Conservative lawmakers nationwide are re-thinking their positions on capital punishment because numerous problems that have come to light.
Last year, Republicans sponsored death penalty repeal bills in at least eight states including many so-called “red states” like ours, including Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Georgia, Utah, and Kansas.
In fact, GOP state lawmakers played a role in all of the most recent states to repeal capital punishment. Republicans supported or co-sponsored bills in Virginia in 2021, in Colorado in 2020, and in New Hampshire in 2019, where 40-percent of the Republican senate caucus voted to override their GOP governor’s veto.
Wrongful convictions, executions are main areas of concern
As a limited government conservative who thinks the government should have less power, not more, I can’t help but wonder why the state has been granted the power to take a life when our legal system has made so many mistakes.
To date, 190 people have been freed from death rows across the country due to wrongful convictions. Here in Tennessee, three innocent people have been released from death row. Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, it is distressing that the state makes so many mistakes and gets it wrong so often when a human life is on the line.
Evidence suggests that some innocent people have even been executed. How many innocent lives are we willing to sacrifice in this process? I am disturbed by our willingness to accept capital punishment in spite of all of it flaws.
I am pro-life and believe that pro-life means whole life. The execution of even one innocent person is unacceptable.
Is the death penalty truly effective?
We can all agree that people who commit serious crimes should be held accountable for their actions. Most people also agree that factors such as one’s race, how much money one has for a lawyer, or the county one lives in should not influence this process.
Shelby County is responsible for half of Tennessee’s death row and yet the crime rate there continues to climb, because executing people who are already incarcerated does not make us safer. Solving more crimes, providing mental health services, and helping vulnerable kids are much more effective policies for building safe communities.
As a fiscal conservative, I look at whether policies are fiscally sound. How much are we spending on Tennessee’s death penalty and what are we getting for it? Tennessee does not even track the full costs of the death penalty to taxpayers, but from the research that has been done, states like Tennessee spend millions more pursuing the death penalty than they would spend on alternative sentences like life without parole.
The death penalty does not provide truth in sentencing, and makes false promises to victims’ families. Fewer than 1 in 20 death sentences over the last 50 years have resulted in an execution. A death sentence is 12 times more likely to be reversed as a result of a court decision than it is to result in an execution. With the death penalty, surviving families of murder victims spend decades in a legal process that keeps them trapped in their trauma. Alternative sentences would provide legal finality much sooner, sometimes as soon as the trial is over.
This is not justice. It is a waste of public safety resources that could be reallocated to law enforcement training, better forensics to solve more crimes, crime prevention initiatives, or benefits for victims’ families.
The closer I look at the death penalty, the more problems I see. The death penalty is a flawed policy that would be better left in the past.
Jasmine Woodson serves as Tennessee Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (TNCC) Coordinator. Prior to coming to TNCC, Jasmine served as Assistant State Director and Recruiting Coordinator for the Blexit Foundation and as a lobbyist with For All Tennessee, where she advocated for criminal legal reform legislation at the local and state level.
GOP Oklahoma lawmakers join call for death penalty pause
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Three Oklahoma Republican lawmakers joined a former corrections official on Wednesday to call for a moratorium on the death penalty amid growing concerns about the state’s brisk pace of lethal injections.
Rep. Kevin McDugle said he supports the death penalty but believes Oklahoma’s next death row inmate scheduled to die, Richard Glossip, is actually innocent.
“His case is what got me involved with this, and I could not stand to see an innocent man put to death in Oklahoma, and I happen to know that Oklahomans don’t want to put an innocent man to death in Oklahoma either,” said McDugle, a Republican from Broken Arrow.
Glossip, who has long maintained his innocence, is scheduled to be executed on May 18 in the murder-for-hire killing of his former boss, but Oklahoma’s new Attorney General Gentner Drummond has ordered an independent review of his conviction.
McDugle was joined at a press conference Wednesday by two other Republican lawmakers and says many more of his GOP colleagues support his effort. Among those requesting a moratorium was Adam Luck, an appointee of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to both the Board of Corrections that oversees the state prison system and the Pardon and Parole Board. Luck resigned last year after disagreements with Stitt over imposing the death penalty. Some clergy members also took part in the news conference.
