Topics in the News: Death Penalty

Martin O`Malley on Crime : Jan 23, 2014
Repealed death penalty; reduced prison incarceration

Today, with courageous law enforcement officers, we have now reduced violent crime to 30 year lows. With our first responders, shock trauma doctors and nurses, traffic deaths have been reduced now to the lowest levels in decades.

We enacted common sense measures to reduce gun violence. We repealed the death penalty and replaced it with life without the possibility of parole. And there are now fewer people incarcerated in Maryland's prisons today than at any time since 1994.

Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: 2014 State of the State Address to Maryland legislature

Martin O`Malley on Crime : May 2, 2013
Repeal the death penalty: it does not work

To govern is to choose. In Maryland, we understand the things that actually work to reduce violent crime: more effective policing, better technology, and smarter strategies. Entrepreneurial, collaborative, relentlessly interactive strategies: Strategies like establishing the Maryland Center for School Safety. Strategies that have enabled us to drive down violent crime and homicide in our State to three decade lows.

We also have a moral responsibility to stop doing the things that are wasteful, and that are expensive, and that do not work. Therefore, we are signing into law today a repeal on the death penalty in Maryland.

Click for Martin O`Malley on other issues.   Source: 2013 Gubernatorial press release: Death Penalty Repeal

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

Gary Johnson on Crime : Aug 1, 2012
DNA evidence shows many people are mistakenly convicted

When I was younger, I supported capital punishment. I changed my mind because I recognized that the risks and costs associated with the death penalty are too high.

I understand the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality but, realistically public policy should have room for mistakes. Killing one innocent person who was wrongly accused is not worth executing 99 guilty people. DNA evidence and judicial appeals have shown many people are mistakenly convicted.

The death penalty is flawed public policy and its consequences are irreversible. Plus, the financial cost of capital punishment (mostly legal fees) is several times greater for taxpayers than keeping someone in prison for life.

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: Seven Principles, by Gary Johnson, p. 70-71

Mitt Romney on Crime : Mar 2, 2012
Romney side-by-side against Gingrich, Paul & Santorum

Q: Is there any issue where Romney differs from all three other GOP frontrunners?

A: Yes, on gun control--Mitt is the odd man out from Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum calling for Second Amendment rights. Mitt does toe the conservative line on most crime issues, including capital punishment and mandatory sentencing--and on "Three Strikes", he's more of a hard-line conservative than Gingrich and Santorum! See the details on crime, gun control, and numerous other related issues in a side-by-side comparison:

Romney/Paul/Santorum/Gingrich side-by-side on Domestic Issues

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Paperback: Romney/Paul/Santorum/Gingrich side-by-side

Gary Johnson on Crime : Jan 18, 2012
1994: Proponent of death penalty, but willing to debate it

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: 2012 presidential campaign website,

Gary Johnson on Crime : Jan 18, 2012
Death penalty as a public policy is flawed

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: 2012 presidential campaign website,

Mitt Romney on Crime : Jan 17, 2012
2002: Supported death penalty although it was long abolished

In an echo of his 1994 platform, Romney positioned himself as an agent of change, vowing to "clean up the mess on Beacon Hill," the seat of state government. And there was plenty to clean up: government was still rife with patronage and waste.

Romney debuted a sophisticated "microtargeting" program to drill deep into voter behavior, seeking to identify supporters through their coting history and other personal information. He pitched himself squarely to independents, who made up half the Massachusetts electorate. Unlike O'Brien, he supported the death penalty, which had long been abolished, and an initiative petition on that year's ballot to replace bilingual education with English immersion.

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: The Real Romney, by Kranish & Helman, p.232

Gary Johnson on Crime : Aug 21, 2011
Don't risk putting innocent to death

Q: You oppose the death penalty. Why?

A: As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit na‹ve and I did not think the government made mistakes with regard to the death penalty. I came to realize that they do. I don't want to put one innocent person to death to punish 99 who are guilty.

Click for Gary Johnson on other issues.   Source: Interview by Scott Holleran on blog

Rick Perry on Crime : Nov 15, 2010
Death penalty for aggravated rape

The people are forced to check their view of what should be an appropriate punishment with the Supreme Court case of "Kennedy v. Louisiana", which involved a sentence of death for a man convicted of rape. This case demonstrates just how out of touch with America the Court truly is.

Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death not just for rape, but for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The little girl suffered massive trauma to her genital area. The injuries were so severe that she required emergency invasive surgery to attempt to repair the damage.

Kennedy refused a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table. He was then convicted under a 1995 statute that provided for the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a child under 12.

