« Gov Christie joins growing chorus of GOP leaders urging reform of "broken" criminal justice system | Main | "Prosecutors Rally Against Sentencing Reform, Say Build More Prisons" »

July 18, 2015

Is Prez Obama truly "close" to opposing the death penalty?

The question in the title of this of this post is prompted by this recent Washington Post Wonkblog posting, which gets started this way:

A long-time associate and mentor to President Obama says the president is "close" to opposing the death penalty but not quite there yet -- and needs to be pushed to do it.

"He's not there yet, but he's close, and needs some help," said Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., a law professor at Harvard University and prominent death penalty opponent who taught the president and First Lady Michelle Obama when both were students there. The legal scholar said he was planning on meeting with his former student next month and would confront him about the issue then.

As Obama has increasingly confronted racial disparities in the criminal justice system and in American society in in his second term -- including on Tuesday before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- Obama has committed to doing more to address these issues in his final year-and-a-half. This week alone, he commuted the sentences of more than 40 low-level offenders, and is visiting a prison in Oklahoma today, becoming the first president to visit a federal penitentiary.

Obama, who has said he supports executions in some circumstances but raised concerns about the application of capital punishment, has not yet focused in this new push on racial disparities in capital trials -- the most serious cases before any criminal court. Now, just as he publicly changed his opinions on other major social issues in which public opinion changed, like gay marriage, some have wondered whether the president will change his perspective. As the charts below show, support for the death penalty, for decades strong in the United States, has been declining in recent years, just as support for gay marriage has increased.

Ogletree predicted that the president will eventually have no choice but to oppose the death penalty, confronted with the data on racial disparities in capital punishment, as well as on the costs of litigating capital cases and on the number of defendants who are eventually exonerated. "Even if he doesn't change his mind in the next year and a half, I think the public's point of view is going to influence him," Ogletree said. "As a citizen, he can have an enormous amount of influence."

July 18, 2015 at 07:49 PM | Permalink


The hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession is sending an emissary with their orders for one of its members, the President of the United States. He will get his chain yanked, and tightened.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 19, 2015 12:16:42 PM

No one was executed by feds since 2003.

Meanwhile, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got the death penalty.

So, guess he isn't quite there yet.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 19, 2015 5:21:15 PM

Obama may still pardon the Boston Bomber, since his frontal lobes had not fully myelinated, and there is much hope for his bright future as an American patriot once they do.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 19, 2015 7:48:25 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