- Polling Issues
Capital punishment

Capital punishment is permitted by our Constitution but limited under the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The death penalty is used almost exclusively for aggravated murders committed by mentally competent adults. There are at least 2,414 inmates currently on Death Row and 17 people were executed in 2020. Since 1976, 34 states, the military and our federal government have executed about 1,562 inmates who were convicted of murdering at least one person. Capital punishment is currently authorized in 27 states.

Supporters of the death penalty believe it serves justice, is a fitting punishment for murder, and allows closure for the families of crime victims. Others claim retribution, or the biblical concept of an “eye for an eye,” justifies the death penalty. Some believe capital punishment deters people from committing murder, and gives prosecutors a bargaining chip in the plea-bargain process. Many say the death penalty is an appropriate punishment because it guarantees a murderer will not kill again. Studies have found that 8.6% of those on Death Row have a prior homicide conviction.

Opponents say the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and is unevenly administered to people without wealth, people of color and to innocent people as well. They say poor defendants and minorities receive the death penalty much more often than defendants who can afford more competent representation. Our Justice Department has previously reported that white defendants are more likely than black defendants to negotiate plea bargains that save them from the death penalty in federal cases. It has also been acknowledged that the legal representation of defendants in many capital cases has been inadequate, and it is estimated that 15% of those we have executed have been innocent. Death penalty opponents claim there are many systemic problems that result in innocent people being convicted of murder. These include mistaken identification, coerced confessions, reliance on jailhouse informants, reliance on faulty forensic testing, and lack of access to reliable DNA testing.

Proposed Legislation: Reintroduction of H.R.97 - Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021
Prospective Sponsor: Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY)

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Poll Opening Date
March 13, 2023
Poll Closing Date
March 19, 2023

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