States Facing Budget Shortfalls Should Cut the Most Wasteful Program of All: The Death Penalty
By Drew Johnson, Senior Scholar at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and a member of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty
As Congress grapples with how to pay for $2.2 trillion in COVID-19 aid, and the nearly $4 trillion federal deficit expected this year, governors and state lawmakers are fighting their own financial battles.
The lack of economic activity as a result of coronavirus shutdowns has dried up tax revenues. At the same time, increasing demand for government services means money is draining out of state coffers at a record pace. It’s little wonder that most states are bracing for massive revenue shortfalls and record deficits.
New York estimated tax revenue may be as much as $7 billion below projections for the current fiscal year. Illinois is facing $7.3 billion in general revenue shortfalls over the next two years. Rainy day funds are expected to be depleted in numerous states, including Arkansas, Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced hiring freezes and told cabinet members to look for ways to cut 20 percent of agency budgets. State budget deficits of more than $1 billion are expected in Kansas and Arizona. Even Alaska’s state lawmakers are preparing for an $815 million revenue shortfall next year.
As state policymakers put programs on the chopping block in an attempt to balance budgets, there’s one failed policy that should be first to go: the death penalty.
Tennessee bishops ask governor to end executions | Opinion
By Bishop Martin D. Holley of Memphis, Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, and Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville.
In 2014, you may recall, Bishops Stika, Choby, and Steib discussed with you their strong opposition to the state carrying out the death penalty. At that time, Bishop Stika shared with you the account of Pope John Paul II’s (now Saint John Paul) role in commuting the death sentence of Missouri’s Darrell Mease to life in prison during the papal visit to St. Louis in 1999. At that time, the pope called for the end to the death penalty as both cruel and unnecessary. He said that it is simply not necessary as the only means to protect society while still providing a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.
Read the letter here.
Keeping DNA in death penalty cases a tool for justice
By Senator Steve Dickerson
April 3, 2016
DNA evidence can play a crucial role in identifying the guilty or exonerating the innocent. That is why I am sponsoring SB 2342, the DNA Preservation Act.
SB 2342 seeks to address one shortcoming in the way our state deals with DNA or “biologic evidence.”
While, in almost all death penalty cases, biologic evidence is catalogued and maintained until the execution of the convicted criminal, Tennessee does not mandate that this occurs. During a review of the death penalty in Tennessee, the American Bar Association specifically noted this weakness.
SB 2342 seeks to resolve this issue by codifying, in death penalty cases, all biological evidence collected for that case be preserved until the defendant is executed, dies or is released from prison.
Continue reading here.
Conservatives should oppose the death penalty
By Amy Lawrence
March 26, 2016
Though support for the death penalty in the U.S. is the lowest it has been in 40 years, a majority of people still support the practice. However, a growing number of political conservatives are recognizing that the death penalty is a government program that doesn’t work.
I understand the emotional appeal of the death penalty: Evil demands a strong response, and murder should be followed with swift and sure justice. Unfortunately, the death penalty system is never swift in executing death warrants, but is always costly and, occasionally, misguided.
Continue reading here.
A bill mandating that biologic evidence collected in cases involving a death sentence is preserved for the duration of defendant’s life or incarceration is advancing in the state legislature. And because it’s sponsored by Republicans, it may actually have a shot of becoming law.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 2342 unanimously Tuesday after two weeks of supportive discussion. Nashville Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson is sponsoring the bill and its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison, is scheduled for a vote in a House subcommittee later this afternoon.
Continue Reading here.
Death penalty: The cost and political timeline
By Rachel Wittel
March 11, 2016
For two decades, Christa Gail Pike remains the only woman on Tennessee’s death row.
A federal court denied the former Knoxville resident’s request to overturn the death penalty conviction for brutally murdering Colleen Slemmer in 1995.
Pike is one of 67 inmates on Tennessee’s death row.
The large amount of prisoners is eating up taxpayer dollars.
“It’s costing $600,000 in legal fees before we even get to execution,” Sen. Richard Briggs said. “It’s taking not years, but decades before we get to that point, and there’s also some concern about innocent people being executed.”
