In his op-ed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “It’s Wrong for an Imperfect System to Impose an Irreversible Punishment,” former district attorney Tim Cole notes that two Texas counties, Tarrant and Dallas, are responsible for returning a combined 181 death sentences in the modern death penalty era — “more than any major metropolitan area in Texas except for Houston” — and says “district attorneys owe it to their constituents to consider the questions surrounding the death penalty before proceeding to seek a sentence that many believe has been administered unfairly in the past.” Cole writes that he sought a death sentence three times while he was DA but now believes, “There is no longer an adequate justification for an irreversible punishment that does little to make our communities safer.”
In his article, “The Death Penalty, Public Opinion, and Politics in the United States,” in the St. Louis University School of Law Journal, Samuel R. Gross writes that “the period from 1983 through 1999 was the heyday of the death penalty in the United States in the last 50 years” because of rising violent crime rates and the politicization of the issue by presidential candidates, which fueled public support to “an all-time high.” Not coincidentally, Gross notes, that during the same period the U.S. Supreme Court “continued to decide death penalty cases, and mostly they came out in favor of prosecution.” But now, with crime rates down and a rising awareness of the many and serious flaws inherent in capital punishment, and in spite of Donald Trump, a strong death penalty supporter, Gross believes, “The tide will change . . . When that happens, you will finally see this nasty, destructive, and inhumane practice bite the dust.”
In her article, “As states scramble to find execution drugs, experts say it’s time to let lethal injection die” in Popular Science, April Reese explores the problem states are encountering in procuring lethal injection drugs, and how alternative methods of execution present problems as well. Pointing to the fact that several states are now bringing back the electric chair and the firing squad, or switching to nitrogen, Reese concludes that, “States that put convicted criminals to death have a difficult choice to make: Go to ever-greater lengths to keep using lethal injection, despite the controversy over the pain it inflicts, or revisit the killing machines of the past—and potentially face a public outcry that may just hasten the practice’s demise.”
In their article, “The Federal Death Penalty Scheme is not a Model for State Reform of Capital Punishment Laws,” in the American University Law Review, Mark J. MacDougall and Karen D. Williamm argue that because “the federal statutory scheme is possessed of the same inequities, biases, and cost considerations as the existing state systems for capital punishment,” supporters of the death penalty are mistaken that adopting the federal system “might save the death penalty from fading into a legal anachronism.” Both the state and federal systems suffer from the same “fundamental flaws that have led to the present and inevitable decline of capital punishment as a practical sentencing alternative,” the authors write.