The Common Good
January 2013

Four Reasons to Rethink the Death Penalty

by The Editors | January 2013

Across the political and religious spectrum, Americans are rethinking the death penalty. Here are some reasons why:

Mistakes. In January 2012, Joe D'Ambrosio became the 140th person on death row in the U.S. to be exonerated since 1973. Addressing the issue of biased application, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan said in 1994 that "the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent."

Bias. In many death-penalty states, defendants are much more likely to be executed if their victim was white. Studies show that black defendants are more likely to receive the death penalty than others. And in death-penalty states, 98 percent of chief district attorneys are white and only 1 percent are African American.

No deterrent. Study after study shows that capital punishment does not deter murder. The murder rate in states without the death penalty has remained consistently lower than the rates in states with capital punishment.

Cost. As Fox News famously reported in 2010, "Every time a killer is sentenced to die, a school closes." Studies in North Carolina show the state could save $11 million a year by substituting life in prison for death sentences. —The Editors

Image: Time to rethink, donskarpo /


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