“By all accounts, it costs anywhere from 10 to 30 times as much to bring somebody from charge to execution as it would be from charge to life in prison,” defense attorney Don Bosch added.
Briggs said he supports the death penalty, but the cost of holding death row inmates is only one concern.
Continue reading here.
Evangelical Group: Redemption Possible Even on Death Row
October 20, 2015
The National Association of Evangelicals is formally adjusting its position after 40 years of favoring capital punishment. The new resolution does not reverse the earlier decision made in 1973 in favor of the death penalty, but it acknowledges those evangelicals who oppose it.
“The revision is more of a ‘pivot’ as it pertains to creating space for those that may disagree with the death penalty,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and board member of the NAE said.
Continue reading here.
Judge: TN lethal injection protocol constitutional
By Stacey Barchenger
August 26, 2015
A Davidson County judge has decided Tennessee’s rules for killing death row inmates via lethal injection are constitutional in a major decision in the battle over capital punishment in the state.
But the Wednesday decision does not necessarily clear the way for executions to resume.
Read more here.
Will Nebraska ditch the death penalty? Voters may decide.
The Christian Science Monitor
By Jessica Mendoza
August 27, 2015
A group fighting to keep the death penalty in Nebraska is looking to give voters final word on the state’s capital punishment law.
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, endorsed by Governor Pete Ricketts and a number of state and local legislators and officials, said Wednesday that its members had collected 166,692 signatures that, if verified, would be more than enough to suspend the law’s repeal until the issue goes before voters in November 2016. Nebraska’s state legislature voted by a narrow margin to abolish the death penalty in May.
The announcement comes as states across the country wrestle with the idea of capital punishment in the face of procedural, financial, and moral concerns around execution. It also shows that even as public opinion shifts slowly in favor of abolition, proponents of ending the practice will not be coasting to victory, especially in conservative states.
Read more here.
Kansas College Republicans want repeal of the state’s death penalty
The Kansas City Star
By Edward M. Eveld
August 20, 2015
A statewide organization of College Republicans announced today it is seeking the repeal of the Kansas death penalty.
“We believe in promoting a culture of life from conception to natural death,” said Dalton Glasscock, chairman of the Kansas Federation of College Republicans. “The effort is to make a more consistent policy — that we do stand for all life.”
While conservatives traditionally have supported some uses of capital punishment, the organization’s resolution called on the Republican Party to “protect all life where it can, and never take a life when it is unnecessary or when it can be avoided.”
Hansen: One Nebraska state senator’s long, hard journey from death penalty backer to execution opponent
By Matthew Hansen
May 29, 2015
Brett Lindstrom looks tired. He looks dazed. The 34-year-old state senator from Omaha sits slumped on a window sill that overlooks the Nebraska State Capitol’s pretty little courtyard, but he does not look out the window at the fresh-cut grass or the swaying tree or the singing birds.
He stares down at the floor, like a man who had 214 emails in his inbox when he got to his office, some of them thanking him, and some of them telling the former Husker quarterback that he is a jerk, or a traitor or the worst thing to happen to Nebraska since the Dust Bowl.
Click here for the full article.
In Nebraska vote, sign of broader conservative backlash to death penalty
The Christian Science Monitor
By Harry Bruinius
May 28, 2015
Conservative principles are “very close to my heart,” says Marc Hyden, a Republican activist and former National Rifle Association field worker. And that’s why he says he now “eats, sleeps, and breathes” his current job: to help abolish the death penalty.
Mr. Hyden recognizes that conservative firebrands like himself are not usually at the vanguard of efforts to end capital punishment. But he’s gone so far as to spearhead the national network Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty in New York. And when Nebraska became the first Republican state in more than 40 years to abolish state executions on Wednesday, those on the political right led the charge.
Read more here.
More Conservatives Are Coming Out Against The Death Penalty
By Kim Bellware
April 27, 2015
Marc Hyden said a Georgia-based tea partyer came up to him in February with a bit of a confession. “I’ve been against the death penalty for 30 years,” the man said. “I just never told anyone.”
It’s a sentiment Hyden, a coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty, said he has heard quite a bit since the organization launched about three years ago. CCADP is a network of political and social conservatives who question how the death penalty truly aligns with core conservative values like sanctity of life, fiscal responsibility and a limited government.
