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February 3, 2007

The federalization of the death penalty

The Wall Street Journal has this weekend piece on the increased application of the federal death penalty.  Here are snippets:

At a time when many states are backing away from capital punishment, the federal government is aggressively pursuing — and winning — more death sentences, including in jurisdictions that traditionally oppose them.... Today, there are 47 people on federal death row — more than double the number six years ago — and [seven come from] a state without a death statute of its own.... The ranks may grow in the months ahead, with several capital cases on tap in locales traditionally opposed to the death penalty....

The growth in federal capital cases, many observers say, results from a heightened effort by the Justice Department to centralize the process for deciding whether prosecutors should push for capital punishment.  Justice Department spokesman Erik Ablin says the government is making an effort to pursue capital punishment uniformly across the country. "We have in place a clearly defined review process to ensure the death penalty is applied in a consistent and fair manner nationwide," he said....

Since the 1988 reinstatement of the federal death penalty, prosecutors have attempted to bring capital cases in federal courts across the country.  Typically, this has proved much easier in states such as Texas, which have death penalties of their own, than in states such as Iowa, which don't. In 2000, there were 18 inmates on federal death row, but none were from a state that disallows capital punishment. 

Things began to change in 2002, when federal prosecutors secured a death sentence in Michigan, a state without a death penalty.  A year later, Mr. Ashcroft ordered U.S. attorneys in New York and Connecticut to seek death penalties against 12 defendants even though prosecutors handling the cases had recommended against doing so or decided not to pursue capital charges.  At the time, the Justice Department said there shouldn't be "one standard in Georgia and another in Vermont."

As explained in some posts listed below, I see many potential virtues in an expanded federal death penalty, including the possibility of emboldening states to gear down their (often ineffectual and inconsistent) use of the death penalty.

February 3, 2007 at 10:31 PM | Permalink


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I teach journalism and wanted to share a tip for those that do web research. I had just read about a plugin called netpass that provides free access to Wall Street Journal and other subscription sites. The site is http://news.congoo.com

They have law news too: http://news.congoo.com/subchannel?channel_id=23&category_id=6

Thought it might be helpful


Posted by: Richard Jennings | Feb 4, 2007 1:08:11 PM

So pretty. I'm glad I found your post.

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I am a Psychiatric Nurse with a Certificate in Gerontology, interested in the growing population of Seniors in prisons. I am currently hired as a consultant for Seniors Mental Health. I also am aware of increasing admissions of the elderly with newly committed crimes. I would like to see a change in facility in addressing their changing care needs, also considering the degree of threat. Should there be a new trend, in developing and or utilizing suitable alternate settings...I would be interested in working with this population. Any ideas as to what courses will improve my knowledge and skill set..in order to potentially improve my odds of being a successful candidate in application?

Posted by: basketball nike shoes | Nov 29, 2010 2:50:44 AM

I'm against death penalty, because in not all the cases you can send someone tho the death row..
I prefer that the convict stay in jail all his/her life, but not to kill them

Posted by: Metro Ethernet | May 1, 2011 7:53:36 PM

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