Becomes Us: Why Americans Support Capital Punishment by Michael
An analysis of why the U.S., unlike other industrialized nations, continues
in its use of the death penalty.
on Death Row" | Text-only
Prejean's controversial 1993 book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account
of the Death Penalty in the United States detailed her experiences as
a spiritual advisor to death row prisoners in Louisiana's Angola State Prison.
A 1995 film based on the book, "Dead Man Walking", garnered several
Academy Award nominations, one resulting in a Best Actress Oscar for Susan
Sarandon, who played Sister Prejean. In 1996 the public television program
behind the scenes to examine the real life situations portrayed in the book
and film and explore the debate on the death penalty. This site includes
a transcript of the Frontline program, interviews with principals in the
cases and those involved with the book and film, pro and con statements
on the death penalty, links to capital punishment sites, and a chronology
of the death penalty in the U.S.
Helen Prejean and Dead Man Walking
Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean and the movie based upon
it have become important foci of the current death penalty debate in the
U.S. Sister Prejean visited Alaska in January
1998, speaking in both Anchorage and Juneau.
of Sr. Helen Prejean: 24 January 1995. Delivered at an inter-religious
service to protest the death penalty in Albany, New York.
with Sr. Helen Prejean: At Frontline's "Angel
on Death Row" site; see also interviews
with others involved in the case of Robert Lee Willie, one of the men
for whom Sr. Prejean acted as spiritual advisor prior to his execution
for the rape, murder, and torture of Faith Colleen Hathaway.
for the Devil: Sister Helen Prejean talks about the condemned men who
inspired 'Dead Man Walking'": by Marc Bruno. Salon 6,
January 27-February 9, 1996.
Love Requires (A Profile of Sister Helen Prejean)": by Judy
Pennington. Common Boundary May/June 1996.
- "The Voice
of Dead Men: Interview with Sister Helen Prejean": by Vicki
Quade. ABA Individual Rights and
Responsibilities Section, Human Rights 23(3), Summer 1996.
Jesus pull the switch?": by Sister Helen Prejean. Salt
of the Earth, March/April 1997.
Man Walking and Death Penalty Litigation": by David George.
Court TV, 1997. Discusses the mechanics
of death penalty litigation as portrayed in Tim Robbins' film.
of the Nation
The daily National Public Radio program
maintains an archive of shows aired from 1995 to the present, including
some on the death penalty. The free Real
Audio player is required to hear the shows.
13, 1998: Susan Boleyn, Senior Assistant Attorney General of Georgia
(a death penalty state) and Richard Dieter of the Death
Penalty Information Center discuss capital punishment in the light
of recent high profile federal capital cases, such as the Oklahoma City
bombing and the Unabomber case.
11, 1997: The second hour of the program features two sitting federal
judges, Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Steve Reinhart, both with the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, discussing the role of
federal judges in the imposition of death sentences and the effect of
a judge's personal opinion on capital rulings.
2, 1996: A discussion with criminal defense attorney Sean O'Brien
and Susan Boleyn of the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia (a
death penalty state) on the use of capital punishment since the U.S.
Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on its use in 1976.
on the Death Penalty
American Bar Association, Focus
on Law Studies 12(2), Spring 1997. Eight scholars from law, the social
sciences, and the humanities discuss and debate capital punishment as
a matter of scholarship, public policy, and classroom teaching. The portions
included here are edited versions of a two-week online dicussion in February
Death Penalty Forum (WordPerfect document): The entire two-week
online discussion, unedited, in a downloadable WordPerfect 6.1 document.
ABA Calls for a Moratorium on the Death Penalty: The Task Ahead -- Reconciling
Justice with Politics": by Leslie A. Harris. American Bar Association,
Focus on Law Studies 12(2), Spring 1997. By a vote of 280 to
119, the American Bar Association House of Delegates in early 1997 called
for a moratorium on capital punishment until greater fairness and due
process are assured.
