sutherland.

        Sutherland was convicted in December 1897 of the murder a 22 year old woman in March 1897. It appears that he and Thorn were originally going to be executed in the same day in Jan 1898,but Thorn was given a stay.

        Anyway, I don’t know if this photo is Sutherland. The link at the Eastman Museum doesn’t give a year. I only went with that given the original date given.

        This list names individuals executed in the right era of the photo and it lists race, which is useful for tracking this down.
        http://deathpenaltyusa.org/usa….._york3.htm

        1. (head bangs against wall)

          And the capper…

          This photo is almost certainly staged.

          The original series of negatives is here:

          However, there’s no record of a black man being electrocuted at Sing Sing around that time and photography at executions was strictly banned at the time.

          The first photograph of an execution by electric chair was done secretly and made big news in 1928. See

          Previous discussion of the photo is here:

  6. Justice is repayment to the victime (or victim’s NOK), nothing more, nothing less.

    A dollar for a dollar, an eye for an eye, a life for a life.

    The government has gained massive amounts of power by hiding this simple fact and this is the reason most people think there should be prisons “to get that person out of society”. Most also think that some people owe a “debt” to society, as if society were a person you could steal from!

    Now, that does imply that if you murder, your life should be forfeit to the victim’s NOK who ought to be able to take full repayment (death), partial repayment (probably whatever the NOK wants as life is very precious to most humans), or “forgive” the debt by letting them go.

    Before anyone cries “but the danger!”, remember that you are a third party to this debt and have no authority to tell someone that they must require a full repayment. It’s literally none of your business.

    The biggest reason we libertarians oppose the death penalty in most cases is because it’s the government demanding your life because you broke some law, not because it’s a repayment to the victim’s NOK. And the other issue is the fact that governments are innately corrupt and incompetent.

    But the death penalty (repayment) is not refuted just because governments are evil.

    1. I’ve never quite been clear on how killing someone repays anyone for anything. Restitution for property crimes or crimes that injure a person makes sense. But there is no restitution or repayment for murder. Only revenge. And I’m not at all convinced that revenge has anything to do with justice. Similarly, an eye for an eye makes no sense, unless you can do an eye transplant or something. It doesn’t give the victim their eye back. As I read it, the eye for an eye thing is about proportionality of punishment, not repayment or restitution.

      1. I’ve never quite been clear on how killing someone repays anyone for anything.

        They took your life, they owe you one, to do with as they please.

        But there is no restitution or repayment for murder. Only revenge.

        Rather than debate, you just used a word with negative connotations. That’s not how this works.

        And I’m not at all convinced that revenge has anything to do with justice.

        That’s because you buy into the lie of the “modern” society that making someone suffer the precise evil that they did to another is “revenge”.

        Similarly, an eye for an eye makes no sense

        If is the victim’s eye, to do with as they want. [A], it teaches people the pain of assault, and [B], the scales of justice are balanced. It would be much better for the victim to demand monetary repayment for the loss of an eye, true, but if the aggressor is unwilling, then an eye is what they owe.

        As I read it, the eye for an eye thing is about proportionality of punishment, not repayment or restitution.

        It is both, nicely summed up.

        Now that I’ve answered you, you ought to answer me.

        If justice isn’t direct repayment to the victim, then what is it? And don’t forget Occam’s razor.

        1. An eye for an eye was not only replaced with the new covenant, it is all easily refuted by the adage about everyone ending up blind.

          More saliently:

          It isn’t about what people deserve. Most of these folks deserve far worse. Let everyone pray that he doesn’t get what he deserves.

          1. An eye for an eye was not only replaced with the new covenant

            Yes, God does forgive, but never does he say that man’s justice (that he gave) was suspended.

            it is all easily refuted by the adage about everyone ending up blind.

            If you’re easily deceived by the “modern” misunderstanding of justice, sure. It doesn’t say “an eye for an eye for an eye…” ad infinitum. Once it is repaid, that is the end of it.

    2. Justice is repayment to the victime (or victim’s NOK), nothing more, nothing less.

      A dollar for a dollar, an eye for an eye, a life for a life.

      Yeah, 4,000 years ago. The concept of justice has evolved somewhat.

      1. To what? Quid est aequitas?

    3. What if the victim has no NOK? What if the victim is killed by their family? How do the victim’s family/friends know who killed them?

      Even setting aside those questions, your view of justice isn’t exactly an objective consensus everyone would agree with, but you state it like it is.

      1. What if the victim has no NOK?

        I’ll do it.

        What if the victim is killed by their family?

        The NOK who isn’t the murderer? That’s not hard to understand. It’s similar to an inheritance, you can’t collect it if you offed the guy…

        How do the victim’s family/friends know who killed them?

        Third party’s jury trial. Once guilt has been determined, the sentence is “up to (full repayment)”, to be collected by the NOK.

        Even setting aside those questions, your view of justice isn’t exactly an objective consensus everyone would agree with, but you state it like it is.

        Read more carefully, I said that modern people have no idea what it means, that government (and other things) have deceived them so they may have more power.

        Truth is truth even if no-one believes it. Justice is justice even if no-one pursues it.

  7. California has a few of the counties that are responsible for most death sentences in this country, but we never kill anyone. Go figure.

