The Death Penalty: Defend It, Mend It or End It?

Source Organization: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

08/21/2006 - Since the Supreme Court lifted its moratorium on the death penalty 30 years ago, 38 states and the federal government have reinstated capital punishment.

In recent years, there has been a nationwide debate over the proper application, morality and constitutionality of the death penalty. Some argue that there are systemic flaws in its application and that those on death row are disproportionately poor, mentally ill or African-American.

Abolitionists claim that if the death penalty can not be applied justly in all cases, it should not exist at all. Some embrace a moral stance that "respects life" in all its stages and circumstances.

Those in the pro-death penalty camp claim that abolitionists ignore the individual circumstances of each case and that some crimes are so heinous that the only appropriate punishment is death. Furthermore, they argue that the existence of the death penalty deters violent crime.

The Pew Forum, together with the Federalist Society and the Constitution Project, held an event examining the application, morality and constitutionality of the death penalty in the United States, focusing on issues such as habeas corpus review, clemency, the Eighth Amendment and adequate defendant representation.

Speakers: Samuel Millsap Jr., Former District Attorney, Bexar County, Texas William Otis, Counselor to the Head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. Kenneth Starr, Dean, Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, Calif. Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, Montgomery, Ala.

Moderator: Virginia Sloan, President, The Constitution Project , Washington, D.C.

Read the full transcript -- The Death Penalty Today: Defend It, Mend It or End It? 

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