Editorials

In recent years, many national and local newspapers have published editorials on the death penalty. Some have called for reform based on particular problems, others have called for an end to capital punishment. The quotes below represent a small sample of those statements from newspapers around the country. For additional editorials, see:

Editorials Current Year

Previous Years: 2016 2015 2014 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008

See also the table of categories below.

 

WASHINGTON

"The death penalty in Washington is like a zombie, not alive or dead, yet continuing to eat its way through precious resources in the criminal-justice system," wrote The Seattle Times editorial board, urging the state legislature to end capital punishment in the state. The paper said that the Washington death penalty was "effectively dead" as a result of the moratorium on executions imposed by Governor Jay Inslee in 2014 but, because death sentences can still be imposed and appeals continue for the eight men on death row, capital punishment is "still alive on the books." The editorial says this "limbo ... gives no peace to victims’ families." It also leaves prosecutors to decide whether to continue seeking the death penalty, which they have done less often in recent years, "perhaps influenced by the legal uncertainty, the apparent reluctance of some juries and the extra $1 million or more that a death-penalty sentence adds to a murder case." The editorial calls the death penalty "overly expensive, ineffective and immoral," and joined with incumbent Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Republican former Attorney General Rob McKenna in asking the legislature to take up a repeal bill. "The public wants bold leadership on important issues," the Times wrote. "A path to repeal is through the Legislature, either this year or next — if they have the courage to act."

"End costly limbo and repeal the death penalty," The Seattle Times, May 21, 2017.

COLORADO

As the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee considered a bill that would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, the editorial boards of The Denver Post and The Durango Herald urged the legislature to end capital punishment in the state. (The bill failed by a 3-2 vote in committee.)

The Denver Post​​ wrote that Colorado's death penalty system "is broken beyond repair and needs to be repealed." Repeal, it said, "would save the state millions in both the prosecution and defense of murderers and an untold number of judicial man hours that have so infrequently resulted in death." The Post editorial also highlighted the unwillingness of Colorado juries to impose death sentences, noting that the highly-publicized capital cases of James Holmes and Dexter Lewis had both resulted in life sentences. 

"Repeal Colorado’s flawed and broken death penalty," The Denver Post, February 14, 2017.

The Durango Herald editorial board called for repeal of Colorado's death penalty, citing what it called a "Western states 'mountain movement,'” led by conservative Republicans legislators in Utah and Nevada who are arguing that the death penalty "is a failed public policy, is a waste of taxpayer dollars, the risk of executing innocent people is too high and it causes unnecessary harm to victims’ families." The Herald editorial also emphasized the high cost of capital punishment—quoting estimates by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado "that the average death penalty trial costs $3.5 million, compared to $150,000 for a trial for life without parole"—and that Colorado has had only one execution in 50 years.

"Colorado should join mountain movement to end the death penalty," The Durango Herald, February 13, 2017.

KENTUCKY

The Lexington Herald-Leader, Kentucky's second-largest newspaper, announced it was ending its long-held support for the death penalty, and now believes the state legislature should abolish capital punishment. Describing its previous position as "keep it but fix it," the editors stated, "we must now concede that the death penalty is not going to be fixed and, in fact, probably cannot be fixed at any defensible cost to taxpayers." Citing the 2011 American Bar Association assessment of Kentucky's death penalty, the Herald-Leader said the system was "rife with injustices and the potential for error." Among the reasons cited in the paper's editorial for the changing its position was the negative effects of the death penalty on victims' families and correctional officers. It quoted Dr. Allen Ault, who oversaw executions in Georgia, and who said, "I do not know one [correctional officer] who has not experienced a negative impact," noting an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. The editorial concluded by noting that the death penalty was already publicly disfavored, as evidenced by the declining number of death sentences: "Ending the death penalty would codify what juries of Kentuckians and prosecutors have alreay decided."

"Ky. should abolish the death penalty," Lexington Herald-Leader, March 4, 2016.