- Recommendation 107:
American Bar Association, 3 February 1997. The American
Bar Association calls for a moratorium on capital punishment until
severe problems with its application are addressed, specifically regarding
the provision of counsel to defendants in capital cases, state post-conviction
and federal habeus corpus proceedings, the elimination of racial discrimination
in capital sentencing, and preventing the execution of the mentally
retarded or persons under 18 at the time of offense. The resolution
states also that "in adopting this recommendation, apart from exiting
Association policies relating to offenders who are mentally retarded
or under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the offenses,
the Association takes no position on the death penalty." This page
offers for download
a WordPerfect version of the report upon which the recommendation is
Who Deserves to Die?
Atlantic Unbound presents
articles on the death penalty that have appeared in past issues of The
Atlantic Monthly and gives readers the opportunity to discuss the
death penalty in its online conferencing area.
Punishment" by George Bernard Shaw. The Atlantic Monthly,
June 1948. "But the ungovernables, the ferocious, the conscienceless,
the idiots, the self-centered myops and morons, what of them?"
asks the famous playwright. "Do not punish them. Kill, kill, kill,
kill, kill them."
the Death Penalty Necessary?" by Giles Playfair. The Atlantic
Monthly, September 1957. The London barrister answers: No. The justice
system should, rather, aim at prevention, rehabilitation, and reform.
The Judge's Problem" by Irving Kaufman. The Atlantic Monthly,
January 1960. Kaufman was the judge who pronounced sentence on Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg, executed for espionage in the early 1950s.
Get Real About Executions in America: Three Easy Steps" by
James Carroll. The Boston Globe (op-ed piece.), May 31, 1994.
An anti-death penalty opinion piece focusing on methods of execution
and the presumed "humane" alternative of lethal injection.
Punishment: Life or Death?
This project by members of a university composition class at University
of Texas, sharply divided in their stand on the death penalty, presents
statements on all the major pro and con arguments, plus papers written
by the students on various aspects of capital punishment.
State Collegian, 2 February 1995.
Two university students respond to the reintroduction of capital punishment
in Kansas in 1994. Kansas provides the death penalty in cases of capital
murder given one of seven aggravating circumstances; persons determined
to be mentally retarded are excluded from capital sentencing. As of yearend
1996, no one had been executed or sentenced to death in Kansas under the
1994 statute. Kansas executed 15 persons between 1930 and 1967, when an
unofficial moratorium on executions began.
Punishment: Arguments For Life and Death"
by Jennifer C. Honeyman and James R.P. Ogloff. Canadian Journal
of Behavioural Science 28(1), January 1996. Despite capital punishment
having been abolished in Canada 20 years ago, the majority of Canadians
continue to favour the death penalty as a sentencing option. This Canadian
study investigates the effects of argument position (for or against the
death penalty) and type of justification for punishment (deterrence, morality,
rehabilitation, incapacitation, economic, and possibility of mistake)
on participants' sentence recommendations for a defendant found guilty
of first degree murder.
Updates: Punishment and the Death Penalty
Part of a general Ethics Updates
site designed primarily for ethics instructors and their students, this
page provides resources on the death penalty, plus links to an online
forum, one of several provided in order to facilitate serious and reflective
dialogue on difficult moral issues.
Case Against the Death Penalty, 3rd ed.
by Hugo Adam Bedeau. American Civil Liberties Union, 1997. A pamphlet
for the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project presenting all the major arguments
against the death penalty by a well-known professor of political philosophy.
version (July 1992) of the pamphlet is available through the World
Policy Institute web site.
Stuart Mill: Speech in Favor of Capital Punishment
Speech delivered before Parliament (United Kingdom) on 21 April, 1868,
in opposition to a bill that would have banned capital punishment. Mill
was a prominent utilitarian philosopher and politician.
Justice in America?"
by Ferndando Javier Litardo. April 1994. Comparison of abolitionist
and retentionist views concerning the death penalty. The author takes
an anti-death penalty position. This document is also available at the
Critical Criminology Death Penalty site.
Penalty and Sentencing Information in the United States
Justice For All, 1 October 1997.
Addresses major issues in the death penalty: the risk of executing the
innocent, deterrence, race, cost of the death penalty versus life imprisonment
without parole, death penalty procedures, and Christianity adn the death
penalty. This site takes a pro-death penalty stance.
