Content of Part 3

  1. Public Opinion
  2. Abolition Trends
  3. For Further Information & Notes

Public Opinion

The media commonly report that the American public overwhelmingly supports the death penalty. More careful analysis of public attitudes, however, reveals that most Americans would oppose the death penalty if convicted murderers were sentenced to life without parole and were required to make some form of financial restitution. In California, for example, a Field Institute survey showed that in 1990,82 percent approved in principle of the death penalty. But when asked to choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment plus restitution, only a small minority--26 percent-continued to favor executions.(53)
A comparable change in attitude toward the death penally has been verified in many other states and contradicted in none.

Abolition Trends

The death penalty in the United States needs to be put into international perspective. In 1962, it was reported to the Council of Europe that "the facts clearly show that the death penalty is regarded in Europe as something of an anachronism...."(56)
Today, 28 European countries have abolished the death penalty either in law or in practice. In Great Britain, it was abolished (except for treason) in 1971; France abolished it in 1981. Canada abolished it in 1976. The United Nations General Assembly affirmed in a formal resolution that, throughout the world, it is desirable to "progressively restrict the number of offenses for which the death penalty might be imposed, with a view to the desirability of abolishing this punishment."(57)
Conspicuous by their indifference to these recommendations are nations generally known for their disregard for the human rights of their citizens: China, Iraq, Iran, South Africa, and the former Soviet Union.(58) Americans ought to be embarrassed to find themselves linked with the governments of such nations in retaining execution as a method of crime control.
Opposition to the death penalty in the United States is widespread and diverse. Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant religious groups, national organizations representing people of color, and public-interest law groups are among the more than fifty national organizations that constitute the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Once in use everywhere and for a wide variety of crimes, the death penalty today is generally forbidden by law and widely abandoned in practice. The unmistakable worldwide trend is toward the complete abolition of capital punishment.

 

