Topics in the News: Death Penalty

Donald Trump on Drugs : Mar 19, 2018
Execute drug dealers to fight opioid epidemic

Pres. Trump spelled out in new detail several steps he favors to fight an epidemic of opioid abuse, including the execution of drug dealers, a proposal that has gained little support from drug abuse and judicial experts.

Trump unveiled an anti-opioid abuse plan, including his death penalty recommendation, new funding for other initiatives and stiffer sentencing laws for drug dealers. He said the US must "get tough" on opioids. "And that toughness includes the death penalty," he said. Neither Trump nor the White House gave further details as to when it would be appropriate to seek the death penalty.

Trump said that he was working with Congress to find $6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid crisis. The plan will also seek to cut opioid prescriptions by a third over 3 years by changing federal programs, he said.

Addiction to opioids--mainly prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl--is a growing problem, especially in rural areas. 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: Reuters in The Metro on 2018 Trump Administration

Bernie Sanders on Crime : Nov 15, 2016
End the death penalty, like all other advanced countries

It is long past time for the United States of America to join almost every other advanced country on earth in abolishing the death penalty. The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. It is applied disproportionately to people of color. It has been proven to not deter violent crime. The inevitable endless judicial appeals tie up the courts for years, at the taxpayer's expense. And far too many people are now thought, after they were put to death by the state, to have been innocent.
Click for Bernie Sanders on other issues.   Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 383-384

Tim Kaine on Crime : Oct 4, 2016
I opposed death penalty but upheld the law

Q: Can you discuss a time when you struggled to balance your personal faith and a public policy position?

KAINE: For me, the hardest struggle in my faith life was the Catholic Church is against the death penalty and so am I. But I was governor of a state, and the state law said that there was a death penalty for crimes if the jury determined them to be heinous. And so I had to grapple with that. When I was running for governor, I was attacked pretty strongly because of my position on the death penalty. But I looked the voters of Virginia in the eye and said, "look, this is my religion. I'm not going to change my religious practice to get one vote, but I know how to take an oath and uphold the law. And if you elect me, I will uphold the law." And I was elected, and I did. It was very, very difficult to allow executions to go forward, but in circumstances where I didn't feel like there was a case for clemency, I told Virginia voters I would uphold the law, and I did. That was a real struggle.

Click for Tim Kaine on other issues.   Source: 2016 Vice-Presidential Debate at Longwood University

Evan McMullin on Crime : Oct 1, 2016
Opposes death penalty

Q: Do you support the death penalty?

Evan McMullin: No

Click for Evan McMullin on other issues.   Source: Voter Guide on 2016 Presidential hopefuls

Donald Trump on Crime : Aug 23, 2016
Settling Central Park jogger case was "a disgrace"

Two weeks after the "Central Park jogger case," millions of New Yorkers reading the city's four major newspapers were greeted with a full-page ad paid for by Trump. "Bring back the death penalty," he wrote. Trump wrote in the ad "They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes." Many blacks saw in Trump's ads not just opportunism, but also racism.

The female jogger would survive the brutal beating but the young men were convicted and served 6 to 13 years in prison. But years later, a career criminal confessed to the rape, providing a DNA match. The convictions were overturned, and the city paid $41 million to settle a wrongful imprisonment suit that the men had filed. Trump called the settlement "a disgrace," refused to apologize, and said, "These young men do not exactly have the pasts of angels." He said he wouldn't have given them "a dime" and insisted "they owe the taxpayers an apology for taking money out of their pockets."

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: Trump Revealed, by Michael Kranish & Mark Fisher, p.279-80

Tim Kaine on Abortion : Jun 26, 2016
Personally opposes abortion, but keep government out of it

Q: When you first ran as Lieutenant Governor, you were classified as a pro-life Democrat. You're now not considered a pro-life Democrat. How would you describe your abortion position?

KAINE: People use labels all the time. But I'm kind of a traditional Catholic. I don't like it personally. I'm opposed to abortion. And personally I'm opposed to the death penalty. I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They're moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions. So I've taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I've got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions.

Click for Tim Kaine on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press 2016 interviews of Veepstakes candidates

Ajamu Baraka on Crime : Jun 26, 2016
Death penalty for whites is tactic to stop black opposition

When Loretta Lynch, the African American Attorney General, announced that the state would pursue a death sentence against Dylann Roof (the White nationalist who murdered nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina), some in the African American community applauded the decision as an appropriate response that would lead to something they defined as "justice." However, for many other African Americans, justice for a racialized people is an impossibility in a colonial state in which racial and class dominance, violence, and systemic de-humanization represents its internal logic and core values.

The decision by the DOJ to pursue a death sentence for Roof should be seen as no more than another tactical move: by appealing to African Americans, the group in the country most consistently opposed to the death penalty, state propagandists saw this as a perfect opportunity to undermine opposition to capital punishment and facilitate the process of psychological incorporation.

Click for Ajamu Baraka on other issues.   Source: 2016 vice-presidential campaign website,

Bernie Sanders on Crime : Mar 6, 2016
Crime bill had good parts (VAWA) & bad parts (death penalty)

Q: Why should black people trust you this time to get it right, after you supported the 1994 Crime Bill that resulted in locking up a generation of black men?

CLINTON: Well, Senator Sanders voted for it as well; will you ask him too? Some aspects--the violence against women [VAWA] provisions--have worked well. But, other aspects of it were a mistake.

SANDERS: As we all know, there are bills in congress that have bad stuff--Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill. Now, if I have voted against that bill, Clinton would say, "Bernie voted against the ban on assault weapons. Bernie voted against the violence against women act." Those were good provisions in the bill. Violence against women act has protected millions of women in this country, it was in that bill. The ban on assault weapons, that's what I have fought for my whole life. It was in that bill. I tried to get the death penalty aspects in that bill out. Clinton have a disagreement. I was then, and I am now opposed to the death penalty.

Click for Bernie Sanders on other issues.   Source: 2016 Democratic primary debate in Flint, Michigan

Bernie Sanders on Crime : Feb 4, 2016
Government should not be part of the death penalty

Q [to Clinton]: You said that capital punishment has a place in a very few federal cases?

CLINTON: I do reserve it for particularly heinous crimes, like terrorism. I thought it was appropriate after a very thorough trial that Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

SANDERS: It's hard to imagine how people can bomb and kill 168 people in Oklahoma City, but this is what I believe: #1, too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. We have to be very careful about making sure about that. But #2, of course there are barbaric acts out there. But, in a world of so much violence and killing, I just don't believe that government itself should be part of the killing. So, when somebody commits any of these terrible crimes that we have seen, you lock them up, and you toss away the key. They're never going to get out. But, I just don't want to see government be part of killing.

Click for Bernie Sanders on other issues.   Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton on Crime : Feb 4, 2016
Death penalty appropriate for Oklahoma City bombing

Q: You said that capital punishment has a place in a very few federal cases, but you also said you would breathe a sigh of relief if the Supreme Court abolished the death penalty nationwide.

CLINTON: What I hope the Supreme Court will do is make it absolutely clear that any state that continues capital punishment must meet the highest standards of evidentiary proof of effective assistance of counsel. I have much more confidence in the federal system, and I do reserve it for particularly heinous crimes in the federal system, like terrorism. I thought it was appropriate after a very thorough trial that Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty for blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children in a daycare center.

SANDERS: When somebody commits any of these terrible crimes [like in Oklahoma City], you lock them up, and you toss away the key. They're never going to get out. But, I just don't want to see government be part of killing.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton on Principles & Values : Feb 4, 2016
I am a progressive who gets things done

Q: Senator Sanders is arguing that you are not progressive enough to be the Democratic nominee. He has said that if you voted for the Iraq war, if you are in favor of the death penalty, if you wobbled on things like the Keystone Pipeline or TPP, if you said single payer health care could never happen, then you're too far to the right of the Democratic Party. Why should liberal Democrats support you?

