Donald Trump is in favor of the death penalty. Many people of faith, as well as many folk who do not go to church, are strongly opposed to it.
The United States imposes the death penalty in a few federal cases.
The Eighth Amendment to our Constitution provides: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in Utah on January 17, 1977. Since then, 1,400 people have been executed in the US. One hundred sixty-five people who were sentenced to death since 1976 have been exonerated, and as of April 1, 2018, there are two thousand seven hundred forty-three people on death row. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_States#States_that_have_abolished_the_death_penalty.
Some states execute lots of people, notably Florida and Texas. California has the death penalty, but it takes years and years for death penalty appeals to be decided.
Yesterday, on NPR, Nina Totenberg, who covers the U.S. Supreme Court, told us about the secrecy surrounding the Alabama execution last week of convicted murderer Christopher Price. He wanted to be executed by nitrogen gas because he thought it would be less painful than death by lethal injection by midazolam, which the Heart of Dixie State used for the execution (https://www.npr.org/2019/06/07/730629404/supreme-court-pressed-for-sealed-documents-in-death-penalty-case).
Alabama insisted on not revealing anything of significance about the protocol used in the execution, arguing, wrongly, that it did so out of concern for the guards tasked with the execution.
So, as Price’s defense counsel tried to persuade the Supreme Court to grant a stay of execution, Alabama insisted on not revealing its execution protocol. That meant that significant sections of the court papers were blocked out.
It’s rare for the Supreme Court to allow such deletions in any case, which is why yesterday the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and National Public Radio asked the Supreme Court to unseal the material that was blocked from public view.
The death penalty has been abolished by the following very sensible states:
Puerto Rico (which some say should be a state, but that sure won’t happen under Trump)
West Virginiai (!)
Colorado came close to abolishing the death penalty this year, but a few Democrats in the Centennial State’s Senate blocked the repeal, while Republican legislators did not favor repeal. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, would have signed the repeal if it had reached his desk.
So we asked our chief investigative reporter, associate solitary reporter Susanna Sherman, to ask Chief Justice John Roberts why it allowed Alabama to keep information about Price’s execution secret.
“Susanna,” Roberts said, “my lips are sealed."