Ending the Death Penalty

Support for the death penalty is dying. The evidence of racial bias in its application, the exoneration of individuals freed from death rows, and the death penalty’s huge operational costs have changed public opinion. Polling shows support for the death penalty waning nationwide to its lowest level in decades. In tandem, 2014 saw the lowest number of death sentences in 40 years.

The ACLU believes the death penalty is inherently wrong and violates the most basic principles of due process and equal protection, as well as the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. All human systems, including governments, make errors. More than 150 people have been freed from death rows in the United States over the last 40 years, after evidence emerged to prove their innocence. Perfect assurances that innocent people will never be sentenced to death and executed are impossible. The ACLU believes that, as a society, we should not and cannot tolerate any such deadly mistakes in our name.

Here in Massachusetts, no execution has taken place since 1947, and the ACLU has been a bulwark against attempts to reinstate the death penalty. In the late 1990s, with the state legislature under immense pressure following a series of terrible murders, including the murder of a young boy, the ACLU of Massachusetts in 1997 helped lead a coalition to defeat legislation to bring back capital punishment. More recently, even in the federal prosecution of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, polls in Massachusetts have consistently shown overwhelming opposition to the death penalty for that defendant.

The ACLU of Massachusetts will continue its work to keep the death penalty out of our Commonwealth, along with our national organization’s work to eradicate capital punishment in all of the United States. You can read more from the national ACLU in The Case Against The Death Penalty.

 

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