CLINTON: Because I am a progressive who gets things done. The root of that word, progressive, is progress. I've heard Senator Sanders' comments, and it's caused me to wonder who's left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street; Vice President Biden is not progressive because he supported Keystone; Senator Shaheen is not progressive because she supports the trade pact.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton on Principles & Values : Jan 30, 2016
Disagrees with Bernie on crime, drugs & foreign intervention

Where do Hillary and Bernie disagree on the issues? This list comprises legitimate differences on issues, not just differences of fervency or recency:
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Bernie vs. Hillary On The Issues, by Jesse Gordon

Martin O`Malley on Crime : Jan 25, 2016
First state in the south to repeal death penalty

I repealed as a crime and decriminalized the possession of marijuana. I banned the box on people who are applying for state employment. And not the first time, not the second time, but the third time, by bringing people together, including a few Republican votes, I made my state the first state south of the Mason Dixon Line to repeal the death penalty in America.
Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: 2016 CNN Town Hall Democratic presidential primary debate

Tim Kaine on Crime : Jan 7, 2016
Opposes death penalty as a Catholic, but upholds VA law

[Kaine commented on his Catholic faith]: If faith is central to Kaine's political identity, it is also a source of personal pain for an otherwise unfailingly upbeat campaigner. He grows solemn when the topic is capital punishment, the point at which Kaine's political ambitions appeared to trump his moral convictions. Kaine adroitly defused the issue, promising voters he would not block the state's death penalty machinery, despite his personal beliefs.
Click for Tim Kaine on other issues.   Source: 2016 Veepstakes: Washington Post, "Moral convictions"

Jeb Bush on Crime : Nov 1, 2015
Conflicted about death penalty; needs reform

Q: Have you changed your mind on the death penalty?

BUSH: I'm conflicted. I am. It was the law of the land when I was governor, and I faithfully dealt with it. To be honest with you, it is not a deterrent anymore because it's seldom used. It clogs up the courts, it costs a ton of money. And it's hard for me, as a human being, to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you. I'm informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them. So I have to admit that I'm conflicted about this. But we should reform it. If it's to be used as a deterrent, it has to be reformed. It can't take 25 years. That does no one any good. Neither the victims nor the state is solving this problem with that kind of tangled judicial process.

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press 2015 interview moderated by Chuck Todd

Jeb Bush on Crime : Nov 1, 2015
Death penalty a tough call, but victims' families benefit

It's hard for me, as a human being, to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you. I'm informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them. I must admit that I'm conflicted about this. But here's the deal -- this happens in rare cases where the death penalty's given out and you meet family members that have lost a loved one and it's still in their heart. It's etched in their soul. And this is the way that they get closure? I get more comfortable with it, to be honest with you. I believe life is truly a gift from God, and innocent life particularly should be protected at all costs. But people that really do commit these crimes, justice can't be denied. And it shouldn't be delayed.
Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: Washington Post on 2015 presidential hopefuls

Donald Trump on Crime : Sep 22, 2015
1989 full-page newspaper ads: "Bring Back the Death Penalty"

In April 1989, Trump saw an opportunity to speak his mind when a young white woman was raped and beaten while out for a jog in Central Park. As media reports shocked the city and the victim struggled for survival, police mounted an intense investigation that ended with the apprehension of five black youths between the ages of 14 and 16. The five implicated themselves under interrogation, but would later recant, saying they had been pressured into making false statements. Donald Trump bought full-page advertisements in the city's four big daily papers to proclaim BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!

Although he avoided naming the accused in the jogger case, Trump's reference to "roving bands of wild criminals" left no doubt about why he had paid for the ads. Newspaper accounts had described "wolf pack" gangs marauding in the park.

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: Never Enough, by Michael D'Antonio, p.192

Ted Cruz on Crime : Jun 30, 2015
In death penalty cases, describe brutal nature of crime

[In death penalty cases], defense lawyers tend to file a flurry of last-minute appeals to the Supreme Court for emergency stays of execution. If the appeal was in a circuit assigned to your justice, it was your responsibility to read through the entire petition as quickly as possible. Then the clerk would call his boss, who was at home and probably asleep (although they knew the call was coming).

I would make a point of doing something the liberal clerks who opposed capital punishment rarely did-- simply describing the brutal nature of the crime for which the defendant had been convicted. The appeal would go to the full Court for a vote. Each of the other eight clerks would call their justices at home, wake them up, and then the justices would each vote on the appeal that night.

I still don't understand why the justices tolerate this gamesmanship, which diminishes respect for the rule of law.

Click for Ted Cruz on other issues.   Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p. 92

Ted Cruz on Crime : Jun 30, 2015
End last-minute death penalty appeals: one week deadline

One sobering component of being a Supreme Court clerk literally involves life-and-death decisions. A great many states set executions late at night, often at midnight. Just before that deadline, under the current system, defense lawyers tend to file a flurry of last-minute appeals to the Supreme Court for emergency stays of execution.

This gamesmanship diminishes respect for the rule of law. It would be a simple matter for the Court to issue rules saying that all applications for stays must be filed at least one week before the execution date. Or, even a single justice could simply announce publicly that he or she would not vote to stay any execution if the stay application were filed less than a week earlier. That would allow, fair, careful, reasoned consideration of the legal claims, not haphazard skimming at midnight. The rule could exclude claims of actual innocence--which could be filed at any time whatsoever--but the vast majority of capital defendants make no claims of innocence.

Click for Ted Cruz on other issues.   Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p. 92-3

Ted Cruz on Crime : Jun 30, 2015
Capital punishment for the very worst child rapists

As she lay in the hospital bed, in labor, Heidi was typing furiously on her Blackberry, still tending to the needs of her clients. I admired her tenacious work ethic--it's one of the many qualities that made me fall in love with her--but this was too much. I gently pulled the Blackberry out of her hands. "It will be here later," I said. She had more important things to do.

To be fair, when it came to leaving work at the hospital steps, I wasn't completely innocent. During much of the time we were there, I was studying cases for an oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled for two days later. I was appearing in support of a Louisiana law that allowed capital punishment for the very worst child rapists. It was a horrible case, where a 300-pound man had brutalized has seven-year-old stepdaughter. So just hours after Caroline was born, I said a prayer of thanksgiving, kissed my beautiful wife and baby daughter, rushed to the airport, and flew to Washington to argue the case.

Click for Ted Cruz on other issues.   Source: A Time for Truth, by Ted Cruz, p.180

John Kasich on Crime : May 31, 2015
Death penalty is consistent with justice & Christian values

Q: Would you support ending the death penalty in Ohio?

KASICH: I don't agree with that. Look, we're just looking for the drugs that we need to administer it. And in this debate, sometimes we forget the victims. Listen, I review all these cases. And to some people I've said we will let them stay for life in prison if I wasn't certain of who did what. But I've had these grieving families come to see me. And look, it's about justice. It isn't about revenge, it's about justice. And I support the death penalty and will continue to do that, because a lot of times, families want closure when they see justice done.

Q: What about religious objection to the death penalty?

KASICH: I think it's consistent with my Catholic faith. If I didn't, I'd have to exorcise it. But look, at the end of the day, I'm also a secular official, right? I'm also the governor. Now, it doesn't mean that my faith doesn't influence me. But I have a job to do as administrator of the state of Ohio.

Click for John Kasich on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Martin O`Malley on Crime : Apr 28, 2015
Abolish the death penalty: we're one of the last refuges

The majority of public executions now take place in just seven countries: Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United States of America. Our home is one of the last refuges of the death penalty.

Our nation was not founded on fear, or on revenge, or on retribution. Freedom, justice, equal rights before the law, and a fierce belief in the dignity of every human being--these are the foundational notions of what it means to be American. Our values are our treasures, and the death penalty is incompatible with them.

Nevertheless, advocates of the death penalty will argue that the death penalty is firmly rooted in our legal tradition, extending to its roots in England. But just as our notions on equality and civil liberties have rightfully changed since the early days of the republic, it is time to reconsider the place of the death penalty in our criminal justice system--and whether we should, as a nation, replace the death penalty with life without parole.

Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 79

Hillary Clinton on Crime : Jan 1, 2015
Where do Bill and Hillary disagree on social issues?

