35 Years Of Death Penalty Regrets

Thirty-five years ago, on July 2, 1976, on the eve of massive bicentennial celebrations, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia voted 7-2 to re-instate capital punishment.  There had been no executions in the U.S. since 1967.

The U.S. could have been a leader in the subsequent worldwide trend toward death penalty abolition; instead the U.S. has become an outlier along with a minority of other countries (like China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) that still kill prisoners.

What might have been?

Three of those 7 justices (Stevens, Blackmun and Powell) have since regretted their vote in Gregg, meaning that if there could be some sort of time-travel Stevens, Blackmun and Powell’s Excellent Adventure do-over, the death penalty might have never come back.

But, as with executing likely innocent people, you can’t go back in time to undo your mistakes. The death penalty did come back.

A new report from Amnesty International (summary here) reflects on the last 35 years of American capital punishment, observing that while the U.S. has been busy killing over 1,250 prisoners, the rest of the world has been abandoning the death penalty, with 139 nations now abolitionist in law or practice.

The isolation of the U.S. on this issue is beginning to have real consequences, as states’ degrading and cringe-inducing efforts to obtain execution drugs in an increasingly global marketplace runs up against growing global opposition to the death penalty.

Lundbeck, the Danish company that manufactures pentobarbital, announced on July 1 that it will

demand that US distributors sign an agreement stating that they will not make pentobarbital, which is a sedative with a wide range of uses, available for prisons using it for lethal injections.”

The regrets of justices Stevens, Blackmun and Powell are a perfect illustration of the way most people react when they actually see the U.S. “modern” death penalty in action.  After three and a half decades, bias, discrimination and error still predominate, and on top of that we now have this absurd circus of barely legal (or perhaps illegal) lethal injection drug dealing.

Attempts to limit the death penalty to “the worst of the worst” have failed, as notorious serial killers have bargained for life sentences, while at least 138 innocent people have been sent to death row.

The race of your victim, or the amount of money you have to hire a lawyer, are the true predictors of whether or not you will get the death penalty, not the heinousness of your crime.  Many people who support the death penalty in principle turn away in disgust when they actually see it in operation.  Recently, these have included the Governors of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Illinois.

After 35 years it has become clear that the death penalty cannot be applied fairly and is utterly incompatible with human dignity.  We may not be able to go back in time to undo Gregg v. Georgia, but, looking ahead, it will be undone.

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14 thoughts on “35 Years Of Death Penalty Regrets

  1. Thanks for the info, AIUSA. With too many innocent people (like Richard Bible) being killed by state-sponsored murder along with foreign nationals being denied access to international counsel relations and the mentally disabled in defiance of laws that forbid states to do so, the U.S. is becoming an almost non-lenient nation that worships a dark and vengeful God along with the victims' families who only get tricked into wanting the "perpetrators" punished by death, though not all victims' families fall victim to the lies of death penalty prosecutors and those who believe that winning is all (as they say, many victims' families react differently). Are we to allow these repeated fatal mistakes in courts and acts of injustice to go on? No. We will not allow it. Down with the death penalty.

  2. Thanks for the info, AIUSA. With too many innocent people (like Richard Bible) being killed by state-sponsored murder along with foreign nationals being denied access to international counsel relations and the mentally disabled in defiance of laws that forbid states to do so, the U.S. is becoming an almost non-lenient nation that worships a dark and vengeful God along with the victims’ families who only get tricked into wanting the “perpetrators” punished by death, though not all victims’ families fall victim to the lies of death penalty prosecutors and those who believe that winning is all (as they say, many victims’ families react differently). Are we to allow these repeated fatal mistakes in courts and acts of injustice to go on? No. We will not allow it. Down with the death penalty.

  3. i agree with you too.

    The dark & vengeful God america worships….so true.

    The intolerant, murderous God whom the woman – hating, Nature – hating, Native – hating Puritans brought with them.

    He now devours America's iron heart.

    Every word you speak above is real … & speaks for me.

    Continue to speak for those struggling to be free, dear Debbie.

    & one more thing … as we fight against the death sentence, let us not fall into the other trap of life without parole.

    It's a sentence uttered by the same God of hate.

    Life without parole is worse than death.

    Prisoners are fighting against this inhuman alternative that is no alternative at all .

    Against this cult of lives for Death, life as death.

    No more living sacrifices on the altar of Greed.

  4. i agree with you too.

    The dark & vengeful God america worships….so true.

    The intolerant, murderous God whom the woman – hating, Nature – hating, Native – hating Puritans brought with them.

    He now devours America’s iron heart.

    Every word you speak above is real … & speaks for me.

    Continue to speak for those struggling to be free, dear Debbie.

    & one more thing … as we fight against the death sentence, let us not fall into the other trap of life without parole.

    It’s a sentence uttered by the same God of hate.

    Life without parole is worse than death.

    Prisoners are fighting against this inhuman alternative that is no alternative at all .

    Against this cult of lives for Death, life as death.

    No more living sacrifices on the altar of Greed.

  5. Utterly incompatible with human dignity and detrimental to safety and security of the people by diverting much needed funds away from real law enforcement solutions to an irreparable, ineffective, inefficient system that does not deter crime and does nothing to enhance security.
    Thanks for this great post.

  6. Utterly incompatible with human dignity and detrimental to safety and security of the people by diverting much needed funds away from real law enforcement solutions to an irreparable, ineffective, inefficient system that does not deter crime and does nothing to enhance security.
    Thanks for this great post.

  7. The appeal process is too lengthy and they've been given much more time than most of these criminals gave their helpless victims- Take them out back and shoot them- It will also save the prison system some money- The sooner we start this system and get caught up, the better- This is all being staged for the sake of the lobyists' of the Bar Assn- I can't tell you how much I hate those people- They are ruining this country- As far as I am concerned we should completely eliminate them also.

  8. The appeal process is too lengthy and they’ve been given much more time than most of these criminals gave their helpless victims- Take them out back and shoot them- It will also save the prison system some money- The sooner we start this system and get caught up, the better- This is all being staged for the sake of the lobyists’ of the Bar Assn- I can’t tell you how much I hate those people- They are ruining this country- As far as I am concerned we should completely eliminate them also.

  9. we are about to get death penalty in europe too.
    democracy is just one word but not fact.

    did u know that "eu contract" did allow to kill persons e.g. in riots like london?
    british politicans are still talking about bring back death penalty in great britain.
    welcome to the nwo

  10. The EU is not going back to the death penalty. A few people talk about the death penalty in Europe when a terrible crime or a frightening situation happens, but there are many layers of commitment to human rights in the EU, and there will not be a return to the death penalty.

  11. we are about to get death penalty in europe too.
    democracy is just one word but not fact.

    did u know that “eu contract” did allow to kill persons e.g. in riots like london?
    british politicans are still talking about bring back death penalty in great britain.
    welcome to the nwo

  12. The EU is not going back to the death penalty. A few people talk about the death penalty in Europe when a terrible crime or a frightening situation happens, but there are many layers of commitment to human rights in the EU, and there will not be a return to the death penalty.