The death penalty is dying in the United States, and surprisingly, a large number of Republicans are contributing to its demise, according to a report examining legislative attempts to end capital punishment.
The report by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a group dedicated to exposing conservative opposition to capital punishment, said lawmakers across the country are actively lobbying their colleagues to repeal such legislation.
In 2016 and 2017, “dozens of Republican lawmakers sponsored death penalty repeal bills. In fact, during these two years, Republicans constituted around a third of all sponsors of death penalty repeal bills in state legislatures,” the report said. “As these data show, death penalty repeal efforts are becoming more bipartisan in many states.”
In January 2000, then Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, imposed the nation’s first state-based moratorium on executions. “This set off a wave of increased scrutiny and institutional opposition to the death penalty,” the report said, adding that New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled legislature voted to repeal the death penalty, only to have its Democratic governor veto the measure.
Despite historical GOP support for capital punishment, “some of the biggest death sentencing drops occurred in reliably red states like Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Louisiana,” the report said.
The report also pointed out that the death penalty process has been plagued by wrongful convictions, high costs, and delays. It argued that capital punishment has proven to be ineffective and incompatible with a number of core conservative principles because sentencing a person to death has overstepped conservative commitments to limited government, fiscal responsibility, and a culture of life.
The death penalty has many flaws, according to critics, who point to the risk of executing an innocent person, arbitrariness, racial bias, high costs, a lack of evidence of its deterrent effect on crime, and the impact on executed persons’ families. Conservatives say these side effects are incompatible with their values.
The report concluded, “Conservatives from the grassroots to statehouses are taking note and leading the way toward better policies that don’t include executions.”