« Well, ... at least these parolees had a zero recidivism rate (unless they're zombies) | Main | Big new report examines New York's use of solitary confinement »

October 2, 2012

"for the first time, we’re going to elect a candidate from a state that does not execute prisoners"

The title of this piece is a fascinating tidbit of presidential trivia drawn from this intriguing local article headlined "Why The Death Penalty Is Not An Issue In This Campaign."  Here are excerpts from the effective piece:

The death penalty used to be an important issue in presidential politics. In 1988, Vice President George Bush used his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis’s opposition to the death penalty to portray him as soft on crime....

Running against Bush four years later, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton didn’t make the same mistake. He flew back to Little Rock to ensure the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, who had killed a police officer and then shot himself in the head. Rector was so brain damaged that he didn’t finish his last meal, saving his pecan pie “for later” before he was led to the execution chamber.

The death penalty also became an issue for Bush’s son, George W. Trying to establish that he was a friend to black voters, Bush boasted that the killers of James Byrd, a Texas man who had been dragged behind a truck by white supremacists, were “going to be put to death.”...

Capital punishment will not be an issue in this year’s campaign. For the first time, both candidates are from states that have abolished the death penalty. Which means that, also for the first time, we’re going to elect a candidate from a state that does not execute prisoners. (Illinois did not abolish capital punishment until 2011, three years after President Obama was elected. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney proposed a bill to restore the death penalty, but his legislature rejected it, denying him an achievement he could tout to conservatives.) Below is a list of such presidential candidates throughout American history. It’s hard to argue that any of them have lost specifically because they opposed the death penalty, but they generally came from states more liberal than the nation as a whole, so their stances were part of a political philosophy that voters did not accept.

Lewis Cass, Michigan, 1848
Robert M. La Follette, Wisconsin, 1924
Hubert Humphrey, Minnesota, 1968
Walter Mondale, Minnesota, 1984
Michael Dukakis, Massachusetts, 1988
John Kerry, Massachusetts, 2004
Barack Obama, Illinois, 2012
Mitt Romney, Massachusetts, 2012

Significantly, I think the death penalty should be an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign because the federal death penalty has been in a mysterious state of suspension even since the Baze lethal injection litigation created a moratorium on executions more than five years ago.  As detailed here at the DPIC website, there are more than 50 persons on federal death row, including an handful sentenced to death during the Obama Administration.  Thus, the federal chief executive (and his appointed Attorney General) has some unique death penalty responsibilities and thus ought to at some point in a campaign speak to his views on how best to discharge these responsibilities.

Related post (from 2010!):

October 2, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "for the first time, we’re going to elect a candidate from a state that does not execute prisoners":


It seems to me that there are two more obvious reasons the DP is not an issue in this campaign: The murder rate has fallen to a low point not seen in more than 50 years, and both candidates are on record as supporting the DP. The only real source of disagreement between the candidates about the government's complicity in bringing about death is how many people have died of old age waiting in the unemployment line.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 2, 2012 10:48:41 AM

Good idea for those already sentenced to death in a Federal Court .

I prefer the scenario where the intended victim stops a predatory attack with the LAWFUL use of deadly force .

The surviving intended victim calls NOT 911 „ but the coroner’s office so that the cadaver can be picked up.

Were I to be sentenced to death for a Federal crime committed between January 2013 and January 2017 (if P. Obama is re-elected) or January 2013 and January 2021 (if candidate Romney is elected) ; their respective terms would end (hopefully) before I would be executed .

Decades ago I kindly refrained from summarily executing a rogue judge for egregious judicial misconduct „ simply because it would be unkind ; the prospect of the electric chair did not enter the equation .

And that was BEFORE I had tasted my now wife’s cooking „ which was great before marriage and has improved exponentially over the past 45.9071 years .

☺ Even though I would die of old age before execution „ I am not risking missing one meal just because someone else needs taken out ☺

DJB/JAG - Columbus OH0
[email protected]

Posted by: Anon. #3.14159 | Oct 2, 2012 11:02:55 AM

Indeed, yesterday yet another murderer on federal death row exhausted all his appeals save the (theoretically) ongoing Baze litigation. His name is Richard Allen Jackson.


Including Jackson, there are now eight federal death-row inmates whose appeals have been otherwise exhausted. They are Anthony Battle, Corey Johnson, Jeffery William Paul, James Roane, Julius Omar Robinson, Richard Tipton and Bruce Webster.

For more on Jackson, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?4724-Richard-Allen-Jackson-Federal-Death-Row

For more on Battle, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?4742-Anthony-Battle-Federal-Death-Row

For more on Johnson, Roane and Tipton, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?2937-Virginia-Condemned-Case-Status&highlight=virginia+status

For more on Paul, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?4737-Jeffery-William-Paul-Federal-Death-Row

For more on Robinson, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?4702-Julius-Omar-Robinson-Federal-Death-Row

For more on Webster, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?4689-Bruce-Webster-Federal-Death-Row

and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Lewis

Posted by: alpino | Oct 2, 2012 11:04:15 AM

This is the same problem we have in Florida with Gov Rick Scott.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 2, 2012 11:40:39 AM

This post is very South Campus.

Posted by: Wes Twelfth | Oct 2, 2012 11:43:07 AM

Three people were executed by the federal government (you know, the normal way) since 1963. That beats out even CA. No wonder it isn't a major issue in the presidential election.


Posted by: Joe | Oct 2, 2012 12:00:41 PM


Actually 13 inmates have been executed involuntarily in California
since reinstatement. I believe 50 plus have died of natural causes
or suicide.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 2, 2012 12:42:18 PM

Thanks DaveP -- I meant "beats out" sarcastically.

That is "even" CA is "beat out" by that low number.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 2, 2012 1:15:55 PM

Understood. It's a shame when natural causes overtakes inmates executed.

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 2, 2012 1:37:03 PM

DaveP, your definition of "shame" and mine must be different.

Posted by: anon | Oct 2, 2012 1:54:13 PM

Yes it is

Posted by: DaveP | Oct 2, 2012 2:07:04 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB