A new Gallup poll released this morning indicates that more than one-third of Americans now oppose the death penalty — the highest level in nearly 40 years.
USAToday reports that the poll found that 35% of those polled oppose the death penalty — the highest opposition since March 1972 --- "moreover, those who believe the death penalty is being applied fairly, and those who say it isn't used often enough, are at the lowest levels in a decade, underscoring significant changes in those attitudes."
The Gallup poll was conducted shortly after two controversial cases drew national attention: Troy Davis’ execution in September, and last week's Supreme Court hearing involving Alabama death row inmate Cory Maples.
"Recent years have seen renewed controversy over the death penalty's use," the poll reported, "including the 2010 execution of Teresa Lewis in Virginia, the first woman to be executed in that state in almost 100 years, and the execution of Davis in September of this year. It is not clear whether the death penalty will be an issue in next year's presidential race, although Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked in a recent Republican debate about his state's status as the most frequent in carrying out the death penalty.
"A separate trend question, not asked this year, explicitly offers respondents the opportunity to choose between the death penalty and life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, and last year's update found about half of Americans preferring the latter option. On the other hand, Gallup has found support for the use of the death penalty rising when Americans are asked about specific cases involving high-profile mass killings, such as the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh."
Meanwhile, here in southwestern Ohio, USAToday also reported that Democratic State Reps. Ted Celeste of Columbus and Nickie Antonio of suburban Cleveland are asking Gov. John Kasich for a moratorium on Ohio executions while a recently appointed Supreme Court committee studies the state’s death penalty provisions. The two co-sponsor House Bill 160 – the “Execute Justice” bill – that would do away with capital punishment in Ohio. ( See Press Release )
The 20-member task force convened by the Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association, will consist of judges, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, lawmakers and academic experts, who will review Ohio's current laws, practices elsewhere, data and costs, as well as a 2007 report released by the American Bar Association that called for a moratorium while problems the report said it had identified were examined. ( Report )( executive summary )