A jury of his peers sentenced him to death, and Kennedy appealed to the Supreme Court. Texas supported Louisiana. The Court ruled the law unconstitutional, citing the prohibition in the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment.

Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source: Fed Up!, by Gov. Rick Perry, p. 99-100

Bobby Jindal on Crime : Nov 15, 2010
Death penalty for violent child rape

I support the use of the death penalty in instances of violent child rape. What? The death penalty for a crime other than first degree murder? Yep, you heard me right. In Louisiana we had a law stipulating that if you violently rape a child under the age of twelve, you might face the death penalty. It was applied in a case in Harvey, Louisiana, a few years ago involving an eight-year-old girl who was violently raped by her stepfather. The case is too awful to describe here, but the girl suffered serious internal injuries and immense psychological trauma. As the prosecutor in the case rightfully put it, child rape is in some ways worse than homicide. The defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to death. The decision was upheld in the appeals process, but in June 2008 the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision.
Click for Bobby Jindal on other issues.   Source: Leadership and Crisis, by Bobby Jindal, p.226-227

John Bolton on Crime : May 18, 2010
Vigorous democratic debate about death penalty is healthy

In the US, at the national and state levels, we have a vigorous democratic debate over the death penalty, sometimes expanding it and sometimes contracting it. In every case, though, we do it after free and open debate. That, however, is not good enough for death-penalty opponents, who can't get what they want in the US. They too have gone international, using the UN's "human rights" bodies to repeatedly condemn the death penalty. In effect, death-penalty opponents are trying to mobilize international public opinion against the prevailing majority view within the US.
Click for John Bolton on other issues.   Source: Obama is Endangering our Sovereignty, by John Bolton, p. 40

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

Bobby Jindal on Crime : Jun 29, 2008
Capital punishment for rape as well as murder

This week a couple of very important rulings show how important judicial appointments can be, both 5-4 rulings, one that impacted Louisiana directly, struck down our law that allows Louisiana to put to death those monsters that rape our children.

What was very disturbing to me --I disagreed with the court’s ruling, both because they said that the punishment was not proportional to the crime --it certainly seems to me that, if the state’s going to put to death any criminals, other than those that commit murder, certainly should be putting to death those that molest, that rape, that attack our children. Certainly the juries should have that option.

But what was really disturbing to me was part of the rationale of the ruling. The court said that it sensed emerging national consensus. It sounded to many that it looked like the court was taking opinion polls rather than reading the Constitution and interpreting the law.

Click for Bobby Jindal on other issues.   Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer

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

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Dec 16, 2007
Carried out death penalty more than any other AR governor

Q: Is it true that during your ten-plus years of governor of Arkansas, you oversaw 1,033 pardons and commutations of prisoners, including 12 murders?

A: I actually carried out the death penalty 16 times more than any governor in my state’s history, and the crime rate in my state went down. If you look at the background of some of these, it meant that people who are 40 years old who had done a joyride or written a hot check when they were 18 had never been to prison. This wasn’t like I stood there with a key at the prison door and let people out. Background checks kept them from even so much as getting a job emptying the bedpans in a nursing home. And often the pardons were in order to let them get in the work force.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer

Mike Huckabee on Principles & Values : Nov 28, 2007
Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office

Q: The death penalty, what would Jesus do?

A: I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes are beyond any capacity for us to fix.

Q: But what would Jesus do?

A: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office. That’s what Jesus would do.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP YouTube debate in St. Petersburg, Florida

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

Mitt Romney on Principles & Values : Oct 21, 2007
Proud of his accomplishments in fighting the Liberal Lion

Q: [to Romney]: Sen. McCain suggests that you’re conning people--he has used that phrase--with your conversions on a number of issues.

ROMNEY: When I ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, that was a big uphill climb. But let me tell you, I was fighting for issues like making sure that we would have the death penalty in our state, fighting to keep our taxes down. I was fighting against the Liberal Lion in perhaps the toughest state in America. And I’m pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish in that race, but nothing compares to the pride I have with the work that I was able to do as a governor.

McCAIN: Gov. Romney, you’ve been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine. I stand on my record as a conservative, and I don’t think you can fool the American people. They may not agree with me on a couple of issues, but they’ll know I’m telling the truth, and my steadfast positions on these issues for more than 20 years.

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Sep 27, 2007
Death penalty is necessary part of criminal justice system

Q: Do you think the death penalty is carried out justly in the US? And do you want to see it continued?

