Despite the decision Friday by a federal jury to sentence Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death, public attitudes and state policies have been shifting in significant ways regarding the death penalty, says the Christian Science Monitor. Some of that is because of changing opinion about what critics see as revenge killing by the state, but also because of legal issues and logistical difficulties, including botched executions involving drugs exceedingly difficult to obtain and the continuing string of cases in which individuals long-imprisoned have been found to be innocent. The latest Gallup survey says that 63 percent of Americans favor the death penalty but that number drops significantly to 50 percent approval when respondents are given the choice of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
A Pew Research Center poll found 71 percent saying there is some risk that an innocent person will be put to death, 61 percent agreeing that he death penalty does not deter people from committing serious crimes, and about half (52 percent) saying that minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for similar crimes. Imposition of the death penalty is dropping in Texas, the state that usually tops the list in executions. Executions there peaked at 40 in 2000; last year there were 10. “There is no doubt about it. We're seeing a reduction in the use of the death penalty in Texas,” Kathryn Kase of Texas Defender Service told the Dallas Morning News. “Here it is May, and we have had only two death penalty cases in Texas. And in both, the jury chose life without parole instead. That strikes me as really significant.”