Click here to read the full article.
Nebraska vote signals growing conservative support for ending death penalty
By Drew Johnson
April 23, 2015
If there is one thing conservatives hate, it’s a failed government program that gives the state power it shouldn’t have. In recent years, however, there is one government policy many conservatives continue to rally behind even though it wastes millions in taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, puts innocent lives at risk and fails to keep Americans safe: the death penalty.
Fortunately, the tide is beginning to turn, and more and more lawmakers, scholars and pundits on the right side of the aisle now recognize that it’s bad policy to give an all-too-fallible government the power to execute its own citizens.
Tenn. executions halted as legal challenges continue
April 13, 2015
Four executions set within the next year have been delayed while both of the state’s methods — lethal injection and its backup, the electric chair — are tied up in legal battles.
Read the full story.
Tennessee Conservatives Should Reconsider Death Penalty
Column submitted by Kenny Collins and Logan Threadgill
April 2, 2015
Though Sunshine Week in Tennessee has ended, the need for a more transparent government has not.
Given the recent revelations concerning the staggering levels of incompetence and government secrecy in the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and the possibility that Tennessee may not have the necessary drugs to carry out an execution, our residents have every reason to be concerned.
Click here to read the full article.
Lead prosecutor apologizes for role in sending man to death row
The Shreveport Times
A.M. “Marty” Stroud III
March 8, 2015
“Glenn Ford deserves every penny owed to him under the compensation statute. This case is another example of the arbitrariness of the death penalty. I now realize, all too painfully, that as a young 33-year-old prosecutor, I was not capable of making a decision that could have led to the killing of another human being.”
Read the rest of Stroud’s editorial response here.
Gatekeepers of Redemption: Conservative Evangelicals on the Death Penalty
Feb. 2, 2015
“It’s all based on circumstantial evidence. It’s not fair!”
“We didn’t have money for a defense attorney!””
These assertions are regularly heard in courtrooms across the country as the fate of yet another person’s life is determined in a death penalty case. “Gatekeepers of redemption” — that is what I call them — the decision makers in capital punishment. Yet as I think about the death penalty movement and the shift that seems to be occurring within it, I am beginning to see an inkling of hope.
Read more here.
Two KY Lawmakers Want Prosecutors to Put a Price on Death Penalty Cases
Public News Service
Jan. 28, 2015
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky has the death penalty – but no firm price tag on what it costs to send a convicted felon to death row.
Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, and Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, who both oppose the death penalty, have filed companion resolutions – SCR 11 and HCR 30 – to determine the costs of administering the law. While public defenders have provided cost estimates, the lawmakers say, prosecutors have been unwilling to cooperate.
Read the full article.
Exonerations of U.S. criminals hit record in 2014: study
Jan. 27, 2015
The number of U.S. criminals exonerated in 2014 climbed to a record high of 125, in part because of efforts by prosecutors willing to admit their offices made mistakes, according to a report released on Tuesday.
Group Claims Capital Punishment Is Anti-Conservative and Bad in Florida
Sunshine State News
Jan. 24, 2015
It may surprise you to discover a growing number of social conservatives and libertarians are questioning the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values.
More and more — even in Florida — they’re rethinking and rejecting the death penalty, according to the man who is carrying the message across the nation, Florida included.
“American criminal justice,” says Marc Hyden, “is a system marked by inefficiency, inequity and inaccuracy.”
Kent Bush: Is death penalty worth the cost?
The Butler County Times-Gazette
Jan. 16, 2015
Asking the wrong questions always leads to the wrong answers.
When considering the death penalty, the question may not be whether it is right or wrong, but is it worth the cost.
The death penalty is a failed public policy
By Sen. Colby Coash
Jan. 6, 2015
Twenty years ago, as a college freshman, I attended an execution. I celebrated. I stood outside the prison, drank beer with other death penalty enthusiasts, and thought that justice had been served.
Since then, I’ve become a conservative state senator in Nebraska. I am pro life, I believe in limited government, and I know that many expensive government programs fail to achieve their goals. I have learned how the death penalty violates conservative principles I hold dear. If I had known what I know now, about how the death penalty really affects states, I would not have been able to celebrate.
Read more here.