When it comes to American criminal law, the death penalty is a highly controversial topic. Republicans traditionally support capital punishment in the states in which it is applied. However, some states with a Republican tradition have been rethinking the issue recently, and even proposing laws to abolish it.
Hannah Cox, a conservative author for the Foundation for Economic Education, recently wrote an article in which she argues for the abolition of the death penalty.
She mentions, for example, the case of Brandon Bernard, who was sentenced to the death penalty for committing a crime as a juvenile. Due to the location where the crime was committed — in Fort Hood, a military base — he was convicted under federal law. According to the author, “Many Americans believe the federal death penalty is reserved for acts of treason or terrorism…. In fact, no one has ever been executed for treason in the modern era at the federal level, and only one person is on the federal death row for terrorism….”
The author cites studies that show the death penalty not to be a measure that prevents crime. Moreover, it is the most expensive sentence in the American criminal justice system, costing at least 10 times more than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The author also points to the fallibility intrinsic to any government: “We know that the government will always work to protect its own interests, not those of the individual. And we know that humans, who run the government, are fallible. Mistakes are made even when intentions are pure.”
For those who defend a limited government, she argues, these reasons should be sufficient to abolish capital punishment.
Another factor pointing to a shift of view on this issue is that, according to a Gallup poll conducted in late 2019, 60% of Americans favor a life sentence without the possibility of parole over the death penalty. It was the first time that most Americans interviewed have adopted this position since the organization began conducting the poll more than 30 years ago.
The Conservative States Begin To Change
Following this inclination, some traditionally Republican states began proposing bills to abolish or relieve the death penalty. According to a survey by the American Bar Association, at least five states with a conservative tendency have presented bills in this regard: Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
The movement to oppose capital punishment has grown among the U.S. right, to the point that 250 conservative leaders now oppose it. They have set up an organization called Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty and are celebrating that another bill to end the death penalty has been recently introduced, this time in Georgia.
It is too early to know if the bills will be approved. However, with the growing support of the American population for the end of the death penalty, it is highly unlikely that Republican representatives will remain indifferent to their voters.