A: I probably dislike the death penalty more than anybody on this stage, but for a very different reason. I’ve actually had to carry it out, more than any governor in my state’s history. I had to carry out the death penalty because that was my job. I did it because I believed, after reading every page of every transcript and everything in that file, it was the only conclusion we could come to. But I didn’t enjoy it. And God help the American who somehow has this cavalier attitude about the death penalty and says they support it and they can do it. Let me tell you something from the person whose name had to be put on the document that started the process: It’s a necessary part of our criminal justice system for those crimes for which there is no other alternative. But God help the person who ever does it without a conscience and feels the pain of it.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: 2007 GOP Presidential Forum at Morgan State University

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

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jun 1, 2007
Defends death penalty biblically as well as politically

The night of an execution is the loneliest night of a governor’s life though I had always favored the death penalty. The warden [in my first capital case as Governor called me and] said, “Governor, the prisoner is now prepared. Is there any reason we should not proceed?” What came out of my mouth in the next few moments would mean either the life or death of a man. I alone had the power to stop the proceedings.

I authorized other executions after that one, but it never became easier. If it had, there would have been something wrong with me or the process. To this day I am confident that I did the right thing--“right” defined against moral absolutes in the midst of an imperfect world.

In an ideal world, this man would have never committed the horrible murders for which he was tried and found guilty and sentenced to die. The process was tedious and thorough. Nevertheless, the moment a governor gives the order to proceed, he is answering to God for his action and not to the taxpayer.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: Character Makes a Difference, by Mike Huckabee, p.120-121

Mitt Romney on Education : May 15, 2007
Supports English immersion & abstinence education

In the toughest of blue states I’ve had to stand up for life, and I have. I’ve had to stand up for traditional marriage, and I have. I stood to make sure that we could have English immersion in our schools, because I think kids should be taught in English. I fought for the death penalty. I fought for abstinence education. I have the kind of leadership that will allow America to build upon the same kind of reputation and heritage that we got from our conservative founders in this party.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina

Jeb Bush on Crime : Feb 15, 2007
Called special legislative session for death penalty law

When he miscalculated on how many votes were necessary to rewrite rules for the court system in the death penalty special session, he turned to the Republican Party's stable of rich donors to send private places out to retrieve missing GOP legislators. One was dragged away from a pregnant wife on the brink of childbirth, another from his sister's funeral.

The reaction to this style of leadership varied, and was not always predictable.

To many, even in the much-reviled press, Jeb was a breath of fresh air. He said what he was going to do, and then he did it, without the mealymouthed games that are so common among elected officials.

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.131

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

Jon Huntsman on Crime : Feb 6, 2007
Supports death penalty but not necessarily expanding it

The House said anyone convicted of murdering a child under 14 should be eligible for the death penalty. The bill has been criticized by death-penalty opponents, who want Utah to join other states in restricting or eliminating capital punishment.

Maryland, N.J. and Washington are considering eliminating the death penalty or limiting its use. In the Utah House, this legislation passed, 72-0. Gov. Jon Huntsman supports the death penalty but has said he's not ready to take a position on expanding it

Click for Jon Huntsman on other issues.   Source: Utah Valley Daily Herald, p. A8

Mike Huckabee on Abortion : Jan 4, 2007
Pro-life and pro-death penalty, & sees them as far different

Some wonder how a person so pro-life as me could accept the law of a death penalty. But a death sentence is a result of a lengthy and thorough judicial process applied to a person deemed guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s far different from one person singularly deciding to end the life of a totally innocent and helpless unborn child. In that case, there is no process of justice, no evidence of guilt presented, no defense for the condemned child, and no appeal.
Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 86

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jan 4, 2007
Supports death penalty, but only reluctantly

Whether we should even have a death penalty is a tough issue. I believe some crimes deserve it, but that does not mean I like it. I do believe it should be an option, but carrying out the death penalty was unquestionably the worst part of my job as governor. 17 times I sat by a phone with an open line to the death chamber, and gave the verbal order for the lethal injection. I never slept well those nights. I did the job that the law prescribed for me to do, but I hated every minute of it.
Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 86

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Jan 4, 2007
Commuted death penalty sentence due to problems at trial

The death penalty is the only decision that I make as a governor that is totally irrevocable. Once an execution is carried out, a life has ended.

I kept a box of files near by desk to review them in the days prior to the execution. One unsettling part of the evidence [in the Fretwell case] were interviews conducted with Fretwell & his brother. The description of their family life revealed a childhood of abuse, humiliation & degradation. I was moved to tears, but that did not alter the crime.

