Can The Death Penalty Be Defeated?

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Janell Ross talks to activists who think capital punishment’s days are numbered. Recent progress:

Since 2000, death-penalty sentences handed down by state courts and juries have declined nearly 75 percent, and the number of executions has been cut in half, said Richard Dieter, executive director of then Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-death-penalty nonprofit.

Keith Humphreys argues that “the most important thing to know about the death penalty is that it is something only a small number of states do”:

If one state — Texas — abolished the death penalty its prevalence would drop by over a third (Texas has executed 503 of the 1342 people who have been put to death since the 1976 restoration of capital punishment). More broadly, as Ross notes, southern states today execute four times as many people as the rest of the states do combined.

What Americans as whole think about the death penalty therefore doesn’t matter much. What matters is what people in Texas and Florida and Virginia think about the death penalty. Those are the hearts and minds that must be changed for this practice to end in this country.

(Interactive map of inmates on death row as of May 2012 from the website Death Penalty Curriculum)