Topics in the News: Death Penalty

Mike Gravel on Crime : Apr 9, 2019
No one deserves to be put to death by the state

The death penalty is a relic of an earlier, more brutish time in American history. No one, no matter how terrible their crimes, deserves to be put to death by the state; just as two wrongs do not make a right, an additional death does not ease the awful burden of a victim's family members. Nor does it heal the community in any way. Moreover, the death penalty has repeatedly been shown to be extremely costly, to not infrequently kill innocent people, and to be racially biased in who is executed.
Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: 2020 Presidential campaign website

Pete Buttigieg on Crime : Mar 27, 2019
Death penalty is racist; mandatory minimums too

While discussing criminal justice reform at the National Action Network, Buttigieg said, "As we work to end mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses, here too we must be intentional about fixing disparities that have deeply unfair racial consequences. It is time to face the simple fact that capital punishment as seen in America has always been a discriminatory practice and we would be a fairer and safer country when we join the ranks of modern nations who have abolished the death penalty."
Click for Pete Buttigieg on other issues.   Source: The Hill: 2020 Democratic primary & National Action Network

Beto O`Rourke on Crime : Mar 20, 2019
Expand death penalty if police officers are attacked

But as recently as May 2017, O'Rourke broke with the majority of his Democratic House colleagues to vote for a bill that expanded the federal "list of statutory aggravating factors in death penalty determinations" to include the murder or "targeting" of a law enforcement officer, firefighter or other first responder. In effect, the bill, called The Thin Blue Line Act, proposed making it easier to execute a defendant if they attacked law enforcement.
Click for Beto O`Rourke on other issues.   Source: Huffington Post "Death Penalty" on 2020 Democratic primary

Kamala Harris on Crime : Mar 14, 2019
Federal and state moratorium on death penalty

Kamala Harris said that there should be a federal moratorium on executions. The senator from California discussed the matter on National Public Radio, a day after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California granted reprieves to 737 death row inmates and signed an executive order placing a moratorium on executions.

Harris was asked if there should be "a federal equivalent" to Newsom's order. She said, "Yes, I think that there should be."

Asked if no one would be executed if Harris was president, she responded, "Correct, correct."

As California's attorney general, Harris defended the state's use of the death penalty. But in a statement this week, she said it is "immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars." She noted that black and Latino defendants were more likely to be executed than white defendants, as were poor defendants with poor legal representation versus wealthier defendants with good legal representation.

Click for Kamala Harris on other issues.   Source: Associated Press on 2020 Democratic primary

Beto O`Rourke on Crime : Mar 14, 2019
Capital punishment is an inequitable, unfair, unjust system

The three-term congressman from El Paso was asked about a recent decision by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order halting executions for the state's 737 death row inmates. "As president, would you suspend capital punishment at the federal level?" he was asked. "I would. It's not an equitable, fair, just system right now -- the guarantees and safeguards against wrongful prosecution, the disproportionate number of people of color who comprise our criminal justice system,"
Click for Beto O`Rourke on other issues.   Source: Fox News, "Capital punishment," on 2020 Democratic primary

Kamala Harris on Crime : Mar 14, 2019
2004: no death penalty for cop killer; 2019: apply to all

Harris says, "The symbol of our justice system is a woman with a blindfold. It is supposed to treat all equally, but the application of the death penalty--a final & irreversible punishment--has been proven to be unequally applied."

As Harris launched her presidential bid, she said she was running as a "progressive prosecutor." But she has drawn scrutiny from some liberals for "tough on crime" positions she held as a California prosecutor, with her stance on the death penalty among those issues.

As a district attorney in 2004, she drew national headlines with her decision not to seek the death penalty for the killer of a San Francisco police officer. That decision, announced days after the officer's death, enraged local law enforcement officials

However, a decade later, she appealed a judge's decision declaring California's death penalty law unconstitutional. While Harris has personally opposed the death penalty, she has said that she defended the law as a matter of professional obligation.

Click for Kamala Harris on other issues.   Source: Associated Press on 2020 Democratic primary

Donald Trump on Crime : Mar 12, 2019
Keep death penalty; don't forget the victims

President Trump blasted California Gov. Gavin Newsom for halting executions for the state's 737 death row inmates. "Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!" Trump tweeted.

The tweet comes as Newsom signs an executive order that would halt all executions at San Quentin State Prison, closing a new execution chamber. Newsom's order will go against the wishes of California voters, who in 2016 backed a measure to speed up executions.

Meanwhile, Trump has been a supporter of the death penalty. In October, Trump called for the death penalty for those who kill police officers. "Reducing crime begins with respecting law enforcement," Trump said. "We believe that criminals who kill our police officers should immediately, with trial, but rapidly as possible, not 15 years later, 20 years later--get the death penalty."

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: Fox News on 2020 Presidential hopefuls

Kamala Harris on Crime : Jan 8, 2019
2010: Ran for A.G. as anti-death-penalty D.A.

