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November 12, 2007

Still lots more capital punishment buzz

As I have noted before, a hiatus on executions due to the Baze case has not stopped the media or the blogosphere from buzzing about death penalty issues.   Both Capital Defense Weekly and StandDown Texas Project have lots of new posts, some of which link to the latest media discussions of the death penalty.  Of particular note is this lengthy new article from Newsweek headlined, "Injection of Reflection:  There's wide support for a death penalty, but those who carry it out are increasingly uncomfortable."  Here are some excerpts:

Texas still accounts for more than half of all executions in the United States.  But a strange thing is happening in the state that has executed more prisoners than any other since the U.S. Supreme Court revived the death penalty in 1976 after a brief hiatus.  Texas prosecutors are less willing to seek, and juries are less willing to grant, capital punishment for aggravated murder. In 2006, only 15 Texas convicts were sentenced to death, down from 34 a decade earlier.  Texas mirrors a national trend: death-penalty sentences in the 38 states that allow capital punishment dropped from 317 in 1996 to 128 in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available.

Why the reluctance to populate death row?  Polls show popular support for capital punishment stays relatively high, at about 65 percent. But when it comes to carrying out death sentences, the people involved — judges and juries, prosecutors and prison officials — are starting to recoil, or at least pull back.  What is acceptable in theory seems less and less tolerable in practice. Indeed, the Supreme Court has called at least a temporary halt to executions while it examines the fine points of killing convicts by pumping lethal chemicals into their veins. "The death penalty may go out with a whimper, not a great moral revolution," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Steve at SDTP provides further reflections here on this Newsweek piece.

November 12, 2007 at 12:39 AM | Permalink

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