DPIC in the Media

For three decades, DPIC has served the media with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. The Center’s reports and press releases are widely quoted and consulted by reporters in the United States and around the globe. The following is a sample of some our most notable recent media coverage:

“The report from the Death Penalty Information Center is a history lesson in how lynchings and executions have been used in America and how discrimination bleeds into the entire criminal justice system. It traces a line from lynchings of old — killings outside the law — where Black people were killed in an effort to assert social control during slavery and Jim Crow, and how that eventually translated into state-ordered executions.

— Colleen Long, Associated Press, September 2020

“With these executions, the federal government has joined the small minority of jurisdictions that conduct executions and the even smaller number of jurisdictions that are willing to pursue them in the midst of the worst global pandemic in generations,” the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty policies and their application across the country, found. “The resumption of executions along with the government’s disregard for procedural protections and established norms firmly place it in the ‘outlier’ category at a time when support for capital punishment is at a historic low.”

— Editorial Board, Washington Post, August 2020

“There will be times when numbers fluctuate — particularly following historic highs or lows — but the steady long-term decline in the death penalty since the 1990s suggests that in most of the country, the death penalty is becoming obsolete,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

— Lauren Gill, Newsweek, December 2017

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that allowing death sentences without a unanimous decision “creates a heightened risk that an innocent person will be sentenced to death.”

— Rick Rojas, New York Times, March 2020

The 2019 annual report of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) paints a picture of US capital punishment withering on the vine yet continuing to display shocking flaws and injustices. In total, 22 prisoners were killed by just seven states this year – a dramatic decline from the peak of 98 executions in 1999 and the lowest number since 20 were put to death three years ago.

But behind that falling headline figure, the DPIC’s report highlights a judicial system in death penalty states riddled with basic failings. As the center’s executive director, Robert Dunham, put it: “2019 came close to being the year of executing the innocent.”

— Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, December 2019

Colorado’s action exemplifies the trend we are seeing in states across the country, which is a continuing movement away from capital punishment, first in practice, then in law, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a clearinghouse on capital punishment data.

That is not a surprise. Public support for capital punishment has been thinning and is near a generational low. America’s views of criminal justice have experienced a sea change, and in state legislatures, the issue has become increasingly bipartisan.

— David K. Li, NBC News, March 2020

“Everything that goes wrong in the criminal system goes wrong worse in capital cases,” Dunham said. “Generally speaking, the more high-profile a case is, the more prone it is to government misconduct. There is greater public pressure and greater political pressure to solve the case and to convict somebody. There is greater political gain to a prosecutor who has ambitions beyond his office.”

— Samantha Melamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 2020

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said he is pleased Alabama released something in regard to its execution process, but the document isn’t enough. “Alabama has been among the most secretive of all the states when it comes to its execution process,” he said. “It has had a highly questionable history when it comes to carrying out executions. The process has been almost complete unaccountable.”

“(But) it’s not close to enough. The process remains secretive and unaccountable. The public deserves more and needs more if there is going to be public oversight.”

— Ivana Hrynkiw, Birmingham News/al.com, October 2019

Since the 1970s, more than 160 people sentenced to death have been exonerated across the country, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. That means for every nine executions, one person on death row is exonerated.

“That’s an alarming rate of error,” Dunham said. “If planes crashed with that frequency, you can bet that we would completely re-examine our federal aviation system.”

— Luke Nozika, Kansas City Star, February 2020

“The long-term trend seems consistent. It looks as though we are going to remain with a comparatively low number of executions and a comparatively low number of new death sentences,” Robert Dunham, the center’s executive director, said.

— Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, December 2017