However, a juror said he had been told that if Fretwell was found guilty, he would get life in prison without parole and that was the reason he voted for a guilty verdict. The problem I then faced was that I was unwilling to be a man who had ignored late evidence in a death penalty case to avoid the complications that come with clemency. If the justice system would not work for the “least of these among us,” then neither would it work for me or anyone else. I commuted the sentence to life in prison.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: From Hope to Higher Ground, by Mike Huckabee, p. 83

Sarah Palin on Crime : Nov 7, 2006
If legislature passed death penalty law, I would sign it

I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again.
Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: 2006 Gubernatorial website,, “Issues”

Sarah Palin on Crime : Nov 3, 2006
Strong public safety presence, via police, courts & prisons

PUBLIC SAFETY: I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again.
Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: Palin-Parnell campaign booklet: New Energy for Alaska

Marco Rubio on Crime : Nov 1, 2006
Endless death row appeals hinder justice

Problem: Endless appeals by convicted felons postpone a sense of finality and erode public confidence in the judicial system. Even in the simplest of criminal cases, post-conviction litigation frequently continues for a minimum of 3 years. In death penalty cases the post-conviction process averages 12 years, but in some cases it has consumed up to 20 years before a warrant is signed. With over 370 inmates on death row in Florida, delays of this nature hinder justice for the victims and erode public confidence in Florida's criminal justice system. Very few inmates receive actual relief from the current cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive process.

Solution: Streamline the appeals process in criminal cases. Florida should create a new, more efficient, less expensive process for reviewing criminal cases that instills more public confidence in the criminal justice system. This could be accomplished by limiting the time convicted felons have to appeal their sentences.

Click for Marco Rubio on other issues.   Source: 100 Innovative Ideas, by Marco Rubio, p. 74-75

Sarah Palin on Crime : Oct 22, 2006
Death penalty for adults who murder children

Q: Would you introduce--or, if introduced by a legislator, would you support--a bill to adopt the death penalty in Alaska? If yes, which crimes should it apply to?

A: If the Legislature were to pass a bill that established a death penalty on adults who murder children, I would sign it.

Click for Sarah Palin on other issues.   Source: Anchorage Daily News: 2006 gubernatorial candidate profile

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

Deval Patrick on Crime : Jun 7, 2006
Opposes death penalty

Click for Deval Patrick on other issues.   Source: Greater Boston with Emily Rooney: Election2006 Coverage

Paul Ryan on Crime : Jan 21, 2006
Death penalty only for lethal crimes against minors

Click for Paul Ryan on other issues.   Source: Library of Congress bill sponsorship records

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

Brian Schweitzer on Crime : Nov 1, 2004
Supports the death penalty

Q: What are your views on the death penalty?

A: I support the death penalty.

Click for Brian Schweitzer on other issues.   Source: 2004 Montana Gubernatorial National Political Awareness Test

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

Condoleezza Rice on Homeland Security : Jul 11, 2003
Follow Geneva Convention; but no anti-death penalty promise

Q: A big issue that’s come up at the moment in Britain is relations between U.S. and U.K. over the British citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. The British government wants reassurances that they will not be facing the death penalty. Can you tell us anything about negotiations?

A: This is being worked out between the U.S. government and the British government. Britain is a friend, and so we’re going to be open and transparent with Britain about what’s going on here. I think we have to remember, these people were picked up for terrorism and so that has to be kept in mind. But both the treatment of them, which is in accordance with the standards of the Geneva Convention, and also the very careful process that the military commission sets up to try to deal with, and balance the concerns of national security with due process, those are being discussed with the British government and I’m sure will be fine.

Click for Condoleezza Rice on other issues.   Source: Press Gaggle with Ari Fleischer aboard Air Force One

Mitt Romney on Crime : Sep 17, 2002
Supports death penalty in heinous murders

Romney pushes for a death penalty law for murderers convicted of heinous first-degree homicides. “The ultimate penalty should be available in Massachusetts for criminals who commit the most egregious murders,” Romney said.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Campaign web site,, “Issues”

Mitt Romney on Crime : Mar 21, 2002
Favored mandatory sentencing and three strikes

Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Boston Globe review of 1994 campaign issues

Rick Perry on Crime : Jan 25, 2001
Supports DNA testing; standards for capital defenders

    Governor Rick Perry?s proposals about capital punishment:
  1. Proposed DNA testing for cases where it can shed light on a person?s guilt or innocence. Pledged financial assistance to local police and medical examiners in this regard.
  2. Improve the quality of defense counsel for trials. Statewide standards for selecting defense lawyers, including a minimum level of experience in handling criminal felony trials.
  3. Give juries the option of sentencing capital defendants to prison for the rest of their lives, without parole, rather than executing them.
Governor Perry?s proposals recognize that Texas desperately needs to introduce rationality and fairness to a system that is out of control, and which has a high risk of executing innocent people.
Click for Rick Perry on other issues.   Source:, Op-Ed