Where Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton agree on Social / domestic issues
  • Both pro-death penalty
  • Both strongly pro-choice
  • Both strongly pro-affirmative action
  • Both strongly pro-ObamaCare
  • Both strongly pro-environment
  • Both strongly pro-gun control
  • Both strongly pro-voting rights
Where they disagree:Bill ClintonHillary Clinton
Three Strikes: Tough on crimeLimit mandatory sentencing
Gay marriage: Supports some gay rights Strongly supports
School prayer: No official school prayerNo religious instruction
School choice : Supports charters for allNo private nor parochial choice
Legalize marijuana : Keep war on drugsOpen to legalization
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Analysis: Bill Clinton vs. Hillary Clinton on the Issues

Andrew Cuomo on Crime : Oct 14, 2014
Death penalty is bad policy but good politics

A sense of chaos can have a profound effect on politics and what voters expect from their political leaders. America has always stressed and argued over the tensions between liberty and order, freedom and certainty. When disorder prevails, the premium becomes high for ideas that can, or seem to, promise a return to stability and safety. Against this backdrop, crime and punishment became the must-address topic for the candidates. Even though mayors have no say in capital punishment cases or law, expanding the method of execution became a hot-button topic in the race. My father believed that state-sanctioned killing appealed to our worst impulses. He said the city needed more cops, experienced judges, and an overhaul of the criminal justice system. He was right as a matter of policy, but wrong as a matter of politics.
Click for Andrew Cuomo on other issues.   Source: All Things Possible, by Andrew M. Cuomo, p. 36

Rand Paul on Crime : Jul 24, 2014
Death penalty is a state issue

Rand Paul said that the disproportionate number of minorities in the nation's prisons convinced him to push for sentencing reform and restoring voting rights to some convicted felons ahead of a possible presidential run in 2016. However, the fact that there are a disproportionate number of minorities on death row in the US has not led him to scrutinize capital punishment. He said the death penalty is a state issue: "I haven't had a lot of feedback specifically on that," Paul said in a phone interview. "I just haven't taken a position on the death penalty."

White people have accounted for more than half of all executions in the United States since 1976. Kentucky has executed three people since 1976--all white males--but none since 2008. The state's death penalty has been on hold since 2010 pending the outcome of a state lawsuit.

Paul said he did not know if the death penalty is an important issue to minority voters, whom he has been courting in recent months.

Click for Rand Paul on other issues.   Source: Washington Times 2014 coverage of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Rick Perry on Crime : May 4, 2014
Death penalty is appropriate for those who kill cops or kids

Q: You've got 273 people on death row in Texas. After what happened in Oklahoma [a botched execution where the lethal injection failed], do you expect more challenges?

GOV. RICK PERRY: Well, state by state those decisions are made about how you're going to punish those who commit the most heinous crimes against your citizens. And in Texas, for a substantially long period of time, our citizens have decided that if you kill our children, if you kill our police officers, for those very heinous crimes, that the appropriate punishment is the death penalty. I think we have an appropriate process in place, from the standpoint of the appeals process, to make sure that due process is addressed. And the process of the actual execution I would suggest to you is very different from Oklahoma. We only use one drug. But I'm confident that the way that the executions are taken care of in the state of Texas are appropriate.

Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Rick Perry on Crime : May 4, 2014
Don't apply one-size-fits-all to state's death penalties

Q: Was the failed execution in Oklahoma inhumane?

PERRY: I don't know whether it was inhumane or not, but it was botched.

Q: But you don't even want to see the government held responsible for forcing a heart attack because they couldn't inject the proper lethal drugs?

PERRY: There is an appropriate way to deal with this. And obviously, something went terribly wrong.

Q: Is it appropriate for a pause in our national discussion and application of the death penalty, the president talking about bias, uneven application, soul-searching questions that he'd like the country to take. Do you agree with that?

PERRY: It may be appropriate for a pause in Oklahoma. But the president all too often, whether it's on health care or whether it's on education or whether it's on this issue of how states deal with the death penalty, he looks for a one-size-fits-all solution centric to Washington D.C. And I will suggest, that's one of the problems we have in this country. We're a very diverse country.

Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Mike Pence on Crime : Feb 23, 2014
I support the death penalty; justice demands it

Q: Do you see down the line in Indiana any chance that the death penalty would be removed from law?

PENCE: I don't see that prospect in the state of Indiana. I support the death penalty. I believe justice demands it in our most heinous cases. But I think what you see in high relief here is a part of the American experiment that explains a lot of the prosperity and success our nation has had for more than two centuries and that is to allow states to have the freedom and flexibility to craft policies, whether it be in the area of criminal justice or whether be in the area of economic policy, in the area of education, in the area of health care, I would argue that will allow the states to be those laboratories of innovation and to reflect the values and the ideals -

Click for Mike Pence on other issues.   Source: 2014 CNN "State of the Union" interview of Mike Pence

Elizabeth Warren on Crime : Jan 31, 2014
Oppose death penalty but won't fight it for Marathon Bomber

Massachusetts Democrats, who also personally oppose the death penalty, straggled into line behind Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to seek the death penalty against the so-called Marathon bomber because of the targeting of an iconic event; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Senator Elizabeth Warren said she is against the death penalty but respects Holder's decision. Senator Ed Markey said he is against the death penalty, except "in the case of terrorism." Martha Coakley, Marty Walsh, Juliette Kayyem, and Don Berwick similarly hedged.

There's a Democrat in the White House, and Massachusetts Democrats don't want to cross him or his AG. There's also the posturing aspect of Holder's decision: seeking the death penalty increases the government's leverage to get a guilty verdict in return for life without parole. And to Massachusetts politicians, "Boston Strong" has come to mean looking tough to the nation on terrorism, not "squishy on crime."

Click for Elizabeth Warren on other issues.   Source: Joan Vennochi OpEd in Boston Globe

Martin O`Malley on Crime : Jan 23, 2014
Repealed death penalty; reduced prison incarceration

Today, with courageous law enforcement officers, we have now reduced violent crime to 30 year lows. With our first responders, shock trauma doctors and nurses, traffic deaths have been reduced now to the lowest levels in decades.

We enacted common sense measures to reduce gun violence. We repealed the death penalty and replaced it with life without the possibility of parole. And there are now fewer people incarcerated in Maryland's prisons today than at any time since 1994.

Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: 2014 State of the State Address to Maryland legislature

Rand Paul on Technology : Jan 11, 2014
Snowden revealed NSA abuses, but a fair prison term is ok

Q: Is clemency for Edward Snowden [who leaked NSA files] off the table?

I don't think we can't selectively apply the law. Edward Snowden did break a law and there is a prison sentence for that. I don't think Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that's inappropriate. And I think that's why he fled, because that's what he faced. Do I think that it's OK to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives? I don't think that's OK, either. But I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal.

So no clemency for Edward Snowden, but perhaps leniency?

PAUL: Well, I think the only way he's coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence. I think, really, in the end, history is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community.

Click for Rand Paul on other issues.   Source: ABC This Week 2014 series of 2016 presidential hopefuls

Martin O`Malley on Crime : May 2, 2013
Repeal the death penalty: it does not work

To govern is to choose. In Maryland, we understand the things that actually work to reduce violent crime: more effective policing, better technology, and smarter strategies. Entrepreneurial, collaborative, relentlessly interactive strategies: Strategies like establishing the Maryland Center for School Safety. Strategies that have enabled us to drive down violent crime and homicide in our State to three decade lows.

We also have a moral responsibility to stop doing the things that are wasteful, and that are expensive, and that do not work. Therefore, we are signing into law today a repeal on the death penalty in Maryland.

Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: 2013 Gubernatorial press release: Death Penalty Repeal

Jill Stein on Crime : Nov 1, 2012
Judicial system makes mistakes & kills innocent people

Q: Do you support capital punishment for certain crimes?

A: No. America's experience shows that capital punishment does not effectively stop crimes from being committed. And our judicial system makes mistakes, killing people who are innocent. It's time to move beyond capital punishment, to abolish it, and to instead use life imprisonment as the most severe form of sentencing for those who cannot be trusted to live in common society.

Click for Jill Stein on other issues.   Source: Presidential Election 2012 PVS Political Courage Test

Jill Stein on Crime : Nov 1, 2012
Stop dumping resources into the prison-industrial complex

Click for Jill Stein on other issues.   Source: Presidential 2012 PVS Political Courage Test

Roseanne Barr on Crime : Sep 24, 2012
Opposes death penalty

Q: Do you support or oppose the statement, "Death Penalty"?

