A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed a significant decline in support for the death penalty as 64% of respondents supported the punishment compared to 78% in 1996. In addition, the poll found that fewer respondents who favored capital punishment felt strongly about their support (28% today compared to 43% in 1996), while a growing number of Americans are voicing opposition to the punishment altogether (30% today compared to 18% in 1996).
Other Pew Research Center polling results include:
Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, recently praised the decision of Armenian President Robert Kocharyan to commute all remaining death sentences in the nation to life in prison. "I am delighted that President Kocharyan has taken such a positive and commendable step forward. The death penalty is an affront to all notions of dignity and human rights, and has no place in the Europe of today," Schwimmer said.
In "Why Do White Americans Support the Death Penalty?," American University researchers Joe Soss, Laura Langbein, and Alan Metelko examined whether racial attitudes play a role in white support for the death penalty. The researchers found that white support for the death penalty in the United States has strong ties to anti-black prejudice, and in some geographic areas racial prejudice emerges as the strongest predictor of white death penalty support. Soss, Joe, et al.: "Why Do White Americans Support the Death Penalty? "; 65 The Journal of Politics 397 (2003).
In an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on the day Indiana death row inmate Darnell Williams received a stay of execution to allow testing of crucial DNA evidence that could save his life, the prosecutor from the case, Thomas Vanes, expressed second thoughts about seeking the death penalty. He wrote:
Legislation to bar doctors and nurses from participating in executions was recently signed into law by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on July 24, 2003.
A recent article in Time looks at the career of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The article traces Earle's evolving opinion on the death penalty since he was first elected D.A. in Texas in 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Among other concerns, questions of innocence have caused Earle to grow increasingly skeptical about the death penalty. The article notes:
Baltimore County Judge Dana M. Levitz recently sentenced a man convicted of murder to two life terms without parole, in part because of its possible effects on the victims' families. Levitz said, "The devastating effect that this unending litigation has on the innocent families of the victims is incalculable. By imposing a death sentence, I ensure that the victim's families will be subjected to many more years of appeals." Family members also noted that the decision gave them the peace of mind they have been searching for.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, reiterated his opposition to capital punishment. Bloomberg noted, "The death penalty I've always had a problem with, because too many times in the past you've seen innocent people incarcerated and, tragically, every once in a while they've been executed. And until you can show me that the process never would ever convict somebody that later on we find out was innocent of a crime, murder is murder no matter who does it, and I think we as a society can afford to incarcerate people." (New York Times, July 31, 2003).
A new report by Amnesty International, "The Exclusion of Child Offenders from the Death Penalty Under General International Law," examines the evidence supporting the conclusion that the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders is prohibited under customary international law. The practice is already prohibited by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, notes that the U.S.
In addition to articles about juvenile justice and murder victims' family members, the latest edition of The Angolite - a prison news magazine published by Angola Prison in Louisiana - features a section on filmmaking within prison walls. Angola Prison has hosted dozens of film crews over the years, and has been the shooting site for award-winning films such as "Dead Man Walking," "Monster's Ball," and "The Farm." (The Angolite, November/December 2002) See Resources.