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April 22, 2015

Is there a "growing movement against death penalty – on the right"?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new press article with this full headline: "Nebraska highlights growing movement against death penalty – on the right: Seventeen Republican lawmakers seek abolition of capital punishment in the state as Christians, conservatives and libertarians band together for change." Here are excerpts:

A growing coalition of Christian, fiscally conservative and libertarian lawmakers are pushing to repeal the death penalty in some of America’s reddest states. And after years of working against state-sponsored executions, historically a Democratic platform, some conservatives say they believe the efforts are gaining traction.

The push for reform was on full display last week in Nebraska, as 17 Republican lawmakers in the one-house legislature advocated for passage of abolition bill LB268. “I know many of you, when you went door to door, you said to the constituent you talked to: ‘You send me to Lincoln, [Nebraska,] and when I get down there I’m going to find government programs that don’t work, and I’m going to get rid of them,’” Senator Colby Coash told fellow lawmakers. “And that’s exactly what LB268 does … We can get justice without this method.”

The bill passed its first hurdle with a 30 to 12 vote in favor of repeal, potentially enough to override Republican governor Pete Ricketts’ veto threat. Two more successful votes are needed to send the bill to the governor’s desk, and there is strong opposition, including filibuster threats, to overcome. Still, conservative advocates said they believe it is one of the most promising developments in decades.

“We’re probably in the best position we’ve been in since the bill passed in 1979,” said Stacy Anderson, the conservative executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, about the last time the state’s legislature passed an abolition bill. “From the conservative standpoint, the death penalty fails on all of our core values.”...

Republicans are still the most likely group to support capital punishment, with 77% in support of the death penalty. Still, conservative activists point to the 10% decrease in Republican support over 20 years, growing support for life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty, and the issue’s low priority ranking among voters.

The most widely cited reasons for opposing the death penalty seem in line with some of the most fervent strains of American Republicanism: fiscal conservatism, pro-life principles and small government ideals. And with increasing scrutiny on states that continue to execute prisoners despite a shortage of lethal injection drugs, the issue appears poised to continue to attract attention.

“It’s a government program that risks innocent life, costs more than the alternative, and is certainly not about limited government,” said Marc Hyden, an outreach specialist with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “When I’m first speaking, I think conservatives give me kind of a weird look,” said Hyden. “But about halfway through the presentation, it starts clicking with them – that this is a program that just doesn’t mesh with conservative ideals.”

The campaign has seen growing interest in red states such as Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas and Tennessee, both Hyden and abolitionists said.

In Montana, a fiercely conservative state, a death penalty abolition bill made it out of the House judiciary committee for the first time perhaps ever, according to death penalty abolition advocates there. “I was shocked,” Moore told the Missoulian. “I didn’t expect it to come out of committee.” At the time that the bill passed to the floor, a stunned Moore described it as having “a tiger by the tail”. The abolition bill failed in a vote on the house floor, but many see its progress out of the judiciary committee as nothing short of stunning. “We were very excited,” said Jennifer Kirby about the bill’s progress. “It’s about time.”

April 22, 2015 at 02:54 PM | Permalink


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I still haven't even seen the dynamic effect of the death penalty argument approached.

For instance, a prosecutor can accept a deal that accepts life without parole as the plea, so that the death penalty won't be risked in court. Without the death penalty, then life without parole becomes the greatest sentence (other than the ridiculous centuries-long sentences typically given to child porn downloaders).

So in cases of states without the death penalty, to keep from going to rial, a plea that implies some sort of parole must be given. This dominoes down the line to all sequentially-lower sentence pleas vs. trial consideration.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 22, 2015 6:05:54 PM

I'd like to see how much this one less option for plea deals actually works in real life. This includes those states that haven't executed any one for decades even if they actually have the death penalty on the books. This includes the chance of supermax prisons.

The removal of the plea realistically seems unlikely in most cases to actually matter including to the crafty defense attorney who knows the policy of the state in the real world. It would matter mostly in a limited number of states with the penalty or in a few rare cases (like the bombing case).

As to the conservative case against the d.p., there is one, especially in states like Nebraska or Montana when it would rarely apply anyway.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 22, 2015 8:38:02 PM

Again. If you do not include a denominator, and you present the rare exception, that is David Duke propaganda. It is unethical in journalism to not present both sides of a story. I would add it is agenda driven propaganda to not include the denominator of the fraction of people advocating a point of view. That is misleading, and is unethical journalism.

It is unethical to say, there are a million car crashes, and cars are unsafe, without also saying, billions of miles are driven without incident each year.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 23, 2015 12:09:18 AM

Most of the members of the Montana House judiciary committee were trained as what? They merely obeyed their masters in the hierarchy, without regard to any loyalty.

The values of the Criminal Cult Enterprise that is the lawyer profession trump all political affiliation, all values, all loyalty to family, nation and God.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 24, 2015 6:31:35 PM

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