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Howard Dean on Crime

Former VT Governor; Former Democratic Candidate for President


Death penalty for extreme crimes, but applied fairly

Q: Do you support the death penalty?

A: I believe the death penalty should be available for extreme and heinous crimes, such as terrorism or the killing of police officers or young children. But it must be carried out with scrupulous fairness.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Death Penalty” , Jan 25, 2004

Even terrorists deserve a fair trial

“No, we can’t beat Bush by being Bush-lite,” Kerry said, using a favorite phrase of Dean’s. “But we also can’t beat George Bush by being light on national security, light on fairness for middle-class Americans, and light on the values that make us Democrats.” Speaking to reporters after his speech, Kerry said of Dean’s bin Laden remark: “The question asked [to Dean] was, do you believe Osama bin Laden should be tried in the United States and given the death penalty? The answer to both questions is a simple yes. Yes and Yes.“ A Dean aide cited another recent interview in which Dean said: ”As a president, I would have to defend the process of the rule of law. But as an American, I want to make sure he gets the death penalty he deserves.“ Dean recently issued a statement clarifying his position on bin Laden, after a newspaper account suggested he thought the Al Qaeda leader could be innocent. All he meant, Dean said, was that everyone, including terrorists, deserves a fair trial.
Source: [X-ref Kerry] P. Healy & A. Kornblut, Boston Globe, p. A10 , Dec 28, 2003

Death penalty for extreme and heinous crimes

I believe the death penalty should be available for extreme and heinous crimes, such as terrorism or the killing of police officers or young children. But it must be carried out with scrupulous fairness. I applaud former Illinois Governor George Ryan, who imposed a moratorium rather than administer a system in which 13 innocent men were released from death row. In contrast, George Bush presided over a Texas court system in which dozens of men were put to death without adequate representation.
Source: 2004 presidential website, DeanForAmerica.com , Nov 25, 2003

Apply death penalty fairly & strengthen protections

Source: 2004 presidential website, DeanForAmerica.com , Nov 25, 2003

Opposed capital punishment but shifted beginning in 1994

On the death penalty he has moved to the right. When he assumed office he opposed capital punishment, but he shifted his ground, saying he supports the death penalty for the killer of a child or police officer or for a terrorist. Some press reports have charged Dean with shifting his views in preparation for running for president.

In fact, however, Dean began to shift as early as 1994. In a news conference in June that year, he said he was still opposed but that he was reconsidering in the case of child murderers. Referring to the slaying of 12 year old Polly Klaas in California the previous year, Dean said he couldn't think of any redeeming social value in keeping her murderer alive.

Source: Citizen's Guide to the Man Who Would be President, p.105 , Oct 1, 2003

Supports death penalty for terrorism

Dean’s record isn’t radically left-leaning. He advocates a balanced federal budget. He is an abortion-rights advocate and opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, yet he received top ratings from the National Rifle Association and supports the death penalty in some cases, like terrorism or the killing of police officers or young children.
Source: Sarah Schweitzer, Boston Globe , Jun 23, 2003

Replace overzealous capital crime trials with fair trials

Capital punishment is an emotional issue, but supporters and opponents can agree that the death penalty should only be imposed after a fair trial. In recent years more than 100 death row inmates have been exonerated in the United States. The Bush administration has ignored this crisis but my Administration will address it. George Bush and John Ashcroft have carried out the federal death penalty in a reckless and overzealous manner.
Source: DeanForAmerica.com campaign website, “On the Issues” , Jun 17, 2003

Re-evaluate and reform federal and state death penalty

Source: DeanForAmerica.com campaign website, “On the Issues” , Jun 17, 2003

Invest in social programs to avoid investing in prisons

In 1991, I had to cut spending. The Commissioner of Corrections came to me asking for a 14% budget increase. Everyone else was being asked to cut spending, but prisons-the most expensive and least effective social service investment we make- needed more money.

My view of social spending changed in that instant. Because studies show that any competent kindergarten teacher can make a pretty good guess about the five kids most likely to end up in prison, I decided to focus Vermont’s efforts and money on new families with very young babies and children.

Today in Vermont, we invest in our children. We visit every child and new mother in the hospital at the time of birth. We offer home visits two weeks after discharge to talk about everything from nutrition to housekeeping to substance abuse to the value of reading. Last year 91% of moms accepted our visit. I believe that one day this program will result in much lower incarceration rates in Vermont.

Source: Campaign web site, DeanForAmerica.com, “On the Issues” , Nov 30, 2002

Supports flexible federal block grants for crime programs.

Dean adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

NGA’s Position

Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA10 on Sep 14, 2001

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Crime.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Howard Dean.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Howard Dean.
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George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)

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Page last updated: Mar 14, 2014