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The Politics of Killing

Stashed in: Politics!, Crime!, Young Americans

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Death penalty debate...

Not sure much debate is going on, since most people seem to care about the economy a lot more.

The salient points:

Public support for the death penalty has fallen as violent crime has plummeted in the past decade.

Meanwhile, undermining the supposed high bar of evidence in the capital-punishment system, several death-row convicts have seen their charges overturned through DNA evidence. In 2002, after evidence in Illinois proved that 13 men on death row were innocent, Republican Governor George Ryan commuted all 167 death-row sentences to life without parole, citing the vast inequality and ineffectiveness of the system. Ryan's mass commutation was exceptional, but other governors—both Democrats and Republicans—have used their clemency privileges to commute sentences. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 244 men escaped death courtesy of commutations. Many of the reasons were humanitarian: The criminal had a history of mental illness or trauma, or received ineffective legal counsel.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's 1976 ruling that capital punishment is constitutional, 14 states have either banned or never enacted death penalty laws.

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