Q: Oppose

Click for Roseanne Barr on other issues.   Source: Email interview on presidential race with

Barack Obama on Crime : Aug 27, 2012
FactCheck:Biden more conservative than Obama on crime issues

Vice President Biden does not agree with President Obama on all issues--their differences are especially stark on crime and punishment issues. Biden supports the death penalty while Obama opposes it; Biden supports the War on Drugs while Obama opposes that too. You can read about all of their differences (and their agreements) in side-by-side form our summary of our book:
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Paperback: Obama-Biden vs. Romney-Ryan On The Issues

Gary Johnson on Crime : Aug 1, 2012
DNA evidence shows many people are mistakenly convicted

When I was younger, I supported capital punishment. I changed my mind because I recognized that the risks and costs associated with the death penalty are too high.

I understand the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality but, realistically public policy should have room for mistakes. Killing one innocent person who was wrongly accused is not worth executing 99 guilty people. DNA evidence and judicial appeals have shown many people are mistakenly convicted.

The death penalty is flawed public policy and its consequences are irreversible. Plus, the financial cost of capital punishment (mostly legal fees) is several times greater for taxpayers than keeping someone in prison for life.

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: Seven Principles, by Gary Johnson, p. 70-71

Rand Paul on Homeland Security : Jun 12, 2012
Drones have executed people wrongfully, like death penalty

Q: Do you have concerns about the use of military drones?

PAUL: I am concerned about one person deciding the life or death of not only foreigners but US citizens around the world. And the chance that one person could make a mistake is a possibility. So having the president decide who he's going to kill concerns me. I would rather it go through the FISA court. They make the decision over weeks and months. They target people and go after them. I see no reason why there couldn't be some sort of court preceding, even a secret court preceding, to allow some protection. I mean, even in the US where we have the best due process probably in the world, we have probably executed people wrongfully for the death penalty. They have found out through DNA testing, many people on death row are there inaccurately. So I think when we decide to kill someone, that's obviously the ultimate punishment. We need to be very, very certain that what we're doing is not in error.

Click for Rand Paul on other issues.   Source: CNN security blog interview: 2016 presidential hopefuls

Mitt Romney on Crime : Mar 2, 2012
Romney side-by-side against Gingrich, Paul & Santorum

Q: Is there any issue where Romney differs from all three other GOP frontrunners?

A: Yes, on gun control--Mitt is the odd man out from Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum calling for Second Amendment rights. Mitt does toe the conservative line on most crime issues, including capital punishment and mandatory sentencing--and on "Three Strikes", he's more of a hard-line conservative than Gingrich and Santorum! See the details on crime, gun control, and numerous other related issues in a side-by-side comparison:

Romney/Paul/Santorum/Gingrich side-by-side on Domestic Issues

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Paperback: Romney/Paul/Santorum/Gingrich side-by-side

Gary Johnson on Crime : Jan 18, 2012
1994: Proponent of death penalty, but willing to debate it

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: 2012 presidential campaign website,

Gary Johnson on Crime : Jan 18, 2012
Death penalty as a public policy is flawed

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: 2012 presidential campaign website,

Mitt Romney on Crime : Jan 17, 2012
2002: Supported death penalty although it was long abolished

In an echo of his 1994 platform, Romney positioned himself as an agent of change, vowing to "clean up the mess on Beacon Hill," the seat of state government. And there was plenty to clean up: government was still rife with patronage and waste.

Romney debuted a sophisticated "microtargeting" program to drill deep into voter behavior, seeking to identify supporters through their coting history and other personal information. He pitched himself squarely to independents, who made up half the Massachusetts electorate. Unlike O'Brien, he supported the death penalty, which had long been abolished, and an initiative petition on that year's ballot to replace bilingual education with English immersion.

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: The Real Romney, by Kranish & Helman, p.232

Jill Stein on Crime : Dec 21, 2011
Death penalty is ineffective, and also barbaric

Q: What about capital punishment?

A: It's barbaric. It's outlawed internationally in all but a few extremely repressive countries like Iran, China, and not many others. It's shameful that it continues to be performed. It's well established that mistakes are made--yet half of our states practice pre-meditated state-sponsored murder. It's also known that it's not effective. So why is it done? Revenge & retribution? That's not what our justice system is supposed to be about. It's not an effective deterrent.

Click for Jill Stein on other issues.   Source: 2011 OnTheIssues interview with Jill Stein

Jill Stein on Crime : Dec 21, 2011
Mandatory sentencing: ineffective & racially discriminatory

Q: What's your view on mandatory sentencing?

A: This has caused an explosion of our prison population, most of which are there for non-violent drug offenses. Mandatory sentencing has not been effective as a deterrent to crime. We can't afford it. The prison-industrial complex is making out like bandits, while very discriminatory injustice prevails. Vast number of African-American and Latinos are being locked up for minimal crimes. Lives and communities are being destroyed.

Click for Jill Stein on other issues.   Source: 2011 OnTheIssues interview with Jill Stein

Gary Johnson on Crime : Aug 21, 2011
Don't risk putting innocent to death

Q: You oppose the death penalty. Why?

A: As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit na‹ve 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.

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: Interview by Scott Holleran on blog

Rick Santorum on Abortion : Aug 11, 2011
No abortions even in cases of rape; one violence is enough

Q: In June, you said, "I believe that any doctor who performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so." You would allow no exceptions for cases of rape and incest?

SANTORUM: You know, the US Supreme Court on a recent case said that a man who committed rape could not be killed, could not be subject to the death penalty, yet the child conceived as a result of that rape could be. That to me sounds like a country that doesn't have its morals correct. That child did nothing wrong. That child is an innocent victim. To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing. It is an innocent human life. It is genetically human from the moment of conception. And it is a human life. And we in America should be big enough to try to surround ourselves and help women in those terrible situations who've been traumatized already. To put them through another trauma of an abortion I think is too much to ask. And so I would absolutely stand and say that one violence is enough.

Click for Rick Santorum on other issues.   Source: Iowa Straw Poll 2011 GOP debate in Ames Iowa

Rick Perry on Crime : Nov 15, 2010
Death penalty for aggravated rape

The people are forced to check their view of what should be an appropriate punishment with the Supreme Court case of "Kennedy v. Louisiana", which involved a sentence of death for a man convicted of rape. This case demonstrates just how out of touch with America the Court truly is.

Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death not just for rape, but for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The little girl suffered massive trauma to her genital area. The injuries were so severe that she required emergency invasive surgery to attempt to repair the damage.

Kennedy refused a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table. He was then convicted under a 1995 statute that provided for the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a child under 12.

A jury of his peers sentenced him to death, and Kennedy appealed to the Supreme Court. Texas supported Louisiana. The Court ruled the law unconstitutional, citing the prohibition in the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source: Fed Up!, by Gov. Rick Perry, p. 99-100

Bobby Jindal on Crime : Nov 15, 2010
Death penalty for violent child rape

I support the use of the death penalty in instances of violent child rape. What? The death penalty for a crime other than first degree murder? Yep, you heard me right. In Louisiana we had a law stipulating that if you violently rape a child under the age of twelve, you might face the death penalty. It was applied in a case in Harvey, Louisiana, a few years ago involving an eight-year-old girl who was violently raped by her stepfather. The case is too awful to describe here, but the girl suffered serious internal injuries and immense psychological trauma. As the prosecutor in the case rightfully put it, child rape is in some ways worse than homicide. The defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death. The decision was upheld in the appeals process, but in June 2008 the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision.
Click for Bobby Jindal on other issues.   Source: Leadership and Crisis, by Bobby Jindal, p.226-227

John Bolton on Crime : May 18, 2010
Vigorous democratic debate about death penalty is healthy

In the US, at the national and state levels, we have a vigorous democratic debate over the death penalty, sometimes expanding it and sometimes contracting it. In every case, though, we do it after free and open debate. That, however, is not good enough for death-penalty opponents, who can't get what they want in the US. They too have gone international, using the UN's "human rights" bodies to repeatedly condemn the death penalty. In effect, death-penalty opponents are trying to mobilize international public opinion against the prevailing majority view within the US.
Click for John Bolton on other issues.   Source: Obama is Endangering our Sovereignty, by John Bolton, p. 40

Jesse Ventura on Drugs : Mar 8, 2010
Banks & prison-industrial complex gets rich on the drug war

Federal law still considers marijuana a dangerous illegal drug, although 14 states have now enacted laws allowing for some use for medical purposes.

