On June 13, CBS News’ program Sunday Morning featured a report entitled, The Slow Death of the Death Penalty, which addressed various issues regarding the use of the death penalty today. The report highlighted the cases of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was scheduled to be executed in Utah this week, and Gaile Owens, whose scheduled execution in September would make her the first woman to be executed in Tennessee since 1820. The video featured interviews from many death penalty experts, including Kelly Henry, a federal public defender representing Gaile Owens. Henry said mitigating circumstances of sexual and emotional abuse were not presented during Owens’s trial and could have changed the outcome of the case. She said that Owens’s trial counsel provided woefully inadequate representation. The report illustrated the arbitrariness of the death penalty by pointing to another woman in Tennessee who was also responsible for her husband’s death and who received only a light sentence. Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who was also featured in the report, said, “If we had a death penalty that only picked the worst of the worst that it would make some sense, but what we have is often the death penalty for those who had the worst lawyer.”

The report noted the declining use of the death penalty in the U.S. Dieter pointed to some of the reasons why less death sentences are being handed down: “The victim is always a better person to side with, but there are principles, there are fairness issues. Americans have a basic sense of fairness and they know the death penalty is contradicting that.” New York Law School Professor Robert Blecker, a supporter of the death penalty, agreed in part: “[The death penalty] doesn’t work well enough. There are many deep flaws in both directions. Many people are being condemned to die who do not deserve to die. And people are not being condemned to die who do deserve to die.”

(CBS News, “The Slow Death of the Death Penalty,” June 13, 2010). See also Arbitrariness and Representation. Click here for DPIC’s Multimedia Resources.