NATIONAL

Several newspapers across the country featured themes from DPIC's 2015 Year End Report in editorials and opinion pieces at the end of December 2015:

"Once broadly accepted, capital punishment is increasingly a fringe practice. A handful of states conduct nearly all executions. Four — Texas, Missouri, Georgia and Florida — carried out 93 percent of them in 2015. Sixty-three percent of new death sentences came from a mere 2 percent of U.S. counties, a group with a history of disproportionately using the death penalty.Bad policy encourages this sort of excess: Three states — Alabama, Delaware and Florida — do not require juries to be unanimous when recommending a death sentence. A quarter of new sentences came from split juries in these states."

"Not only did executions drop in 2015, but the number of people sentenced to death also hit an historic low, the center said. That could be due to a growing skepticism by jurors of a system susceptible to manipulation through coerced testimony or other misconduct...— or there could be some other reason for a decline in convictions on capital punishment charges...What is clear is that there's no correcting an execution if later evidence shows the prosecution was wrong...Abolition is the direction of the future, and the U.S. should join."

"[T]he fact that new death sentences were at an all-time low in Texas this year is reason to applaud...Texas’ declines mirror numbers across the nation. According to the Death Penalty Information Center’s year-end report, death sentences dropped 33 percent from 2014, with 49 people being sentenced to death this year. Just six states carried out executions, the fewest since 1998...Confidence in the system’s integrity is waning. It should only follow that support for the death penalty follows suit."

"In 2015, in fact, otherwise proudly liberal California led the nation in death sentences with 14, even as the national number dropped to 49, the fewest since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of California’s death sentences, eight were in Riverside County (including five of the eight Latinos sentenced to death nationwide), plus three in Los Angeles and one in Orange...If we’re going to have the death penalty, shouldn’t it be at least somewhat consistent across the state?"

"As Florida becomes more isolated in its administration of the death penalty, the state is getting deserved scrutiny for problems with the practice. A year-end report from the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center found just three states — Alabama, California and Florida — accounted for more than half of the nation’s new death sentences in 2015. More than a quarter of this year’s death sentences were imposed by Florida and Alabama after non-unanimous jury recommendations of death — a practice allowed in just those two states and Delaware. ...As Florida officials have pushed to speed up the pace of executions, the Death Penalty Information Center found the rest of the country is heading in the opposite direction. A dozen states haven’t executed anyone in at least nine years, while 18 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed the death penalty altogether. ... As most other states move away from the death penalty, it is long past time for Florida to follow their lead."

"A Reading Eagle investigation in October found nearly one in five Pennsylvania inmates sentenced to death the past decade were represented by attorneys disciplined for professional misconduct at some point in their careers. And the majority of these disciplined attorneys had been found by Pennsylvania courts to be ineffective in at least one capital case. More than 150 inmates sentenced to death in the U.S. have been exonerated since 1973, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. Sooner or later an innocent person will be executed, if it hasn't happened already...It is time to end the death penalty in Pennsylvania." (This editorial announced the end of the Eagle's prior position supporting the death penalty under limited circumstances.)

"The death penalty’s demise can’t come soon enough," The Washington Post, December 30, 2015; "The shame of state-sponsored killing," The Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2015; "Editorial: Could Texas be losing its appetite for the death penalty?," The Dallas Morning News, December 30, 2015; F. Rhee, "A deadly disparity in justice," The Sacramento Bee, December 30, 2015; "Editorial: Florida is out of step with executions," The Gainesville Sun, December 31, 2015; "Editorial: It is time to abolish the death penalty in Pennsylvania," The Reading Eagle, December 17, 2015.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

In a 2015 year-end editorial, the Washington Post called capital punishment "increasingly a fringe practice" and said "[t]he death penalty's demise can't come soon enough." The Post noted that "executions, death sentences and public support for the death penalty approached or hit historic lows in 2015" and that "the death penalty is withering throughout most of the country." The paper wrote, however, that "[r]educing the use of this immoral and impractical punishment ... is not enough. Several places around the country hand down an astonishing number of death sentences, despite the expense in applying the ultimate punishment, despite the fact that exonerations continue to expose injustice in administering it and despite that the death penalty has no place in a society committed to human rights." The editorial pointed out that new death sentences were concentrated in a small number of jurisdictions. 63% of new death sentences "came from a mere 2% of U.S. counties, a group with a history of disproportionately using the death penalty" and one quarter came from split juries in the only three states—Alabama, Delware, and Florida—that permit judges to impose death sentences after juries return nonunanimous sentencing recommendations. The Post favorably cited the absence of any new death sentences in Virginia, by had "few illusions" that the General Assembly would "get rid of the death penalty anytime soon. But lawmakes should," the paper said, "at least attempt to make any future application of the punishment fairer." 