Let me cite a few statistics that I find mind-boggling. According to NORML, an advocacy group for legalizing marijuana, more than 700,000 of America's estimated 20 million pot-smokers got arrested in 2008. About HALF of the 200,000 inmates in our federal prisons are in there for drug-related offenses. Between 1970 and 2007, we saw a 547% increase in our prison population, mainly because of our drug policies. Of course, that's just fine with the new prison-industrial complex, where corporations are now running the show. We as taxpayers shell out $68 billion every year for prisons, & a lot of that end up going into private contractors' pockets!

Of course, they're not the only ones getting rich. Well-documented federal reports lead to the conclusion that American banks are "collectively the world's largest financial beneficiary of the drug trade."

Click for Jesse Ventura on other issues.   Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p.114

Bobby Jindal on Crime : Jun 29, 2008
Capital punishment for rape as well as murder

This week a couple of very important rulings show how important judicial appointments can be, both 5-4 rulings, one that impacted Louisiana directly, struck down our law that allows Louisiana to put to death those monsters that rape our children.

What was very disturbing to me --I disagreed with the court’s ruling, both because they said that the punishment was not proportional to the crime --it certainly seems to me that, if the state’s going to put to death any criminals, other than those that commit murder, certainly should be putting to death those that molest, that rape, that attack our children. Certainly the juries should have that option.

But what was really disturbing to me was part of the rationale of the ruling. The court said that it sensed emerging national consensus. It sounded to many that it looked like the court was taking opinion polls rather than reading the Constitution and interpreting the law.

Click for Bobby Jindal on other issues.   Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer

Jesse Ventura on Crime : Apr 1, 2008
Opposes death penalty because DNA proves too many mistakes

Given how many convicts awaiting capital punishment have been cleared because of DNA evidence, I no longer support the death penalty. Minnesota doesn't have this on the books, so I'm thankful for that, as governor, I never had to face the decision of whether to execute someone on death row. Again, I simply don't believe that government has the inherent right to make those kinds of choices.
Click for Jesse Ventura on other issues.   Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p.187

Hillary Clinton on Homeland Security : Mar 25, 2008
Long-held pro-defense spending stance; not a move to center

As long as she has been in public life, Clinton has held many positions that are ordinarily associated with Republicans, supporting the death penalty, numerous free-trade agreements, and high defense spending, to name a few. She was also a strong and early supporter of the Iraq war (though she became a critic as the war dragged on). Yet these positions are not only not taken as evidence that she is in fact a centrist, they are used as evidence of insincere political calculation. She has often been characterized as MOVING to the center in preparation for a presidential run, even when her position on the issue in question has remained unchanged.

For Clinton, long-held positions, like a hawkish approach to military affairs, are taken as evidence of a shift. And the prevailing assumption is that when she breaks with some in her party (or even when she sticks with her party) it is for crass political purposes and not an outgrowth of genuine conviction.

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.134-135

Hillary Clinton on Crime : Jan 1, 2008
Longtime advocate of death penalty, with restrictions

Clinton has been a longtime advocate of the death penalty. Clinton cosponsored the Innocence Protection Act of 2003 which became law in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act. The bill provides funding for post-conviction DNA testing and establishes a DNA testing process for individuals sentenced to the death penalty under federal law. As first lady, she lobbied for President Clinton’s crime bill, which expanded the list of crimes subject to the federal death penalty.
Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: Pew Forum on Religion and Politics 2008

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Dec 16, 2007
Carried out death penalty more than any other AR governor

Q: Is it true that during your ten-plus years of governor of Arkansas, you oversaw 1,033 pardons and commutations of prisoners, including 12 murders?

A: I actually carried out the death penalty 16 times more than any governor in my state’s history, and the crime rate in my state went down. If you look at the background of some of these, it meant that people who are 40 years old who had done a joyride or written a hot check when they were 18 had never been to prison. This wasn’t like I stood there with a key at the prison door and let people out. Background checks kept them from even so much as getting a job emptying the bedpans in a nursing home. And often the pardons were in order to let them get in the work force.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer

Mike Huckabee on Principles & Values : Nov 28, 2007
Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office

Q: The death penalty, what would Jesus do?

A: I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes are beyond any capacity for us to fix.

Q: But what would Jesus do?

A: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office. That’s what Jesus would do.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP YouTube debate in St. Petersburg, Florida

Joe Biden on Crime : Nov 11, 2007
Biden Law of 1994 created several new capital offenses

Biden is credited for authoring several significant pieces of legislation in the area of federal law enforcement, including The Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act of 1994, widely known as the Biden Law, which:The law was passed shortly before the Oklahoma City bombing, and its provisions were applied to execute Timothy McVeigh. The legislation received bipartisan support, but was reviled by death penalty opponents and civil libertarians. Some believe it broke ground for the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.
Click for Joe Biden on other issues.   Source: The Contenders, by Laura Flanders, p.179

Barack Obama on Crime : Oct 30, 2007
No extra penalty for gang association

Most people like the idea of a politician who votes for individual rights, but the fact that Obama could do so and still maintain the respect of law enforcement shows his political skills. Obama voted against a proposal to criminalize contact with a gang for any convicts on probation or out on bail. In 2001, Obama opposed making gang activity eligible for the death penalty. “There’s a strong overlap between gang affiliation and young men of color.... I think it’s problematic for them to be singled out as more likely to receive the death penalty for carrying out certain acts than are others who do the same thing.“ In 1999, Obama opposed mandatory adult prosecution for youth who discharge a firearm nea a school, declaring, ”There is really no proof or indication that automatic transfers and increased penalties and adult penalties for juvenile offenses have, in fact, proven to be more effective in reducing juvenile crime or cutting back on recidivism.“
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p.146

Mitt Romney on Principles & Values : Oct 21, 2007
Proud of his accomplishments in fighting the Liberal Lion

Q: [to Romney]: Sen. McCain suggests that you’re conning people--he has used that phrase--with your conversions on a number of issues.

ROMNEY: When I ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, that was a big uphill climb. But let me tell you, I was fighting for issues like making sure that we would have the death penalty in our state, fighting to keep our taxes down. I was fighting against the Liberal Lion in perhaps the toughest state in America. And I’m pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish in that race, but nothing compares to the pride I have with the work that I was able to do as a governor.

McCAIN: Gov. Romney, you’ve been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine. I stand on my record as a conservative, and I don’t think you can fool the American people. They may not agree with me on a couple of issues, but they’ll know I’m telling the truth, and my steadfast positions on these issues for more than 20 years.

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Sep 27, 2007
Death penalty is necessary part of criminal justice system

Q: Do you think the death penalty is carried out justly in the US? And do you want to see it continued?

A: I probably dislike the death penalty more than anybody on this stage, but for a very different reason. I’ve actually had to carry it out, more than any governor in my state’s history. I had to carry out the death penalty because that was my job. I did it because I believed, after reading every page of every transcript and everything in that file, it was the only conclusion we could come to. But I didn’t enjoy it. And God help the American who somehow has this cavalier attitude about the death penalty and says they support it and they can do it. Let me tell you something from the person whose name had to be put on the document that started the process: It’s a necessary part of our criminal justice system for those crimes for which there is no other alternative. But God help the person who ever does it without a conscience and feels the pain of it.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP Presidential Forum at Morgan State University

Hillary Clinton on Principles & Values : Jul 18, 2007
Sought pastoral guidance on doubts about capital punishment

Hillary consulted her pastor, Don Jones, when she found herself grappling with the issue of capital punishment. Hillary had long had spiritual doubts about the Christianity behind supporting such a policy.

