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September 21, 2015

Is there really a "growing conservative movement" that will create "bipartisan coalition opposing" the death penalty?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this The Week feature article which has a headline promising to go "Inside the growing conservative movement to end the death penalty." Here is how the piece starts and ends:

After years of sitting on death row in Oklahoma, Richard Glossip was scheduled to die on Wednesday.  But today, Friday, he's still alive.  That's thanks to a last-minute, two-week reprieve — which was granted in no small part because of a growing cadre of conservative activists who oppose the death penalty.

Glossip's case — he was convicted of hiring someone to kill his boss — had exhausted every avenue of appeal, even briefly heading to the Supreme Court last year as the justices weighed the legality of lethal injection.  But time and again, state officials and the legal system rejected his team's claims of innocence.

In recent weeks, pressure began to mount from evangelicals, young activists, and figures in the local media who wanted the state to take one last look at his case.  The outreach to these groups came largely from an organization called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.  Their outreach specialist is a man named Marc Hyden, a former campaign field representative for the National Rifle Association who argues that opposing capital punishment is a natural philosophical fit for tough-minded conservatives.

"Point to a single government program that works flawlessly.  Death penalty supporters have to accept that it's a human-run program and so my question is, how many innocent people are you willing to execute?" Hyden told me.

The fallibility of government is just one of several strategic points from which Hyden and his conservative constituency come at capital punishment.  They are also quick to point out that putting someone to death is far more expensive than simply keeping them in prison. Then there's the empirical data challenging whether the threat of execution is truly a disincentive for would-be criminals.  Some anecdotal accounts challenge whether families of victims benefit in any measurable way from seeing a perpetrator put to death.  And for the truly committed pro-life believer, there is the larger philosophical dilemma of whether a God-fearing society should be empowering the state to execute its citizens....

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty got off the ground in 2010 in Montana, an ideal breeding ground for forward-thinking conservative positions.  After all, this is the same state where citizens have tussled with the federal government over using their gun registration cards to purchase medical marijuana.

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty has expanded to states including Florida, Delaware, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Connecticut, and Nebraska.  The latter two abolished capital punishment this year.  Altogether, seven states have banned the death penalty since 2000, by far the biggest shift in American history.

Over the coming days and weeks, Glossip's case will bring an increased spotlight to capital punishment and whether it has a place in modern American society.  It's unlikely any one case will prove to be the tipping point, but when you consider that just five years ago, legalized marijuana and gay marriage seemed farfetched to most, it's not crazy to think that with a bipartisan coalition opposing it, the death penalty may soon find itself on life support, too.

September 21, 2015 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


I don't know if there is some "growing" movement here but as seen by Tom Coburn being worried about Glossip, there is something there. As seen in Nebraska and perhaps oneor more votes in the CT case, this will be significant in various cases.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 21, 2015 11:18:36 AM

I'd love to know from Joe, or any other commenter here, what possible explanation is there, not consistent with guilt, for Glossip's possession of the two grand, his very inconsistent statements to cops and his comment that Sneed told him that Sneed had killed Van Treese and that he went back to bed.

Tom Coburn was likely digesting info from a biased media that, generally speaking, is hostile to the death penalty.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 21, 2015 1:13:44 PM

For those Christians out there who believe in the Ten Commandments, here is one for you. The Sixth: Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Sep 21, 2015 1:31:12 PM

federalist and others can lovely have debates with conservatives on various issues, but the matter holds -- there are conservatives who oppose the death penalty overall & in particular cases. Conservatives being wrong on something is not something I'd dispute.

As to Tom Coburn, I'm not sure why on this issue in particular he would be misled by the "biased media" while in various others he held positions that group would not be inclined to hold. Perhaps, he simply is mistaken or is confused by other local voices he respects on this issue (granting it is merely confusion). He has in the past noted he "didn't like" the death penalty but thought it had deterrent effect:


Posted by: Joe | Sep 21, 2015 3:20:17 PM

Lib. The ancient Hebrew says, "Thou Shall not murder." The bible is filled with God mandated killing, down to the last kitten of a conquered people. Killing people is the most frequent remedy in the Bible. Exodus 20:2-17. Why? Because killing solves the problem very well.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 21, 2015 3:43:35 PM

Joe. There are conservatives like George Bush who blew up the size of government, the size of the Federal Register of Regulations. and the budget deficit. Then there are people who believe in welfare for corporations, rather than market discipline of going out of business as a small restaurant might after making the wrong choices.

These people are just as wrong doing so as our left wing friends when they do the same. We do not argue by authority here. So prior credentials, makes one more suspicious, not less.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 21, 2015 3:49:11 PM

"there are conservatives who oppose the death penalty overall & in particular cases."

Yeah, so what? Conservatism is a big movement, and it ain't monolithic. Still wondering how Glossip's statements and 2 grand have explanations.

Posted by: federalist | Sep 21, 2015 4:08:11 PM

The points made by the conservative spokesman are the same as those made by left wing opponents. Every point is stale, and has been fully rebutted in the Comments of this blog.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 21, 2015 4:21:19 PM

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