 "The death penalty’s demise can’t come soon enough," Washington Post, December 30, 2015.

NORTH CAROLINA

On August 6, 2015, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed a law that removed the requirement that a physician be present at executions and shrouded in secrecy many elements of the lethal injection process, including the specific drugs to be used and the suppliers of those drugs. By eliminating the physician-participation requirement, the law attempted to remove a legal hurdle that has halted executions in North Carolina since 2006. Two major state newspapers sharply criticized the new law, calling it, "macabre" and "an ugly spectacle." The Fayetteville Observer said, "We need thoughtful discussion of the issue and whether we're imposing a fair sentence or simply seeking revenge for a terrible crime. What we don't need is a General Assembly slicing away at reasonable public understanding of the state's execution protocols, instead choosing to wrap it all in secrecy." The News & Observer (Raleigh) called the law "a horribly misguided idea," citing the "gruesome outcomes" of experimental lethal injection protocols in other states. The editorial concluded, "Rather than put executions on a fast track, North Carolina should abandon them altogether."

"Cloaking NC death penalty won’t make it fair or error-free," News & Observer, July 28, 2015; "Our View: Don't add secrecy to the lethal-injection formula," Fayetteville Observer, July 29, 2015.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC JOURNALS

In an unusual joint editorial on March 5, four national Catholic publications called for an end to the death penalty in the U.S. The editors of AmericaNational Catholic RegisterNational Catholic Reporterand Our Sunday Visitorurged "the readers of our diverse publications and the whole U.S. Catholic community and all people of faith to stand with us and say, 'Capital punishment must end.'" Citing opposition to the death penalty in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and statements by Popes John Paul II and Francis, the editorial said, "The practice is abhorrent and unnecessary. It is also insanely expensive, as court battles soak up resources better deployed in preventing crime in the first place and working toward restorative justice for those who commit less heinous crimes." The publications concluded: "We join our bishops in hoping the [Supreme] court will reach the conclusion that it is time for our nation to embody its commitment to the right to life by abolishing the death penalty once and for all."

"National Catholic Journals Unite: ‘Capital Punishment Must End,’" America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, and Our Sunday Visitor, March 5, 2015. 

KANSAS and MISSOURI
"Capital punishment should be ended everywhere. It does nothing to bring back the lives that murderers have taken and it forecloses any possible rehabilitation of the convicts. The system is broken, a moral stain on the people of every state where it’s legal. Although the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled it so, it’s the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment. This unfixable system must be abolished. State legislators should lead the way in doing that in Missouri, Kansas and elsewhere in 2015."

"Instead of defying a national trend, Missouri could lead by ending the death penalty," The Kansas City Star, January 2, 2015

WASHINGTON

"A state that executes criminals ought to regularly revisit whether its government ought to be in the business of taking human life in the absence of immediate danger, even the lives of the most monstrous murderers. Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday forced a welcome new discussion by granting a blanket reprieve to the nine killers on Washington's death row. ... The News Tribune's editorial board has grown increasingly uncomfortable with capital punishment in recent years, and we now share Inslee's feeling that Washington should move beyond it. Honest opposition to the death penalty must acknowledge that Washington - unlike some states - has applied it rarely, carefully and to killers whose guilt is beyond dispute. The few who do get executed here tend to have committed uncommonly hideous crimes, or else have waived their appeals and more or less volunteered to die. ... The rarity of capital punishment in Washington—the fact that the public doesn't bay for the blood of common killers—says something good about us. We don't think it's a big leap to go from rare to never."

"A welcome new debate about the death penalty," The News Tribune, February 12, 2014

NEW HAMPSHIRE

"[S]tate lawmakers should take advantage of the new opportunity granted them by a governor who, for the first time in the modern era, opposes the death penalty. They should repeal the capital punishment statute in 2014, knowing full well that the sentence [of] life in prison without parole ... is justice enough for even the most remorseless killers. New Hampshire hasn’t used its death penalty in more than 70 years. We will be a better, fairer, more humane state without it."