The topic had long provided Bill with a good issue to help position himself a moderate. Jones discussed this issue with Hillary when Gov. Clinton was once considering whether to commute a capital sentence. Hillary “agonized” over the decision, and consulted Jones. Jones told her, “I believe there is such a thing as punitive justice; that’s part of the whole concept of justice. And I think some people have forfeited their right to life because of the heinous deed that they’ve committed.” In response, says Jones, Hillary told him, “Well, I think I agree with you.”

However, says Jones, it was evident that Hillary “was struggling with the question of could she conscientiously as a Christian say that. There was uncertainty. I attribute that to her faith.”

Click for Hillary Clinton on other issues.   Source: God and Hillary Clinton, by Paul Kengor, p. 81-82

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jun 1, 2007
Defends death penalty biblically as well as politically

The night of an execution is the loneliest night of a governor’s life though I had always favored the death penalty. The warden [in my first capital case as Governor called me and] said, “Governor, the prisoner is now prepared. Is there any reason we should not proceed?” What came out of my mouth in the next few moments would mean either the life or death of a man. I alone had the power to stop the proceedings.

I authorized other executions after that one, but it never became easier. If it had, there would have been something wrong with me or the process. To this day I am confident that I did the right thing--“right” defined against moral absolutes in the midst of an imperfect world.

In an ideal world, this man would have never committed the horrible murders for which he was tried and found guilty and sentenced to die. The process was tedious and thorough. Nevertheless, the moment a governor gives the order to proceed, he is answering to God for his action and not to the taxpayer.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: Character Makes a Difference, by Mike Huckabee, p.120-121

Mitt Romney on Education : May 15, 2007
Supports English immersion & abstinence education

In the toughest of blue states I’ve had to stand up for life, and I have. I’ve had to stand up for traditional marriage, and I have. I stood to make sure that we could have English immersion in our schools, because I think kids should be taught in English. I fought for the death penalty. I fought for abstinence education. I have the kind of leadership that will allow America to build upon the same kind of reputation and heritage that we got from our conservative founders in this party.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina

Jeb Bush on Crime : Feb 15, 2007
Called special legislative session for death penalty law

When he miscalculated on how many votes were necessary to rewrite rules for the court system in the death penalty special session, he turned to the Republican Party's stable of rich donors to send private [police] out to retrieve missing GOP legislators. One was dragged away from a pregnant wife on the brink of childbirth, another from his sister's funeral.

The reaction to this style of leadership varied, and was not always predictable.

To many, even in the much-reviled press, Jeb was a breath of fresh air. He said what he was going to do, and then he did it, without the mealymouthed games that are so common among elected officials.

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.131

Barack Obama on Crime : Feb 10, 2007
Reformed death penalty by listening & compromising

I arrived in this capital city as a state Senator. It was here, in Springfield, where I saw all that is America converge--farmers and teachers, businessmen and laborers, all of them with a story to tell, all of them seeking a seat at the table, all of them clamoring to be heard. I made lasting friendships here--friends that I see in the audience today.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable--that it’s possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

That’s why we were able to reform a death penalty system that was broken. That’s why we were able to give health insurance to children in need. That’s why we made the tax system more fair and just for working families, and that’s why we passed ethics reforms that the cynics said could never, ever be passed.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Speech in Springfield, in Change We Can Believe In, p.194-5

Mike Huckabee on Abortion : Jan 4, 2007
Pro-life and pro-death penalty, & sees them as far different

Some wonder how a person so pro-life as me could accept the law of a death penalty. But a death sentence is a result of a lengthy and thorough judicial process applied to a person deemed guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s far different from one person singularly deciding to end the life of a totally innocent and helpless unborn child. In that case, there is no process of justice, no evidence of guilt presented, no defense for the condemned child, and no appeal.
Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 86

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jan 4, 2007
Supports death penalty, but only reluctantly

Whether we should even have a death penalty is a tough issue. I believe some crimes deserve it, but that does not mean I like it. I do believe it should be an option, but carrying out the death penalty was unquestionably the worst part of my job as governor. 17 times I sat by a phone with an open line to the death chamber, and gave the verbal order for the lethal injection. I never slept well those nights. I did the job that the law prescribed for me to do, but I hated every minute of it.
Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 86

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jan 4, 2007
Commuted death penalty sentence due to problems at trial

The death penalty is the only decision that I make as a governor that is totally irrevocable. Once an execution is carried out, a life has ended.

I kept a box of files near by desk to review them in the days prior to the execution. One unsettling part of the evidence [in the Fretwell case] were interviews conducted with Fretwell & his brother. The description of their family life revealed a childhood of abuse, humiliation & degradation. I was moved to tears, but that did not alter the crime.

However, a juror said he had been told that if Fretwell was found guilty, he would get life in prison without parole and that was the reason he voted for a guilty verdict. The problem I then faced was that I was unwilling to be a man who had ignored late evidence in a death penalty case to avoid the complications that come with clemency. If the justice system would not work for the “least of these among us,” then neither would it work for me or anyone else. I commuted the sentence to life in prison.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 83

Sarah Palin on Crime : Nov 7, 2006
If legislature passed death penalty law, I would sign it

I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again.
Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: 2006 Gubernatorial website,, “Issues”

Sarah Palin on Crime : Nov 3, 2006
Strong public safety presence, via police, courts & prisons

PUBLIC SAFETY: I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again.
Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: Palin-Parnell campaign booklet: New Energy for Alaska

Marco Rubio on Crime : Nov 1, 2006
Endless death row appeals hinder justice

Problem: Endless appeals by convicted felons postpone a sense of finality and erode public confidence in the judicial system. Even in the simplest of criminal cases, post-conviction litigation frequently continues for a minimum of 3 years. In death penalty cases the post-conviction process averages 12 years, but in some cases it has consumed up to 20 years before a warrant is signed. With over 370 inmates on death row in Florida, delays of this nature hinder justice for the victims and erode public confidence in Florida's criminal justice system. Very few inmates receive actual relief from the current cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive process.

Solution: Streamline the appeals process in criminal cases. Florida should create a new, more efficient, less expensive process for reviewing criminal cases that instills more public confidence in the criminal justice system. This could be accomplished by limiting the time convicted felons have to appeal their sentences.

Click for Marco Rubio on other issues.   Source: 100 Innovative Ideas, by Marco Rubio, p. 74-75

Sarah Palin on Crime : Oct 22, 2006
Death penalty for adults who murder children

Q: Would you introduce--or, if introduced by a legislator, would you support--a bill to adopt the death penalty in Alaska? If yes, which crimes should it apply to?

A: If the Legislature were to pass a bill that established a death penalty on adults who murder children, I would sign it.

Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: Anchorage Daily News: 2006 gubernatorial candidate profile

Barack Obama on Crime : Oct 1, 2006
Some heinous crimes justify the ultimate punishment

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 that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment. On the other hand, the way capital cases were tried in Illinois at the time was so rife with error, questionable police tactics, racial bias, and shoddy lawyering, that 13 death row inmates had been exonerated
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 58

Barack Obama on Crime : Oct 1, 2006
Videotape all capital punishment interrogations

In the Illinois Senate, I sponsored a bill to require videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases [after the] governor had instituted a moratorium on al executions.

In negotiating the bill, I talked about the common value that I believed everyone shared--that no innocent person should end up on death row, abd that no person guilty of a capital offense should go free. At the end of the process, the bill had the support of all the parties involved, and it passed unanimously.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama, p. 57-59

Paul Ryan on Crime : Jan 21, 2006
Death penalty only for lethal crimes against minors

Click for Paul Ryan on other issues.   Source: Library of Congress bill sponsorship records

Mike Bloomberg on Crime : Dec 5, 2005
Lock them up and throw away key, but no death penalty

On November 29, 2005, Mayor Bloomberg was asked about his views of the death penalty in the aftermath of the recent murder of an NYPD police officer. Mayor Bloomberg said, “I’d rather lock somebody up and throw away the key and put them in hard labor, the ultimate penalty that the law will allow, but I’m opposed to the death penalty.” Mayor Bloomberg has been steadfast in his opposition to the death penalty, speaking out against it many times in the past.
Click for Mike Bloomberg on other issues.   Source: New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty website

Tim Kaine on Crime : Nov 8, 2005
Moratorium on the death penalty until it is fair

I support a moratorium on the death penalty. The history of the death penalty in Virginia is rife with examples of people being imprisoned for years, who were innocent.

