Some important poltiical tides are shifting against the death penalty, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Conservative Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), now questions his once unyielding support for the death penalty. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), said capital punishment contradicts the efforts to establish a “culture of life,” a phrase that became prominent during the controversy over Terri Schiavo’s fate. Santorum said the death penalty should be reserved for the “most horrific and heinous of crimes.” With an increasing number of convictions reversed by DNA evidence, dropping murder rates and high costs of putting people to death, public support for capital punishment dropped to 50 percent last year from 80 percent in 1994, says to a Gallup poll.
Last year, 59 death row inmates were executed, down from 98 in 1999; December was the first month in a decade that passed without an execution. President Bush, who signed off on 152 executions in his six years as Texas governor, called for “dramatically expanding” the use of DNA evidence in capital cases in his State of the Union address. Bush also called for an increase of federal funding for defense lawyers, saying that “people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.” “One of the really interesting things about the movement against the death penalty is how diverse it is,” said Brooke Matschek of the Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty Project, a Philadelphia- based activist organization. “People are starting to understand that it’s not a perfect system.”