  8. Remember when we had to vote for Obama because McCain and then Romney would get us into a big war with Russia or China?

    http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/art…..clear-pact

    This is scary for a lot of reasons. One of the most scary reasons seems to be the karmic requirement that every single dumb ass claim ever made by an Obama supporter or apologist be proven wrong by subsequent events to the maximum degree possible.

    It would be nice if the media would take notice of how the semi retired village idiot in the White House is closer to getting us in a war with Russia than any President since Kennedy.

    1. I thought Hillary pressed the reset button?

      1. *whispers*
        It wan’t connected to anything.

        1. And didn’t it say “recycle laundry” or something in Russian?

          1. Actually:

            It was intended that this would be the Russian word for “reset” but actually the word for “overload”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_reset

            I did not know that. I recall the dreadful optics of giving the Russians a big red button, but not that they botched the button itself.

        2. No. Now that I remember, it said “be sure to eat your Oveltine” in Russian.

          1. I thought it was an “easy” button she got from Staples.

      2. She did and it was working just fine until Trump came along and emboldened Putin.

      3. Criminal Hillary worked FOR Comrade Obama. His responsibility,his choice of actions.

    2. Yep, I have egg on my face.

      In my defense, in 2008, I hadn’t yet had my education on narcissistic personality disorder and the disaster people who have it wreak on those misfortune enough to be in vulnerable circumstances.

      1. Self diagnosed? That doesn’t count.

      2. Weakness has caused more wars than strength. Weak leaders have a terrible habit of blundering into really big wars.

    3. What, specifically, has Obama done to lead to frayed relations with Russia?

      1. First, Hillary’s meddling in the Ukranian elections/revolt back in 2011. The Russians predictably acted to secure control of their black sea fleet.

        Then came the bumbling desperate attempt to look relevant and in charge as the arab spring burned through the middle east and north africa, that led him blundering into picking sides in the Syrian and Libyan revolts. The Syrian revolt meant he threatened Russia’s only naval base in the med.

        Not to mention his attempt to look like he gave a shit about gay rights by taunting Putin by seeding the U.S. olympic delegation heavily with gay celebrities. Which actually did nothing for the gay community in Russia (actually it made their conditions worse, because now gayness is associated with opposition to a strong Russian state).

        I don’t blame him. Obama isn’t hands on in foreign policy. His mistake was hiring people like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and not recognizing that they were temperamentally incapable of doing the job

        1. seeding the U.S. olympic delegation heavily with gay celebrities

          Well that’s obviously my favorite.

          The entire world is throwing its hands up because of Putin’s domestic-politics-focused belligerence. I appreciate that his unwitting agents are everywhere now. One of them’s running for president.

    4. I seem to recall more people worrying about war with Iran or other mid-east places than China or Russia. And what do you know, here we are. With the added bonus of basically having a proxy war with Russia in Syria.

  9. A more caring and empathetic society is not an environment in which libertarianism thrives, so you guys should be careful what you wish for.

    1. You really had a fucked up childhood, didn’t you?

      1. It was fantastic. My parents didn’t even charge me for food and lodging.

        1. Liar. 😉

          I’ll bet they beat you, with a belt.

    2. You can always tell how caring and empathetic a society is by the number of mandatory requirements it imposes, at gunpoint, on its subjects.

      1. Besides the things liberals agree with you about, e.g., drugs, what aren’t you allowed to do that you feel you should be allowed to do?

        1. I’d like to start a business with some friends where we all agree to forego wages in the present for a future share of the profits.

        2. I want to tackle the scandalous shortage of organ donors in this country by offering money to the estates of organ donors in exchange for their organs.

        3. I want to purchase health insurance that only covers catastrophic events offered by a foreign insurance company

        4. I want to divert some of the money my company pays to employ me from “purchasing” shitty government treasuries in exchange for a non-binding “promise” to provide a pittance should I become disabled or live to an old age and invest them into a top class package of annuities, life insurance, disability and long term care insurance.

          1. All of those things seem doable using regular order in our current democratic system. Just get enough people to agree with you. No need for a silly holistic dogma.

        5. I want to start an airline that doesn’t treat its customers as terrorists and does allow firearms on board.

        6. I want to offer a job to a cousin from Turkey and let him stay in the spare bedroom while he gets on his feet.

        7. I want to start a car company that makes one car; a sedan that is safe and roomy but only gets 16 mpg.

          1. they’re now being made,they’re called “SUV’s”. (I’m not so sure abut the “safe” part,but the landbarges they replaced weren’t safe either.)
            besides,you could always make such a car,you just have to pay the gas-guzzler taxes.

        8. I want to start a university that pays no attention to the racial makeup of its students whatsoever.

        9. I want to start a mint making gold coins and selling them to the general public

          1. Well, I have a much longer list of policy changes I’d like to see. I don’t see any justification for demanding them based on some half-assed dorm-room flimflam. Call your local representative. Rent a billboard.

            1. So… how often did your father beat you? Did he also beat your mom? Or was your mom the violent one?

            2. So… how often did your father beat you? Did he also beat your mom? Or was your mom the violent one?

        10. This Tony clown just got rekt.

    3. Yes, socialist bureaucracy is well known for its heartfelt compassion.

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