As an example, for many years, rape was a capital crime in Virginia. But when the history of execution of rape was analyzed, it became clear that rape was only a capital crime if you were African-American. That was wrong.

[As another example], most people who are on death row are poor and cannot afford their own attorneys.

Until such a time that the death penalty works fairly and doesn’t single people out by race or because of income or other invidious characteristics, there should be a moratorium on the death penalty in Virginia

Click for Tim Kaine on other issues.   Source: Opposition audio clip,

Brian Schweitzer on Crime : Nov 1, 2004
Supports the death penalty

Q: What are your views on the death penalty?

A: I support the death penalty.

Click for Brian Schweitzer on other issues.   Source: 2004 Montana Gubernatorial National Political Awareness Test

Barack Obama on Abortion : Oct 21, 2004
Moral accusations from pro-lifers are counterproductive

Q: [to Keyes]: Doesn’t your pro-life stance conflict with your support of the death penalty?

KEYES: It doesn’t conflict at all. Abortion and capital punishment are at different level of moral concern. Abortion is intrinsically, objectively wrong and sinful whereas capital punishment is a matter of judgment, which is not in and of itself a violation of moral right. The question of whether or not you should apply capital punishment depends on circumstances and it’s an area where Catholics have a right to debate and disagree.

OBAMA: Now I agree with Mr. Keyes that the death penalty and abortion are separate cases. It’s unfortunate that with the death penalty Mr. Keyes respects that people may have a different point of view but with the issue of abortion he has labeled people everything as terrorists to slaveholders to being consistent with Nazism for holding an opposing point of view. That kind of rhetoric is not helpful in resolving a deeply emotional subject.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes

Barack Obama on Crime : Oct 21, 2004
Death penalty should be enforced fairly and with caution

Q: [to Keyes]: Doesn’t your pro-life stance conflict with your support of the death penalty?

KEYES: It doesn’t conflict at all. Abortion and capital punishment are at different level of moral concern. Abortion is intrinsically, objectively wrong and sinful whereas capital punishment is a matter of judgment.

OBAMA: I think that the death penalty is appropriate in certain circumstances. There are especially heinous crimes: terrorism, the harm of children. Obviously, we’ve had some problems in this state in the application of the death penalty. That’s why a moratorium was put in place and that’s why I was so proud to be one of the leaders in overhauling a death penalty system that was broken. We became the first in the nation requiring the video taping of capital interrogations and confessions. We have to have this ultimate sanction in certain circumstances where the whole community says “this is beyond the pale.”

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes

Barack Obama on Crime : Oct 21, 2004
Death penalty should not discriminate by gang membership

Q: On mandatory death sentences for gang members who kill cops you voted no. Would you explain?

OBAMA: [The proposed legislation] was entirely unnecessary and unconstitutional. It suggested that I could kill a police officer but because I’m not a gang member, I would be treated differently. I think both cases should be death penalty eligible.

KEYES: Senator Obama does not think it superfluous to have hate crimes legislation that adds a special animus to certain acts of violence already penalized against the law. But in order to convey against those certain acts a special category of deviation from society. The law provides a special message aimed at discouraging things considered especially harmful to a society and a community.

Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes

Barack Obama on Principles & Values : Oct 21, 2004
Seek common ground, not a moral crusade

I came to Chicago 20 years ago to help communities that had been damaged by steel plants that had closed. I’ve worked 20 years to bring jobs to the unemployed. After law school, I worked as a civil rights attorney, helping to bring affordable housing and for the last 8 years I’ve worked as a state Senator. I’ve provided tax relief to those who needed it, health care to those who didn’t have it and helped to reform a death penalty system badly in need of repair. I accomplished these things by setting partisanship aside and seeking common ground. That’s what you, the people of Illinois have told me you want, someone who can reach out and find practical solutions. Now my opponent has a different track record. He is on a moral crusade and labels those who disagree with him as sinners. I don’t think that kind of talk is helpful. I think government works best when we focus on practical solutions for affordable health care and jobs, and working together, I’m certain we can accomplish all of these tasks.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes

Barack Obama on Crime : Jul 15, 2004
Battles legislatively against the death penalty

Obama’s most significant contribution has been his legislative battles against the death penalty, and against in the criminal justice system. In Illinois, it’s been a series of shocking exonerations of innocent people who are on death row. He was involved very intimately in drafting and passing legislation that requires the video taping of police interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. And he also was one of the co-sponsors of this very comprehensive reform or the death penalty system in Illinois, which many people say may trigger the retreat on the death penalty in many other states.
Click for Barack Obama on other issues.   Source: Salim Muwakkil and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

Condoleezza Rice on Homeland Security : Jul 11, 2003
Follow Geneva Convention; but no anti-death penalty promise

Q: A big issue that’s come up at the moment in Britain is relations between U.S. and U.K. over the British citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. The British government wants reassurances that they will not be facing the death penalty. Can you tell us anything about negotiations?

A: This is being worked out between the U.S. government and the British government. Britain is a friend, and so we’re going to be open and transparent with Britain about what’s going on here. I think we have to remember, these people were picked up for terrorism and so that has to be kept in mind. But both the treatment of them, which is in accordance with the standards of the Geneva Convention, and also the very careful process that the military commission sets up to try to deal with, and balance the concerns of national security with due process, those are being discussed with the British government and I’m sure will be fine.

Click for Condoleezza Rice on other issues.   Source: Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer aboard Air Force One

Mitt Romney on Crime : Sep 17, 2002
Supports death penalty in heinous murders

Romney pushes for a death penalty law for murderers convicted of heinous first-degree homicides. “The ultimate penalty should be available in Massachusetts for criminals who commit the most egregious murders,” Romney said.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Campaign web site,, “Issues”

Mitt Romney on Crime : Mar 21, 2002
Favored mandatory sentencing and three strikes

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Boston Globe review of 1994 campaign issues

Ajamu Baraka on Crime : Oct 19, 2001
Worked to abolish death penalty as human rights activist

Ajamu Baraka, a human rights activist who has worked to abolish the death penalty for 15 years, will receive the Abolitionist of the Year Award this weekend from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Baraka directed AIUSA's [Amnesty International] National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty over the past 12 months, at a time when intense international attention was focused on capital punishment in the United States. Baraka is now the Director of AIUSA's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.

"We are honoring Ajamu for his longtime service and remarkable dedication to the abolition of the death penalty," said the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's Executive Director. "As Southern Regional Director of Amnesty International, Ajamu has traveled extensively throughout the South, highlighting not just the death penalty cases that receive tremendous media attention, but each and every case, regardless of the level of publicity."

Click for Ajamu Baraka on other issues.   Source:, "Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty"

Ajamu Baraka on Crime : Oct 19, 2001
Abolition follows examining death penalty in a moral context

Baraka noted that tremendous progress has been made in the past two years toward educating the public about the cycle of violence perpetuated by the death penalty. He is optimistic about building on that progress.

"We have an abolition unity plan among organizations at the national level, growing doubt about the death penalty system, significant momentum with the moratorium in Illinois, and a lot more scrutiny of the system as a reward for our hard work," Baraka said. "As the public continues to examine the death penalty in a moral context, I believe that support for abolition of the death penalty will grow." He emphasized that this award is for all of the people who have worked to abolish the death penalty in the United States. Baraka calls on activists "to stay the course and victory will follow."