[When running for A.G. in 2000], plenty of fellow Democrats had considered me a long shot. One longtime political strategist announced that there was no way I could win, because I was "a woman running for attorney general, a woman who is a minority, a woman who is a minority, who is anti-death penalty who is DA of wacky San Francisco." Old stereotypes die hard. I was convinced that my perspective and experience made me the strongest candidate in the race, but I didn't know if the voters would agree.
Click for Kamala Harris on other issues.   Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 83

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

Donald Trump on Drugs : Mar 11, 2018
Death penalty for drug dealers

Q: At a rally last night, the president made the case for the death penalty for drug dealers. Let's listen to this.

(VIDEO CLIP): TRUMP: When I was in China and other places, I said, "Mr. President, do you have a drug problem?" "No, no, no, we do not." I said, "huh, big country, 1.4 billion people, right? Not much a drug problem." I said, "What do you attribute that to?" "Well, the death penalty." So, honestly, I don't know that the United States, frankly, is ready for it. They should be ready for it.

(END VIDEO) Q: Now, the death penalty for drug dealers, is that something that you agree with? And should we be following China's lead when it comes to criminal justice?

Sen. Ron JOHNSON (R-WI): I would say we probably should not be following China's lead when it comes to criminal justice. I'm a supporter of the death penalty, but only where we absolutely are 100% certain that the person is 100% guilty. I'm not sure it would be applicable to drug offenses.

Click for Donald Trump on other issues.   Source: CNN 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls

Jay Inslee on Crime : Jan 9, 2018
End the death penalty

Let's leave a legacy that upholds the equal application of justice by passing a bill to end the death penalty in the state of Washington.
Click for Jay Inslee on other issues.   Source: 2018 Washington State of the State address

John Kasich on Crime : Sep 24, 2017
FactCheck: Catholic faith does NOT support death penalty

On "Meet the Press" on May 31, 2015, asked about religious objection to the death penalty, Kasich responded, "I think it's consistent with my Catholic faith." Is that true, that Catholic faith supports the death penalty?

No. Pope Francis, the world leader of the Catholic faith, said unambiguously in his address to the US Congress on Sept. 24, 2015, that "the golden rule reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred. Society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty."

Kasich can say he supports the death penalty, but he cannot accurately say that doing so is consistent with his Catholic faith.

Click for John Kasich on other issues.   Source: OnTheIssues Fact-Check: John Kasich on Meet the Press (2015)

Kamala Harris on Crime : Aug 10, 2017
Defied pressure for death penalty for cop killer

The first test of Harris's principles came in 2004, after she was elected as San Francisco's district attorney. Harris defied a united chorus of voices--from the city's police chief and police rank and file, to Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein--calling for the death penalty for a twenty-one-year-old who killed an undercover police officer. During the officer's funeral, 2000 officers gave Feinstein a standing ovation after she criticized Harris, who was also at the funeral.
Click for Kamala Harris on other issues.   Source: Jacobin Magazine on 2018 California Senate race

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

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

Bernie Sanders on Crime : Jul 9, 2016
End mass incarceration & reform criminal justice

[At the 2016 convention preparation], we were victorious in including amendments in the platform that made it the policy of the Democratic Party to fight for:
Click for Bernie Sanders on other issues.   Source: Where We Go From Here, by B. Sanders, p.16-7, on 2016 DNC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Gravel on Crime : Apr 22, 2008
Eliminate the federal death penalty

Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: Presidential Election 2008 Political Courage Test

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

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

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

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 Gravel on Crime : Jan 1, 2007
Citizen Power includes abolition of the death penalty

During his first term in the Senate, Gravel authored a book titled Citizen Power. In it, he advocated the implementation of numerous populist ideas, including a guaranteed annual income (dubbed the “Citizen’s Wage”), steps against the military-industrial complex (which he calls the “Warfare State”), abolition of the death penalty, universal health care, school vouchers, a drastic reduction in government secrecy, and an end to what he viewed as an imperialistic foreign policy.
Click for Mike Gravel on other issues.   Source: article, “Mike Gravel”

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

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

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

Kamala Harris on Crime : Jan 30, 2004
Personally opposed to death penalty; as DA, never pursued it

While Harris has argued that she has always been personally opposed to the death penalty, some media sources questioned whether she altered her position in the run-up to election in 2010. Though she stated in her 2004 inaugural address as San Francisco's District Attorney that she would never charge the death penalty, when asked during her campaign for attorney general if there would ever be a time when she would seek the death penalty, she answered, "We take each case on a case by case basis, and I'll make decisions on each case as they arise."

The Chris Kelly campaign, in an effort to emphasize the San Francisco DA's refusal to enforce the law, released a video that shows Harris telling an astonished reporter for the local KTVU news station that "she had never seen a case that merited pursuing the death penalty during her time as District Attorney."

Click for Kamala Harris on other issues.   Source: coverage of 2016 California Senate race

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,

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

  • Additional quotations related to Death Penalty issues can be found under Crime.
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State Rep.Stacey Abrams (D-GA)
Sen.Michael Bennet (D-CO)
V.P.Joe Biden (D-DE)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NYC)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN)
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Gov.John Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Gov.Larry Hogan (D-MD)
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Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Gov.Bill Weld (L-MA)
Marianne Williamson (D-CA)
CEO Andrew Yang (D-NY)
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V.P.Mike Pence (R-IN)
Secy.Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Sen.Tim Kaine (D-VA,VP)
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