Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is considering legislation to ban capital punishment. Some commentators suggest that if Illinois abolishes the death penalty other states will follow.
In a little more than six years three states have outlawed the death penalty. The other states that have walked away from the death penalty are—New Mexico in 2009, New Jersey in 2007 and New York in 2004. None of those states were actively executing inmates beforehand. Illinois executed 12 people since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Pennsylvania still actively sends offenders to death row, but has executed only three men since 1976 and all three waived appeal rights and asked to be executed.
There are 35 states, including Illinois, that still have the death penalty on the books. There are more than 3,200 people on death rows, and states like Texas, Mississippi and Ohio, a state that trailed only Texas in executions during 2010, ignore pressure to end capital punishment.
Kansas and South Dakota rejected efforts to abolish the death penalty last year. Executions are not occurring at a fast and furious pace across the country. There were 46 executions last year, down form 52 in 2009. In fact, of the 35 states with the death penalty, 14 have carried out 5 or fewer executions. New Hampshire and Kansas have not executed a single inmate since reinstating the death penalty. Another 5 states have executed only one offender.
According to Law.com, other factors are at work in Illinois as well. Best selling author Scott Turow, a death penalty critic, said “With the state $15 billion in debt, we simply can’t afford a remedy with no proven benefit that can double or triple the cost of prosecution.” The higher litigation costs caused by lengthy death penalty appeals have enabled legislators in other states to frame it as a practical, economic issue and to avoid the moral dimensions.
My blog posting yesterday is a column I wrote for this week's Pennsylvania Law Weekly. It looks back at the death penalty for 2010 and suggests, as does Scott Turow, that cost will be the next big issue facing the death penalty, http://mattmangino.blogspot.com/2011/01/pulling-plug-on-capital-punishment.html
To read more: http://thecrimereport.org/2011/01/18/il-issue-will-middle-america-reject-the-death-penalty/