Click for Ajamu Baraka on other issues.   Source:, "Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty"

Rick Perry on Crime : Jan 25, 2001
Supports DNA testing; standards for capital defenders

    Governor Rick Perry?s proposals about capital punishment:
  1. Proposed DNA testing for cases where it can shed light on a person?s guilt or innocence. Pledged financial assistance to local police and medical examiners in this regard.
  2. Improve the quality of defense counsel for trials. Statewide standards for selecting defense lawyers, including a minimum level of experience in handling criminal felony trials.
  3. Give juries the option of sentencing capital defendants to prison for the rest of their lives, without parole, rather than executing them.
Governor Perry?s proposals recognize that Texas desperately needs to introduce rationality and fairness to a system that is out of control, and which has a high risk of executing innocent people.
Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source:, Op-Ed

Donald Trump on Crime : Jul 2, 2000
Capital punishment isn’t uncivilized; murderers living is

Civilized people don’t put up with barbaric behavior. Would it have been civilized to put Hitler in prison? No-it would have been an affront to civilization. The same is true of criminals who prey on innocent people. They have declared war on civilization. I don’t care if the victim is a CEO or a floor sweeper. A life is a life, and if you criminally take an innocent life you’d better be prepared to forfeit your own. My only complaint is that lethal injection is too comfortable a way to go
Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p.102-3

Donald Trump on Crime : Jul 2, 2000
Death penalty deters like violent TV leads kids astray

I can’t believe that executing criminals doesn’t have a deterrent effect. To point out the extreme, 100% of the people who are executed never commit another crime. And it seems self-evident (we can’t put numbers to this) that a lot of people who might otherwise commit a capital crime are convinced not to because they know there’s a chance they could die for it.

Young male murderers, we are constantly told, are led astray by violent music and violent movies. Fair enough. I believe that people are affected by what they read, see, hear, and experience. Only a fool believes otherwise. So you can’t say on one hand that a kid is affected by music and movies and then turn around and say he is absolutely not affected when he turns on the evening news and sees that a criminal has gone to the chair for killing a child. Obviously capital punishment isn’t going to deter everyone. But how can it not put the fear of death into many would-be killers?

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: The America We Deserve, by Donald Trump, p.102-4

Jesse Ventura on Crime : Jan 1, 1999
Put up with death penalty until life sentences mean life

How come life in prison doesn’t mean life? Until it does, we’re not ready to do away with the death penalty. Stop thinking in terms of “punishment” for a minute and think in terms of safeguarding innocent people from incorrigible murderers. Americans have a right to go about their lives without worrying about these people being back out on the street. So until we can make sure they’re off the street permanently, we have to grit our teeth and put up with the death penalty. So we need to work toward making a life sentence meaningful again. If life meant life, I could, if you’ll excuse the pun, live without the death penalty.

We don’t have it here in Minnesota, thank God, and I won’t advocate to get it. But I will advocate to make life in prison mean life. I don’t think I would want the responsibility for enforcing the death penalties. There’s always the inevitable question of whether someone you gave the order to execute might truly have been innocent.

Click for Jesse Ventura on other issues.   Source: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed, p. 37

Jesse Ventura on Crime : Nov 1, 1998
Supported death penalty, but now as Governor opposes it

Federal law pre-empts state law. Although Minnesota does not have the death penalty under its laws, the sentence does exist in Minnesota under certain federal laws. Until a sentence of life in prison always actually means life in prison without possibility of parole, we can not eliminate the death penalty.

Note: After taking office, Gov. Ventura changed his mind on the death penalty. Extradition orders are frequently signed by the Governor. As he began signing these orders, Gov. Ventura began to think about how he could just as easily be signing orders to commute the death penalty. Then he noted how often it seems to occur that a person originally found guilty is later proven to be innocent, especially with DNA evidence. He noted that you cannot undo the mistake if an innocent person is put to death. He now opposes the death penalty. He continues to believe that a life sentence should mean that the convict will spend the rest of his or her life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Click for Jesse Ventura on other issues.   Source: 1998 campaign web site,

Newt Gingrich on Drugs : Nov 1, 1998
Increase penalties for illegal drugs

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Congressional 1998 National Political Awareness Test

Jeb Bush on Crime : Jul 2, 1998
Supports death penalty

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Sep 9, 1997
Comfortable with death penalty biblically & politically

Less than a month after I took office, I had to decide whether to sign the order for a convicted murderer to be executed. I had always favored the death penalty. I could speak about it freely, often gave speeches in favor of it, and even delivered sermons from the pulpit on the subject. I was quite comfortable defending it biblically as well as politically.

But there is a difference between abstract, hypothetical discussion and affixing your signature to set in motion the process by which a man will have his life terminated. The moment came when the warden got on the phone and said, "Governor, the prisoner is now prepared. The IV is inserted. Is there any reason we should not proceed?"

I cannot describe what that is like. I could not have prepared myself for it. I have authorized 4 other executions since that one. It hasn't become any easier. I hope and pray it never does. If it does, there is something terribly wrong with me or the process.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: Character IS the Issue, by Mike Huckabee, p.106

Bill Weld on Crime : Apr 9, 1996
Support death penalty for cop killers

Kerry attempted to give Massachusetts voters a clearer sense of what he has accomplished in his years as senator. "I'm proud I led the fight for 100,000 new police officers," Kerry said.

However, Weld had a few counter-attacks up his sleeve. He sharply criticized Kerry and cited bills that Kerry supported which may not fare well with Americans concerned about crime and the economy. "Kerry voted against the death penalty for cop killers and voted against the balanced budget three times. I hope everyone studies Senator Kerry's voting record," Weld said.

Kerry adamantly denied voting against these bills and repeatedly accused Weld of misrepresenting the facts on issues such as the gasoline tax hike and the death penalty. "Governor, I don't know who does your research--maybe its Oliver Stone," Kerry said in response to Weld's attacks. The senator severely rebuked Weld for using the death penalty as an issue in the race, calling Weld "shameless."

Click for Bill Weld on other issues.   Source: Harvard Crimson on Kerry/Weld debates

Jerry Brown on Crime : Feb 6, 1996
Death penalty is a test of our humanity

Over the centuries, there has persisted the sense of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, a belief in righteous vengeance, a primordial feeling that the killing of criminals will balance the scales of Justice. Christian denominations have accepted capital punishment, and legislation expanding the death penalty to 50 additional criminal offenses has been enacted here in the US. At the same time, Christian doctrine calls upon believers to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and in most European nations, the death penalty has been abolished.

We are faced with the question of the death penalty nearly every time we vote, either in specific crime-related measures, or by candidates promoting their stand for or against capital punishment. This question is nothing less than a test of our humanity, of how we see ourselves and others and how we define the role of the state.

Click for Jerry Brown on other issues.   Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p. 79-80

Newt Gingrich on Crime : Dec 26, 1994
No more endless appeals; make death penalty credible

Our "Contract" will make the death penalty real--no more endless appeals. Under current law, there are virtually no limits or restrictions on when prisoners can file habeas corpus appeals. For example, defendants can appeal any time there is a change in the law or a new Supreme Court ruling. Delays of up to 14 years are not uncommon, making abuse of the habeas corpus system the most significant factor in states' inability to implement credible death penalties.
Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Contract With America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 37&44

Newt Gingrich on Crime : Dec 26, 1994
Fewer appeals; more prisons; victim restitution

Our "Contract with America" calls for tough punishment for those who prey on society. For too long, Washington has refused to get tough--and even when they sound tough, there are always loopholes that favor the criminal, not the victims. Our "Contract" will make the death penalty real--no more endless appeals.

We will cut the "pork" in the recently passed crime bill in order to build real prisons, and we will require criminals to serve their sentences, not have them back on the street to terrorize again and again. And to make criminals more accountable, we will force them to pay full restitution to their victims or the victims' families.

And to those who commit felonies with guns, let us be particularly clear: We will require 10 years in jail, minimum, no exceptions.

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Contract With America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 37

Mitt Romney on Crime : Oct 24, 1994
Supports death penalty and “three strikes” sentencing

Romney’s crime platform contains little that is radical or new - pro-death penalty, tough sentencing for violent offenders, support for “three strikes,” and support for judges who are tough on crime.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Anthony Flint in Boston Globe

  • Additional quotations related to Death Penalty issues can be found under Crime.
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2016 Presidential primary contenders:
Secy.Hillary Clinton(D-NY)
Sen.Tim Kaine(D-VA,VP)
Donald Trump(R-NY)
Gov.Mike Pence(R-IN,VP)
Gov.Gary Johnson(L-NM)
Gov.Bill Weld(L-MA,VP)
Dr.Jill Stein(G-MA)
Ajamu Baraka(G-VP)
Evan McMullin(I-UT)

Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
Secy.John Kerry
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