1/15/2011

By Gabriel Maser

Poll Shows Growing Support for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; Capital Punishment Ranked Lowest Among Budget Priorities (PR Newswire, November 16, 2010).
On November 16, the Death Penalty Information Center released the results of a comprehensive study on how Americans view the death penalty. According to report’s polling, which sampled 1,500 registered voters nationwide, a majority of respondents supported punishing convicted murders by other means. The polling also noted that a plurality of voters did not believe an elected representative’s supporting a death penalty repeal would affect their vote. Respondent’s concerns centered on the costs of applying the penalty as compared to other pressing public safety needs, worry the penalty was being applied unfairly, and fear that the penalty risked executing the innocent. Hispanic voters were among the most likely to support alternative punishments, citing concerns over uneven application across racial lines along with moral objections. In recent years, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, and New Mexico have each considered repealing the death penalty.

Death penalty cases have huge costs (WANE, November 15, 2010).

Speaking at Notre Dame on November 15, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller urged state policymakers to take a second look at the high cost of enforcing the death penalty in light of other pressing law enforcement budgetary priorities. Zoeller noted the process typically can take more than ten years, with significant cost accrual along the way. He also questioned the punishment’s tangential effects on victim families, who are forced to wait several years before the policy is fully brought to bear. Zoeller did not specifically advocate for a repeal, and noted that the judicial branch had little flexibility over cost containment.

Death Penalty in CT Faces New Challenges (Capitol DisPatch: CT, November 15, 2010).

Connecticut's death penalty policy faces an uncertain future with the recent election of Dan Malloy, an outspoken death penalty opponent. The governor-elect favors abolishing the penalty and legislation to this effect cleared the Connecticut General Assembly last session before being vetoed by then Governor Rell. However, more pressing budgetary issues and recent polling indicating majority support for the penalty could frustrate the push by death penalty opponents. Should the state vote to abolish the penalty, it would only apply to new cases, not current death row inmates. The alternative to the death penalty in Connecticut is life imprisonment without parole for capital crimes. Connecticut is one of two New England states which still permit the death penalty, and has carried out the penalty once since 1973.

International Calls for US to Dismiss Death Penalty (Africana Online, November 15, 2010).

The United Nations Human Rights Council's recent release of recommendations to the United States repeated its long standing call that the US temporarily halt or abolish the death penalty. The recommendation, supported primarily by European countries, was issued as part of a regular review which UN members face every four years. The US State Department quickly dismissed the recommendation, noting that capital punishment is permitted under international law and that the Council’s real dispute is over policy differences rather than international law interpretation. The recommendation comes on the heels of an October 13 forum for international law enforcement officers in Washington, DC which questioned the death penalty's deterrent effect on violent crime.