"Editorial: It’s time to repeal the death penalty," Concord Monitor, November 10, 2013

TEXAS

"On moral grounds alone, Texas should abolish capital punishment as six other states have done in the last six years. Maryland become the most recent in May. Just as the Supreme Court declared in 1972, the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, and its application continues to be arbitrary and capricious. ... Abolishing capital punishment would neither demean the memory of victims nor deny any of them justice. Instead, it would make our society as a whole more just, more morally consistent and certainly more humane. Texas retired “Old Sparky,” its electric chair, in 1977. It is time to permanently close our infamous death chamber."

"It's time to halt executions," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 22, 2013

MONTANA

“Our bottom line is that it’s risky to execute people when they might not be guilty. In addition, the cost and trauma of court cases that drag on for years is not worth the satisfaction some people receive from the finality of executions. We simply cannot afford to spend millions of dollars each on future death penalty cases.”

- "Death penalty risky, too expensive," Great Falls Tribune, February 5, 2013

NEW YORK

"The large number of states no longer carrying out executions indicates a kind of national consensus. It points to 'the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,' an idea that the Supreme Court has evoked in judging the constitutionality of punishments. The court used that analysis most recently when it ruled that mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders even if they are convicted of homicide. It should similarly recognize that under evolving standards capital punishment is cruel and unusual and should be abolished."

- "America's Retreat From the Death Penalty," New York Times, January 2, 2013

CALIFORNIA

“For most of its 162 years as a state, California has had laws on the books authorizing the death penalty. And for nearly all of its 155 years as a newspaper, The Bee has lent its support to those laws and use of capital punishment to deter violence and punish those convicted of the most horrible of crimes. That changes today. The death penalty in California has become an illusion, and we need to end the fiction – the sooner the better. The state's death penalty is an outdated, flawed and expensive system of punishment that needs to be replaced with a rock-solid sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole."

- "Time to end the fiction of California's death penalty," Sacramento Bee, September 9, 2012

TEXAS

"The case for eliminating the death penalty can be made for several compelling reasons. First and foremost, the possibility—and almost certain likelihood—the state periodically executes innocent people should propel capital punishment beyond the pale of possibility."

- "Pull the switch on the death penalty," Baptist Standard, May 11, 2012

NEBRASKA

"[I]f the system cannot work without error — as the facts show — then the death penalty cannot be justified. Sooner or later, an innocent person will die at the hands of the state of Nebraska."

- "Mistakes flaw death penalty," Lincoln Journal-Star, January 29, 2012

ALABAMA

"Lawmakers should also look at the costs of carrying out death sentences in Alabama and evaluate whether continuing to do so represents the best use of the state's limited resources. They should look at the problem of wrongful convictions and determine whether there can ever be enough assurance an innocent person won't be put to death. And lawmakers ought to study the arbitrary criteria that decide which crimes are worthy of the death penalty and the arbitrary way those cases play out, and they should then consider whether we as humans ought to be in the business of making life-and-death decisions at all."

- "Our View: Alabama lawmakers should pass legislation to put a three-year halt to imposing death sentences or carrying out executions," The Birmingham News, April 25, 2011

ILLINOIS

"We’ve learned that the system makes too many mistakes to entrust it with the ultimate power of capital punishment. We’ve learned that legal safeguards can be pushed aside when emotions are high after a heinous crime. We’ve learned that political ambition sometimes blinds those in power to the weaknesses of a case. We’ve learned that evidence can disappear or be misrepresented, that witnesses seeking special deals may lie, that juries may be swayed by emotion instead of facts."

- "Death Penalty Repeal a Victory for Justice," Chicago Sun-Times, March 10, 2011


Editorials by Category (prior to 2009):

Arbitrariness Life Without Parole
Clemency Mental Disabilities
Costs Moratorium
Deterrence Race
Due Process Representation
Innocence Terrorism
Juveniles Victims and Redemption
Lethal Injection  

See also statements, testimony, speeches, and resolutions.