Time magazine has this post on the waning number of executions and death sentences in America. The number is down dramatically from what they call "the golden age" of the death penalty: the year 1999, when there were 98 executions, more than any year since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated.
It's worth meditating on just this excerpt for a second, on what Time calls "the usual objections to capital punishment," which are each compelling and jointly more than cogent: "cost, racial and jurisdictional disparities in sentencing, its ineffectiveness as a deterrent against crime and the possibility that innocent people might be put to death." Senator Lisa A. Gladden, who chairs [Maryland's judicial proceedings] committee, hammers the point home with more forceful language: "The death penalty is not a deterrent, it doesn't reduce crime, it's expensive, and it's unfair." Such realizations – backed by countless studies – blunt any support for the death penalty before it can reasonably get off the ground.
SentLaw, however, is cautious regarding the new administration, as they observe that
Though AG Holder's track record on the death penalty is mixed, he was deputy AG in the Clinton Administration during what Time calls "the golden age of capital punishment in America." Though lots of forces contributed to the death penalty's rise in the 1990s and its more recent decline, our new Attorney General may not be nonplussed if execution rates and death sentences return to rates of the so-called golden age.
Finally, TalkLeft puts in their two cents:
I think economics weigh in as well. People are starting to realize the enormous cost of death penalty trials and appeals and realizing that life without parole is an effective punishment tool...
Texas and the South will always be an unfortunate anomaly. But I agree with Time, in the rest of the country, the pendulum is shifting in the right direction -- against the death penalty.
One of the strongest moral arguments against the death penalty is the unarguable fallibility of the legal system. It means essentially that, with the death penalty in place, innocent people are going to be executed. If it could be shown that the death penalty was an effective deterrent against murders – that is, if having it in place still 'saved more innocent people' by stopping murders than it had to sacrifice by executing the occasional innocent person – the face of the argument might be changed slightly, though still quite perverse. But we know it's not an effective deterrent. Add to that its exorbitant cost and its proven racial bias, and supporters of capital punishment are left with nary a leg to stand on. It's time that the public at large and the decision-makers came around.