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,

Newt Gingrich on Drugs : Nov 1, 1998
Increase penalties for illegal drugs

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Congressional 1998 National Political Awareness Test

Jeb Bush on Crime : Jul 2, 1998
Supports death penalty

Click for Jeb Bush on other issues.   Source: 1998 Florida National Political Awareness Test

Mike Huckabee on Crime : Sep 9, 1997
Comfortable with death penalty biblically & politically

Less than a month after I took office, I had to decide whether to sign the order for a convicted murderer to be executed. I had always favored the death penalty. I could speak about it freely, often gave speeches in favor of it, and even delivered sermons from the pulpit on the subject. I was quite comfortable defending it biblically as well as politically.

But there is a difference between abstract, hypothetical discussion and affixing your signature to set in motion the process by which a man will have his life terminated. The moment came when the warden got on the phone and said, "Governor, the prisoner is now prepared. The IV is inserted. Is there any reason we should not proceed?"

I cannot describe what that is like. I could not have prepared myself for it. I have authorized 4 other executions since that one. It hasn't become any easier. I hope and pray it never does. If it does, there is something terribly wrong with me or the process.

Click for Mike Huckabee on other issues.   Source: Character IS the Issue, by Mike Huckabee, p.106

Newt Gingrich on Crime : Dec 26, 1994
No more endless appeals; make death penalty credible

Our "Contract" will make the death penalty real--no more endless appeals. Under current law, there are virtually no limits or restrictions on when prisoners can file habeas corpus appeals. For example, defendants can appeal any time there is a change in the law or a new Supreme Court ruling. Delays of up to 14 years are not uncommon, making abuse of the habeas corpus system the most significant factor in states' inability to implement credible death penalties.
Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Contract With America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 37&44

Newt Gingrich on Crime : Dec 26, 1994
Fewer appeals; more prisons; victim restitution

Our "Contract with America" calls for tough punishment for those who prey on society. For too long, Washington has refused to get tough--and even when they sound tough, there are always loopholes that favor the criminal, not the victims. Our "Contract" will make the death penalty real--no more endless appeals.

We will cut the "pork" in the recently passed crime bill in order to build real prisons, and we will require criminals to serve their sentences, not have them back on the street to terrorize again and again. And to make criminals more accountable, we will force them to pay full restitution to their victims or the victims' families.

And to those who commit felonies with guns, let us be particularly clear: We will require 10 years in jail, minimum, no exceptions.

Click for Newt Gingrich on other issues.   Source: Contract With America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 37

Mitt Romney on Crime : Oct 24, 1994
Supports death penalty and “three strikes” sentencing

Romney’s crime platform contains little that is radical or new - pro-death penalty, tough sentencing for violent offenders, support for “three strikes,” and support for judges who are tough on crime.
Click for Mitt Romney on other issues.   Source: Anthony Flint in Boston Globe

  • Additional quotations related to Death Penalty issues can be found under Crime.
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Crime.
Candidates on Crime:
Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
Secy.John Kerry
Secy.Chuck Hagel

 Related issues:
Drug War
Three Strikes

2016 Presidential contenders:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg(I-NYC)
Amb.John Bolton(R-MD)
Gov.Jeb Bush(R-FL)
Dr.Ben Carson(T-MD)
Gov.Chris Christie(R-NJ)
Secy.Hillary Clinton(D-NY)
Sen.Ted Cruz(T-TX)
Gov.Andrew Cuomo(D-NY)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel(D-IL)
Gov.Bobby Jindal(R-LA)
Gov.Nikk Haley(R-SC)
Rep.Peter King(R-NY)
Gov.Martin O`Malley(D-MD)
Gov.Deval Patrick(D-MA)
Sen.Rand Paul(R-KY)
Sen.Rob Portman(R-OH)
Sen.Marco Rubio(R-FL)
Gov.Jesse Ventura(I-MN)
2012 Presidential:
Rep.Michele Bachmann(T-MN)
Rep.Newt Gingrich(R-GA)
Gov.Mike Huckabee(R-AR)
Gov.Jon Huntsman(R-UT)
Gov.Gary Johnson(L-NM)
Gov.Sarah Palin(R-AK)
Rep.Ron Paul(R-TX)
Gov.Rick Perry(R-TX)
Gov.Mitt Romney(R-MA)
Rep.Paul Ryan(R-WI)
Sen.Rick Santorum(R-PA)
Donald Trump(I-NY)
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Page last updated: Mar 06, 2014