Opposing the Death Penalty
The government is meant to protect its citizens—it should not be in the business of killing them. Attorney General Racine, along with Vermont AG Thomas Donovan, is leading a coalition of 13 Attorneys General in opposing the Trump administration’s decision to reinstate the death penalty for federal prisoners and urging U.S. Attorney General Barr to reconsider his decision.
Serious punishments for heinous crimes are often necessary, but the death penalty is wrong—especially since it is applied inconsistently and unfairly, is racially biased, and is given to innocent people. Since 1973, 166 people on death row in the United States have been exonerated and released. A 2014 study by legal experts from the University of Michigan and Michigan State concluded that one in every 25 inmates on death row is innocent.
The injustice of the death penalty comes more into focus when considering how unequally and unfairly it is sought. Decades’ worth of data clearly demonstrate that the death penalty’s inconsistent application yields discriminatory results on the basis of race, wealth, socio-economic status, and geography. All told, about 43 percent of all Americans executed by the state since 1976 were people of color, and 55 percent of those awaiting execution today are people of color.
The United States should not abide by an irreversible punishment applied so inconsistently, so unfairly, and in some cases downright unjustly. Read the letter the coalition of AGs sent to United States Attorney General Barr:
We, the Attorneys General of Vermont, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin, write to express our opposition and urge the Department of Justice to reconsider the directive announced on July 25, 2019, to reinstate the use of the death penalty for federal prisoners. The government should not be in the business of killing its own citizens. That is especially true given what we know of the death penalty’s flaws: It is applied inconsistently and unfairly, is racially biased, and is given to innocent people. It does not deter violence and it does not protect public safety. And these problems come with an enormously costly financial burden.
Grave punishments for horrible crimes are right and necessary, but the death penalty is wrong.