Death Penalty Unpredictable as Lightning Strike: Critical Report


The anti-death penalty Death Penalty Information Center issued a report on the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s reinstating capital punishment arguing that the U.S. justice system in capital cases “is too random to be an effective deterrent or deliver retribution.”

The center notes that each year, there are about 15,000 murders in the nation. Last year, there were 46 executions. “A ratio of one execution for every 326 murders suggests that the death penalty is still as unpredictable as being struck by lightning,” says the report. The center says that variables that have nothing to do with the severity of the crime or the culpability of the defendant exert significant influence over capital sentencing and executions, including issues of race, geography, the quality of legal defense, and uneven appellate review. On the last point, the center says that in some states almost all death sentences are affirmed in state court, while in others most are overturned. Nationwide, two-thirds of death sentences are overturned on appeal.

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