New Voices

Individuals from across the political spectrum have voiced concerns about the death penalty, questioning whether capital punishment can be applied fairly, whether the risks of executing innocent people are too great, and whether the money spent on the death penalty could be used more effectively. These new voices represent a variety of perspectives, from judges and prosecutors to legislators and murder victims' families. These quotes are only a small selection of recent statements from notable figures. For other recent statements, see:

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and the table of categories below.


Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

"I disagree very much with Justice Scalia’s certitude that we have never put to death an innocent person. It’s one of the reasons why I personally am opposed to the death penalty. We have the greatest judicial system in the world, but at the end of the day it’s made up of men and women making decisions, tough decisions. Men and women who are dedicated, but dedicated men and women can make mistakes. And I find it hard to believe that in our history that has not happened."
- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in an interview for The Marshall Project, Nov. 17, 2014.


"I don't know if the question is whether you believe in [capital punishment] anymore. I think the greater question is its effectiveness and given the choices we face in California, should we have a merit-based discussion on its effectiveness and costs?"

- Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California's Supreme Court


“[T]here has never been any evidence that the death penalty reduces capital crimes or that crimes increased when executions stopped. Tragic mistakes are prevalent...It is clear that there are overwhelming ethical, financial, and religious reasons to abolish the death penalty."

- Former President Jimmy Carter


"Give a law enforcement professional like me that $250 million, and I'll show you how to reduce crime. The death penalty isn't anywhere on my list.”

- Police Chief James Abbott, West Orange, New Jersey


"We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites. Executing James' killers will not help balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment."

- Barbara Anderson Young, sister of murder victim James Anderson


"I now understand that the death penalty is an ineffective, cruel and simplistic response to the complex problem of violent crime. Our limited resources could be better spent on programs that focus on stopping violence before it starts, such as preventing child abuse and drug addiction – programs that will prevent another child from becoming the next [murderer]."

- Darryl Stallworth, former California Deputy District Attorney



“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process… Where the death penalty persists, conditions for those awaiting execution are often horrifying, leading to aggravated suffering.”

- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon



“The cost of our system of capital punishment is so enormous that any benefit that could be obtained from it — and now I think there’s very little or zero benefit — is so dollar-wasteful that it serves no effective purpose."

- Donald Heller, Author of California's death penalty law

New Voices by Category:

Academics Miscellaneous
Conservative Voices Political Leaders
Editorials Prosecutors and Attorneys
International Religious
Judiciary Supreme Court Justices
Law Enforcement Victims' Families
Medical Professionals  

See also statements, testimony, speeches, and resolutions.