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Death Penalty Information

Below is a brief summary of some facts and stats about the death penalty. For current and comprehensive information about the death penalty, please visit our favorite educational website, www.deathpenaltyinfo.org.


Death Penalty Facts

Innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death.

Since 1973, 119 innocent men and women have been released from death rows across the country ( Northwestern University , DP Information Center ). Researchers Radelet and Bedau found 23 cases since 1900 where innocent people were executed ( In Spite of Innocence, Northeastern University Press, 1992).

The death penalty is applied unfairly and arbitrarily.

In 1999, the American Bar Association, a conservative group of 400,000 lawyers, reiterated its call for a moratorium on executions because of serious concern with racial disparity in death sentences and the failure to provide adequate counsel and resources to capital defendants. In January 2000, Republican Governor George Ryan called for a moratorium on executions in the state of Illinois and in May 2002 Governor Paris Glendening did the same in Maryland . In January 2003, Governor Ryan pardoned four men and commuted the sentences of 167 death row inmates to life without parole or less because he found the death penalty process "arbitrary and capricious and therefore immoral". In January 2002, Republican Governor Gary Johnson declared New Mexico 's death penalty to be bad public policy because it was not applied fairly and innocent people could be executed.

Scientific research indicates capital punishment is not a deterrent to homicide or other violent crimes.

A recent New York Times survey found states without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. Average murder rates in 1999 were 5.5 per 100,000 in death penalty states and only 3.6 in non-death penalty states. Statistics indicated the regions of the country that use the death penalty the least are the safest for police. Police are most in danger in the South, where in 2001, 79% of all executions occurred. A 1995 Hart Research Associates poll of police chiefs showed police chiefs rank the death penalty last as a way of reducing violent crime -- behind curbing drug use, more police officers, more jobs and reducing guns. 80% of experts from a 1995 survey of the American Society of Criminology, Academy of Criminal Justice Science and the Law and Society Association believe research fails to show any deterrence value in the death penalty.

The death penalty is more expensive than life imprisonment.

A 1993 Duke University study showed that the death penalty in North Carolina costs 2.16 million dollars more per execution than a non-death penalty murder trial. Research in other states indicates executions are three to six times more costly than life imprisonment. In 1999, the New Mexico State Public Defender Department estimated the state would save $1 to 2.5 million dollars per year on Public Defender costs alone if the death penalty was replaced with an alternative sentence.

Many family members of murder victims don't want the death penalty and many actively oppose it.

Groups such as Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation have been created to provide support to the growing number of families of murder victims who seek solutions other than the death penalty. Michelle Giger, whose father was murdered in Santa Rosa, NM, speaks out personally before the legislature and the public in favor of healing and putting an end to the cycle of violence. Connie Fisher of Galisteo, NM, who lost her brother in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center states, "the horror of murder isn't healed by another murder". They join many survivors who believe money spent on capital punishment should, instead, be directed towards long-term counseling and financial assistance for families of people who are murdered.

The U.S. is the only Western country that continues to use capital punishment.

Since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976, over 40 countries have abolished it. In December 1998, the European Parliament called for immediate and global abolition of the death penalty, with special notice to the U.S. to abandon it. Abolition is a condition for acceptance into the Council of Europe , leading countries such as Russia and Turkey to abolish the death penalty. Recently, South Africa , Canada , France and Germany have all ruled against extraditing prisoners to the U.S. if death sentences would be sought. The World Court , in a unanimous decision reached on February 5, 2003 , ruled that the U.S. must delay the execution of three Mexican citizens while it investigates the cases of all 51 Mexicans on death row in the U.S. The Mexican government asserts that the U.S. has violated the Vienna Convention by not informing its citizens that they have the right to contact their consulate when arrested. The death penalty has long been a source of tension between the U.S. and countries that oppose capital punishment.

The vast majority of religions and main-line faith groups oppose the death penalty.

Most major denominations -- Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Unitarian, Quaker, Jewish and many others -- maintain strong statements condemning the use of the death penalty. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly called for abolition of the death penalty and New Mexico's Catholic Bishops, along with the NM Catholic Conference and NM Conference of Churches, have taken similar stands. Many Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist and other faith group leaders support alternatives to the death penalty and encourage their congregations to pray and study about this issue.

Public opinion supports alternatives to the death penalty.

A poll conducted by Greenberg, Quinlan & Rosner Research Inc., Washington, D.C. conducted a comprehensive New Mexico and national poll on the death penalty in September 2004. The poll indicates that nationally 66% of voters support repeal of the death penalty when the death penalty is replaced with life without parole and restitution to murder victims’ families. The number is even higher among Hispanics. Nationally, 73% of Hispanic voters support repeal of the death penalty when these alternatives are offered.