Beardsley, Jensen and Von Wald
Death penalty statistics are in the news.
Sixty-one percent of Americans approve of the death penalty compared to 64% in 2010.
The number of death penalty sentences in the United States has dropped to its lowest point since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Seventy-eight capital punishment verdicts were handed down in 2011 compared to 112 in 2010.
Executions decreased from 46 in 2010 to 43 in 2011.
Why the decreases? Some believe it's the result of declining trust in the fairness of the criminal justice system. Others believe its related to a reduction in the murder rate.
Many countries have banned the death penalty. Others go to the other end of the spectrum by administering it in controversial ways such as stoning.
Have you ever thought about the death penalty – really thought about it? Could you vote to impose it as a juror? Could you watch an execution?
1. What purpose(s) is served by an execution? Have those purposes actually been served?
2. What if new evidence surfaces after sentencing and before the execution? What if a key witness recants?
3. Has the return of the death penalty in 1976 served our society well, has it made us safer? Does it deter violent crime?
4. How should executions be carried out – should executions be public?
Who should decide these issues – legislative bodies, executives, judges, or juries? Perhaps the public by popular vote?
What do you think?
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