Law enforcement officers in the United States are
also divided in their opinions of the death penalty.
people's attitudes toward the death penalty are framed by their religious
beliefs. The listing included here is not meant to be comprehensive, but
simply to provide a starting point for persons seeking answers about religious
belief and capital punishment. Suggestions for additional links are welcome.
the Bible has to say about the death penalty is of particular importance
to Judaism and Christianity, the dominant religious traditions in the
Catholics in the U.S. support the death penalty, but the Catholic Church
has officially opposed it for two decades.
Vitae (The Gospel of Life): Relevant passages from an encyclical
issued March 25, 1995 by Pope John Paul II, world leader of Roman Catholicism,
after four years' consultations with Roman Catholic bishops throughout
the world, stating that execution is only appropriate "in cases
of absolute necessity, in other words, when it would not be possible
otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvement
in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if
not practically nonexistent." The complete encyclical is also available
under the title On
the Value and Inviolability of Human Life through American University's
of encyclicals and other papal documents.
on Capital Punishment: U.S. Catholic Bishops, November 1980.
True Road to Justice": by the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput,
O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver, 6 June 1997. Discusses the death
penalty in the wake of the sentencing of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh under the federal death penalty law.
The Death Penalty: A valuable resource listing of Catholic resources,
including statements of Catholic bishops on capital punishment, along
with resources from other religious viewpoints on the death penalty.
Part of CatholicMobile,
a comprehensive directory to resources in all aspects of Catholic life.
- Catholics Against
the Death Penalty: Seeks to promote greater awareness of Catholic
teachings on capital punishment; includes a quarterly newsletter and
a list of List
of Statements by U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Death Penalty.
denominations are not unanimous in either condemning or endorsing the
death penalty. This selection provides statements on both sides of the
Punishment" by theologian Kenneth Cauthen is excerpted
from his book Toward a New Modernism (Lanham, MD: University
Press of America, 1997), and is one of a series of essays
on theology and ethics from a liberal theological perspective.
on the Death Penalty is presented by Plough Online,
the online version of a publication of the Bruderhof Communities,
an association of Christian communities in the U.S. and England.
A complete listing
of death penalty articles from Plough Online is also
- Friends Committee to
Abolish the Death Penalty: A national Quaker organization
established in 1993 to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment.
as a Penalty: A Moral, Practical, and Theological Discussion":
by Howard Zehr. N.d. This booklet by the director of the Mennonite
Central Committee U.S. Office of Criminal Justice explains the
Mennonite's abolitionist stance toward capital punishment; through
the Mennonite Central
Punishment for Crime is Not the Answer": by Wayne Northey.
25 April 1995. Addresses calls in Canada for harsher punishments,
including the death penalty, in reponse to crime; from the Mennonite
Central Committee (Canada).
- "A Social
Statement on: The Death Penalty": Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, 1991. Anti-death penalty statement
adopted at the second biennial Churchwide Assembly of ELCA by
over a two-thirds majority vote.
Punishment: Is Man a Machine or a Moral Agent?": by Greg
Koukl. Transcript of a commentary aired 24 February 1996 on the
Christian radio show Stand to Reason
responding to a letter to a newspaper about the the execution
of William Bonin, the "Freeway Killer" and the third
person executed in California after the reinstatement of the death
on Capital Punishment: Commission on Theology and Church
Relations of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, August 1980;
originally published in The Lutheran Witness, 16 May 1976.
An examination of death penalty issues from a Protestant Christian
theological standpoint declares that capital punishment is in
accord with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confession. Prepared
to assist the membership of the synod in making decisions regarding
Bible's Teaching on Capital Punishment": by David L.
Brown. Oak Creek, WI: Logos Communication, 1992. Advocates the
return of the death penalty to Wisconsin, currently a non-death
penalty state, and examines biblical statements on punishment
by death, asserting that "Capital punishment IS biblical.
It is for today."
Capital Punishment Sanctioned by Divine Authority?: by Alexander
Campbell. 1846. Campbell's lengthy essay answers yes. See also
Punishment No. 2" by Tolbert Fanning (Christian Review
4(6), June 1847), which replies to Campbell's essay with the opposite
conclusion. Campbell and Fanning were major figures in the nineteenth
Movement which resulted in the founding of the Churches of
Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and others.
Qur'an and Sunnah provides the law of retaliation for murder.