Inclusion or exclusion of a candidate on this page does not imply support by DPIC. For more information on each candidate, go to their individual 2004 Election homepage, or visit The Washington Post’s 2004 Election Tracker.

  • Candidates for the 2004 Democratic Party Nomination
  • Former Candidates for the 2004 Democratic Party Nomination
  • Republican Party Candidate for the 2004 Presidential Election

    John Kerry

    Opposes capital punishment, except for terrorists. Believes that the system is flawed so long as innocents are in danger of being executed. “I’m opposed to the death penalty in the criminal justice system because I think it’s applied unfairly, as even Republican governors have determined, and because I’m for a worse punishment. I think it is worse to take somebody and put them in a small cell for the rest of their life, deprived of their freedom, never to be paroled. Now, I think that’s tougher.” (Meet the Press, December 1, 2002)

    In a Chicago Tribune interview on March 9, 2004, Kerry said he came to his conclusions about the death penalty from his years as a prosecutor in the Middlesex County district attorney’s office; from his work helping to free a man wrongly convicted of murder; and even from his time in Vietnam. “There are cases in the system where there are miscarriages,” he said, noting that he stopped a number of cases from moving forward when he was a prosecutor because he realized the defendants were not guilty. Kerry’s time as a lieutenant on a Navy swift boat also factored into his decision-making about the death penalty. “What it did was it translated the killing into a more real event,” he said. (Kansas City Star, March 9, 2004) NOTE: The Democratic Party Platform adopted by the party at its 2004 Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, does not include language referring to the death penalty in order to better reflect the Kerry / Edwards ticket.

    Carol Moseley Braun

    Opposes the death penalty in all cases. “I oppose the death penalty. In 1984, I filed Illinois’ first bill to impose a moratorium on executions. The death penalty is too fraught with uncertainty and error, and is too often a revenge response. Civil society should not allow itself to be brutalized by resort to revenge and blood lust as an acceptable product of our system of criminal justice. Families who have been victims will often tell you that revenge does not bring redemption or even comfort: as Dr. King once said, “an eye for an eye will simply leave us all blind.” (Washington Post, November 6, 2003)

    Wesley Clark

    Has expressed concerns regarding the implementation of the penalty. According to a recent Miami Herald interview, Clark endorsed a moratorium on the death penalty, saying there has been ”a lot of discrimination and a lot of injustice” and that cases should be reviewed with DNA evidence.(Miami Herald, September 19, 2003)

    “I’ll tell you, I’m uneasy about the death penalty. A government like the United States has the right to, in extraordinary cases, take the life of a criminal, but I don’t like the way the death penalty has been applied in America. I think it’s been applied in an unfair and discriminatory fashion and I think we need to go back and use modern technology and unpack all those cases on death row.” (Village Voice, October 29, 2003)

    Howard Dean

    Believes in the use of the death penalty for heinous crimes involving children or police officers, or as a deterrent to terrorism. “I believe the death penalty should be available for extreme and heinous crimes, such as terrorism or the killing of police officers or young children. But it must be carried out with scrupulous fairness. I applaud former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who imposed a moratorium rather than administer a system in which 13 innocent men were released from death row.” (

    John Edwards

    Supports capital punishment, but advocates reform. “We need to make DNA testing more available to death penalty defendants to reduce the risk of wrongful convictions.” (

    Dick Gephardt Supports capital punishment, but advocates reform. Co-Sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act (a bill calling for DNA evidence to be allowed in appeals, and for better representation for those facing the death penalty).

    Bob Graham

    Supports capital punishment.
    Voted to remove the Racial Justice Act from the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill. As Governor, oversaw 16 executions.

    Dennis Kucinich

    Believes the death penalty is morally wrong and racially biased. Favors Life Without Parole as a morally viable alternative. “The imposition of the death penalty is both racially and economically biased. African American defendants are more likely to receive death sentences than others who committed similar crimes. Ninety-eight percent of all defendants sentenced to death could not afford their own attorney.” (

    Joseph Lieberman

    Once opposed, but now supports capital punishment. Co-Sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act. “I have been a steadfast supporter of the death penalty for crimes so heinous that they cry out for the ultimate response, if for no other reason than to give some justice to the family and friends of the slain. We are blessed with an excellent system of criminal jurisprudence in America, but judges, juries and lawyers are human beings, and none of us is infallible. If there has been a mistake and available DNA evidence can demonstrate with certainty the innocence of the accused, how can we justify letting it gather dust in an evidence room?” (

    Al Sharpton

    Opposes capital punishment. “[I want to] raise issues that would otherwise be overlooked—for example, affirmative action, anti-death penalty policy, African and Caribbean policy.” (


    George W. Bush

    Strongly favors the death penalty. Was governor of Texas during a record 152 executions, the most of any recent governor. “I was the governor of a state that had a death penalty and, as far as I was concerned, I reviewed every case and I was confident that every person that had been put to death received full rights and was guilty of the crime charged.” (Bush press conference, May 11, 2001)