For Further Information & Reference

Additional copies of this pamphlet, as well as resource materials such as newsletters, books, legal and legislative information, death-row census, reprinted articles, bibliographies, and referrals to other national and state-wide anti-death penalty groups may be obtained from the Capital Punishment Project, American Civil Liberties Union, 122 Maryland Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., 20002. Diann Y. Rust-Tierney, Esq., is the project's director. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which coordinates the work of a wide variety of organizations opposed to capital punishment, is located at 1325 G St. N.W. Lower Level B, Washington, D.C., 20005.
No one volume on the death penalty currently serves as an up-to-date source book on all aspects of the subject. The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed., ed. Hugo Adam Bedau, Oxford University Press, 1982, is still useful, and a new edition is in preparation. Many other recent volumes contain valuable information and argument, including: Welsh S. White, The Death Penalty in the Nineties, University of Michigan Press,1991; Samuel R. Gross and Robert Mauro, Death and Discrimination, Northeastern University Press, 1989; Michael L. Radelet, ed., Facing the Death Penalty, Temple University Press, 1989; Kenneth C. Haas and James A. Inciardi, eds., Challenging Capital Punishment, Sage Publications, 1988; United States of America-The Death Penalty, Amnesty International Publications, 1987; Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, Capital Punishment and the American Agenda, Cambridge University Press, 1986; William J. Bowers, Legal Homicide: Death as Punishment in America, 1864-1982, Northeastern University Press , 1984; Charles L. Black, Jr., Capital Punishment, 2nd ed., W. W. Norton, 1981. The wealth of scholarly literature up through 1988 can be traced with the help of Capital Punishment in America: An Annotated Bibliography, Garland Publishing, 1988, edited by Michael L. Radelet and Margaret Vandiver. Four more specialized volumes deserve mention as well: Michael L. Radelet, Hugo Adam Bedau, and Constance E. Putnam, In Spite of Innocence: Erroneous Convictions in Capital Cases, Northeastern University Press, 1992; Robert M. Bohm, ed., The Death Penalty in America: Current Research. Anderson Publishing Co., 1991: Victor T. Streib, Death Penalty for Juveniles, Indiana University Press, 1987; and Louis P. Masur, Rites of Execution: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865 , Oxford University Press, 1989.
Several scholarly and legal journals have devoted whole issues to various legal, sociological, and historical aspects of the problem of the death penalty, notably Dickinson Law Review, vol. 95, no. 4, Summer 1991; New York University Review of Law & Social Change, vol. 18, nos. 2 and 3, 1990-1991; Albany Law Review, vol. 54, nos. 3/4, 1990; Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, vol. 23, no. 1, November 1989; Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, vol. 5, no. 4, December 1989; Law and Human Behavior, vol. 8, nos. , June 1984; U.C. Davis Law Review, vol. 18, no. 4, summer 1985; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. vol. 74, no. 3, fall 1983.
Among the recent U.S. government publications containing information of general interest are: "The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1989," Report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 101st Congress, 1st Session, October 1989; "Death Penalty," Hearings Before Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 101st Congress, 1st Session, September-October 1989; "Establishing Constitutional Procedures for the Imposition of Capital Punishment," Report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 99th Congress, 2d Session, April 1986; "Capital Punishment," Hearings Before Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, U.S. House of Representatives, 99th Congress, 1st and 2d Sessions, November 1985-July 1986; "Death Penalty Legislation," Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, 99th Congress, 1st Session, September 1985. For earlier federal government publications, see the bibliography by Radelet and Vandiver, pp. 219-20.
Statistical information on death sentences and executions since 1930 may be obtained in the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Capital Punishment, an annual report appearing under various titles since the 1950s. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund publishes "Death Row, U.S.A.," issued since the 1970s several times a year; it reports current demographic information on executions and the death row population.
Notes
1 See U.S. Dept. Justice, Capital Punishment, annually, 1980 et seq.
2 See Uniform Crime Reports, annually, 1980 et seq.
3 See Uniform Crime Reports.
4 Uniform Crime Reports, annually, 1980-1989.
5 Bowers and Pierce, "Deterrence or Brutalization," in Crime & Delinquency (1980).
6 U.S. Dept. Justice, Capital Punishment, 1972-1990; Uniform Crime Reports, annually, 1972-1990; and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, "Death Row, USA," Spring 1992.
7 Bailey and Peterson, in Criminology (1987), p. 22.
8 Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics - 1990.
9 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisons and Prisoners in the United States (1992), p. 1.
10 Wolfson, in Bedau, ed., The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed. (1982), p. 167
11 Ehrlich, in American Economic Review (1974); Phillips, in American Journal of Sociology (1980); and Layson, in Southern Economic Journal (1985)
12 Lempert, in Crime & Delinquency (1983); Peterson and Bailey in Chambliss, ed., Criminal Law in Action, 2nd ed. (1984); Bowers, in Hasse and Inciardi, eds., Challenging Capital Punishment (1988); Peterson and Cello, in Social Forces (1988); and Fox and Radelet, in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (1989).
13 Blumstein, Cohen, and Nagin, eds., Deterrence and Incapacitation (1975), p. 358.
14 West, Solomon, and Diamond, in Bedau and Pierce, eds., Capital Punishment in the United States (1976).
15 Bedau, "Recidivism, Parole, and Deterrence," in Bedau, ed., Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed.
16 Marquart and Sorensen, in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (1989).
17 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Capital Punishment," 1977, and NAACP LDF, "Death Row, USA," Spring 1992.
18 Bowers, Legal Homicide (1984); Streib, Death Penalty for Juveniles (1987).
19 "Death Row, USA," 1976 et seq.
20 Uniform Crime Reports, 1972-1990.
21 Baldus, Woodworth, and Pulaski, Equal Justice and The Death Penalty (1990), p. 401.
22 U.S. General Accounting Office, "Death Penalty Sentencing" (1990), pp.5, 6.
23 "Death Row, USA," Spring 1992; and Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics - 1990.
24 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Capital Punishment," 1980-1990.
25 Uniform Crime Reports, 1980-1990.
26 Memorandum, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, January 1991.
27 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Capital Punishment," 1979; NAACP LDF, "Death Row, USA," Spring 1992.
28 Tabak, in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (1989).
29 Gross and Mauro, Death and Discrimination (1989), p. 224.
30 Black, Capital Punishment. The Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake. 2nd ed. (1982).
31 Lucas, Recueil des debats ... (1831) pt. II, p. 32.
32 Radelet, Bedau, and Putnam, In Spite of Innocence (1992); Bedau and Radelet, Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases, Stanford Law Review (1987).
33 Miller, Invitation to a Lynching (1975); also The New York Times, Sept 10, 1975, p.1.
34 "Capital Punishment" Senate Hearings (1981) pp. 713-20
35 Atlanta Weekly, May 30, 1982.
36 Adams, Hoffer, and Hoffer, Adams v. Texas (1991).
37 Davies, White Lies (1991).
38 Glass v. Louisiana, 471 U.S. 1080 (1985).
39 Boston Globe, April 24, 1983, p. 24.
40 The New York Times, December 14, 1988, p. A29.
41 Ibid.
42 Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1985, Pt IV, p. 5.
43 Lawes, Life and Death in Sing Sing (1928).
44 Teeters, in Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society (1960).
45 Boston Globe, August 16, 1976, p. 17
46 Camus, "Reflections on the Guillotine," in Resistance, Rebellion and Death (1960).
47 Speech to National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Washington, D.C., September 26, 1981.
48 Foreword to Gray and Stanley, A Punishment in Search of A Crime (1989).
49 Spangenberg and Walsh, in Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review (1989), p.47
50 N. Y. State Defenders Assn., Capital Losses (1982).
51 U S. Govt. Accounting Office, Limited Data Available on Costs of Death Sentences (1989), p. 50.
52 Cited in Spangenberg and Walsh, note 49.
53 Miami Herald, July 10, 1988.
54 New York Times, Sept. 22, 1989
55 New York Times, May 28, 1990; and Fox, Radelet, and Bonsteel, in N.Y.U. Review of Law and Social Change (1990-91).
56 Ancel, The Death Penalty in European Countries (1962), p 55.
57 UN, Ecosoc, Official Records 58th Sess. (1971), Supl. 1, p.36.
58 Hood, The Death Penalty: A World-Wide Perspective (1989); Amnesty International, When The State Kills... (1989). Revised July 1992.
ACLU Free Reading Room
A publications and information resource of the American Civil Liberties Union National Office
gopher://aclu.org:6601  ftp://aclu.org/aclu  mailto :infoaclu@aclu.org  mailto: mwood@dnai.com 

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

../../../graphics/line1.gif (286 Byte)

Return to Bedau Index