Students Against the Death Penalty contacted all of the presidential candidates (Democrats and Republicans) asking for their position on the death penalty. So far only the Dennis Kucinich campaign has responded to our call. Here is the letter we received from him:
Like most Americans, I arrived at my position on the death penalty through a process that involved the application of morality and moral principles (derived from my religious and spiritual convictions), personal reflection, and a rational examination of facts and statistics. In the end, all of these considerations have led me to come down strongly on the side of opposing capital punishment.
Morally, I simply do not believe that we as human beings have the right to “play God” and take a human life — especially since our human judgments are fallible and often wrong. Indeed, since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 700 men and women on Death Row have been executed, three-fourths of those executions taking place since 1992. Since 1976, more than 100 people have been released from prison after being sentenced to death despite their innocence. That translates into one death row inmate being found innocent for every seven executed. Given this track record, I simply cannot support the death penalty, since
we know that it will, inescapably, be erroneously applied and innocent people will be put to death.
Second, all the evidence suggests that the death penalty is no deterrent to crime. Indeed, in those states that do have capital punishment, the average murder rate per 100,000 people is 8, while in states that have abolished the death penalty, the murder rate is just 4.4. In other words, states that do not have capital punishment actually have lower murder rates than states that do. I confidently believe that rather than decreasing murder, capital punishment actually has a brutalizing effect on society, contributing to an increase in murder.
Third, the evidence shows that the imposition of the death penalty is both racially and economically biased. African American defendants, for example, are far more likely to receive death sentences than others who committed similar crimes. To put that into perspective, 42% of inmates on death row today are African American, even though they comprise only 13% of the U.S. population; 180 African Americans have been executed in cases involving white victims, while 12 whites have been executed in cases with black victims. Of all the people on death row today, 75% of them are non-white. Moreover, a full 98% of all defendants sentenced to death
have been people who could not afford their own attorneys. I simply cannot support a policy that is so unfairly and unevenly applied.
Fourth, America is one of the last nations in the world to still practice the death penalty. In fact, for each year since 1976, two additional countries have abolished capital punishment, and the overwhelming majority of nations around the world have now put an end to it in law or practice. Even in our own country, opposition to the death penalty has doubled since 1994. Recent polls say that 64% of Americans support a moratorium on all executions. In Congress, I introduced the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2003 to establish an end to capital punishment. At the same time, however, I believe that criminals who take innocent life or commit other horrific crimes should pay a severe penalty, and that we have a duty to protect our
society from danger. For that reason, I favor life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as an acceptable moral alternative for the worst and most violent offenders in our society.
Kucinich for President 2008
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