There have been 1,226 executions spread over the 36 death penalty states between 1976 to 2010; the highest among developed nations.
Essentially, the proponents of capital punishment argue that it reduces the risks of future deaths by taking the perpetrator out from society, as well as creating a deterrent effect for would-be murderers. They also hold to the position that without the threat of an ‘eye for an eye’, the fabric of society itself will fall apart. While there is an element of risk of punishing an innocent, the benefits outweigh the very rare incidents of wrong prosecution.
Opponents, meanwhile, contend that there is no empiric data supporting the argument that capital punishment reduces or prevents future deaths. In addition, they argue that rehabilitation is a more humane method of punishment, a reflection on our higher sense of morals. But most of all, there is a tendency to prosecute and convict under-privileged minorities, indicated from the disproportionate ratio in comparison to our national demographics. Opponents also like to point out the fact that 98% of the district attorneys in death penalty states are white (Jeffrey Pokorak, Cornell Law Review, 1998).
2012 Libertarian Presidential Nominee
Former Governor of New Mexico
Johnson used to firmly believe in the merits capital punishment, even for minors. However, he had a change of heart about a decade ago, chiefly after realizing that the bureaucracy was capable of making mistakes that could cost the life of an innocent.
“If you have committed murder, I happen to believe that you should pay for that with your own life.”
December 9, 2000, The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) “I have no plans to render a stay on his execution… Terry Clark committed the crimes that he has been convicted of. I happen to think that's just punishment for him… I will sleep soundly, in regards to Terry Clark. I happen to support the death penalty for individuals who commit these types of crimes.”
August 28, 2001: Johnson, responding to the Associated Press.
Note: Terry Clark who was convicted of kidnapping and raping six-year-old Donita Welch and nine-year-old Dena Lynn Gore. Clark also murdered Gore. Clark was executed by lethal injection on November 6, 2001. Scott Holleran: You state that “no criminal or terrorist suspect captured by the U.S. should be subject to physical or psychological torture.” On what moral grounds should our government be precluded from using torture to protect our nation from foreign enemies that seek to destroy the United States through subversive terrorist activity?
Gary Johnson: I just think that there’s no end to that. Let’s say we know there’s a bomb ticking, so we have to torture this guy - that’s the argument for the death penalty - but the law that gets written also is public policy which allows us to put someone who’s innocent to death. The basis of our country is that we protect the innocent. Are we going to torture people to prevent nuclear briefcase bombs? It amounts to the ends justify the means.
Scott Holleran: You oppose the death penalty. Why?
Gary Johnson: As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit naïve and I did not think the government made mistakes with regard to the death penalty. I came to realize that they do. I don’t want to put one innocent person to death to punish 99 who are guilty.
August 21, 2011: Interview with Gary Johnson by Scott Holleran
Obama feels utmost caution should be taken on the subject of capital punishment, and it should be reserved only for ‘heinous crimes’.
“I believe that the death penalty is appropriate in certain circumstances. There are extraordinarily heinous crimes, terrorism, the harm of children, in which it may be appropriate. Obviously we’ve had some problems in this state, in the application of the death penalty and that’s why a moratorium was put in place and that’s why I was so proud to be one of the leaders in making sure that we overhauled it, death penalty system that was broken. For example, passing the first in the nation videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases. We have to have this ultimate sanction for certain circumstances in which the entire community says this is beyond the pale”
October 21, 2004, Illinois State Debate
"While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes—mass murder, the rape and murder of a child—so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."
“From my perspective, there are two main camps when it comes to the death penalty. On one side, there are some people who believe there are certain crimes that are so offensive… so reprehensible…. so far beyond the bounds of civilized society that they demand the ultimate punishment. In the other camp are well-meaning people who believe that it is immoral for government to ever take a life. In the middle, I believe, are others who could support the death penalty if it is narrowly applied and contains the appropriate safeguards. It is with that group in mind that we have brought forward the death penalty bill before you today…
The appropriate response of society to terrorism carried out around the world or within the Commonwealth’s borders is to apply the death penalty. That is why the legislation I filed in April accounts for terrorism, along with a small number of other crimes, including the assassination of a law enforcement officer, judge, juror or prosecutor, for the purpose of obstructing an ongoing criminal proceeding. My legislation would also allow juries to consider the death penalty in cases that involve prolonged torture or multiple murders, as well as cases in which the defendant has already been convicted of first-degree murder or is serving a life sentence without parole.”
July 14, 2005, Death Penalty Testimony of Governor Mitt Romney to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, in support of his April 28, 2005 filing of a death penalty bill that was ultimately rejected by the legislature.
Lane is against capital punishment for two reasons:
(i) There have been enough cases overturned in recent years by DNA evidence that killing an innocent person is a very real possibility
(ii) Killing a person does not sufficiently punish them for taking another person’s life.
Paul, by his own admission, has changed his position on capital punishment and is now opposed to the death penalty, chiefly out of fear than an innocent person may be sentenced to death.
“Do not be involved with the state in executing criminals or in any way approve the carrying out of the death penalty....
... Believers in the omnipotence of state military power are enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty. It’s strange to me that those who champion best the rights of pre-born are generally the strongest supporters of the death penalty and preventive, that is, aggressive, war. Ironically, those who find the death penalty an affront to life are usually the strongest supporters of abortion. I grant that there certainly is a difference in the life being protected; one is totally innocent—the unborn—and the other usually a person convicted of a horrible crime, like murder or rape. The difference of opinion is usually along the lines of conservative versus liberal.
This is one issue in which my views have shifted in recent years, especially since being elected to Congress. There was a time I simply stated that I supported the death penalty. Now my views are not so clearly defined. I do not support the federal death penalty, but constitutionally I cannot, as a federal official, interfere with the individual states that impose it.
After years spent in Washington, I have become more aware than ever of the government’s ineptness and the likelihood of its making mistakes. I no longer trust the U.S. government to invoke and carry out a death sentence under any conditions. Too many convictions, not necessarily federal, have been found to be in error, but only after years of incarcerating innocent people who later were released on DNA evidence.
Rich people when guilty are rarely found guilty and sentenced to death. Most people believe O. J. Simpson was guilty of murder but went free. This leads to a situation where innocent people without enough money are more likely to get the death penalty while the guilty rich people with good lawyers get off. For me it’s much easier just to eliminate the ultimate penalty and incarcerate the guilty for life—in case later evidence proves a mistaken conviction. The cost of incarceration is likely less than it is for death penalty appeals drawn out not for years but for decades.”
1980, Capital Punishment, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom by Ron Paul
Paul on the Death Penalty
“You know over the years, I’ve held pretty rigid to all my beliefs but I’ve changed my opinion about the death penalty. For federal purposes, I no longer believe in the death penalty. I believed it has been issued unjustly. If you are rich you get away with it. If you’re poor and you’re from the inner city, you’re more likely to be prosecuted and convicted. And today, with the DNA evidences there’s been too many mistakes, so I am now opposed to the federal death penalty.”
September 27, 2007, Ron Paul speaking at the Republican Presidential Forum at the Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland
• Vern Wuensche would encourage the passage of laws supporting the death penalty in all states including expedited trials and appeals limited to a total of one month’s duration in the case of multiple murders testified to by 10 witnesses.