Death Penalty

Death Penalty Focus, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty & The Innocence Project

Death Penalty Focus is committed to the abolition of the death penalty through public education, grassroots and political organizing, media outreach, and domestic and international coalition building. 

This man’s life hangs in the balance and this decision largely rests with the Board of Pardons and Paroles. As the audience, we hold a powerful position in ensuring that justice is served through fair means. We not only have the ability to guide the decision-makers with our opinions and demands, but also have the opportunity to stand up for what is right by taking action. By signing the petition to save Will Speer, we are taking that step towards a fair and just society. Every signature counts in ensuring that his life is spared, and proper measures are taken to ensure he is saved. Let us take the initiative and prove that our society believes in a just and fair distribution of justice.

For more about Will’s life, watch the short video or read his life story here while you sign the Petition!

The Right Way: More Republican lawmakers championing death penalty repeal

The Right Way ThumbnailAt a press conference in Washington, DC, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released a new report that shows the surge in the number of Republican lawmakers who sponsored death penalty repeal legislation at the state level. The report – called The Right Way – looked at all death penalty repeal bills filed since 2000, using the increase in sponsorships as a measure for growing Republican leadership on the issue.

Findings include:

  • The number of Republican state lawmakers to sponsor death penalty repeal bills increased sharply since 2012.
  • From 2000 to 2012, it was rare for Republican state lawmakers to sponsor death penalty repeal bills. In 2013, the annual number of Republican sponsors more than doubled.
  • By 2016 ten times as many Republicans sponsored repeal bills than in 2000.
  • More than 67% of the Republicans sponsoring death penalty repeal bills did so in red states.

In 2016, there were 10x more GOP #deathpenalty repeal sponsors than in 2000. Read the report:

In 2016, over 33% of all #deathpenalty repeal sponsors were Republican. Read the report:

Surge in the Republican sponsors of #deathpenalty repeal. Read the report:

Death Penalty Focus

Support HR 262 & SB 582 & Urge President Biden to Commute Federal Death Row 

We vowed to do whatever we could to prevent the federal government from ever again conducting mass executions. Please join us in asking Congress to pass the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021. The Act has been introduced in the House as HR 262 by Rep. Ayanna Presley, and in the Senate by Sen. DIck Durbin as SB 582. Show your support for both bills. Sign our petition by asking your congressperson to support HR 262, and your senator to support SB 582. One hundred and eight countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes; 144 have abolished it in law or practice. It’s time the US joined these countries and stopped executing its citizens.
President Biden says he supports eliminating the federal death penalty but hasn’t taken any action yet. So we’re asking you to join us in urging him to commute the sentences of the 46 men currently on federal death row and eliminate the possibility that we will witness again the killing spree that the Trump Administration committed in the last half of 2020. The federal death penalty system is deeply flawed. It reflects the misguided “tough on crime” policies of the 1990s and early 2000s and shows the same racial bias that we see in state death penalty systems. Of the 46 men currently on federal death row, 39 percent are Black, compared with about 13 percent of the U.S. population. Seven of the 13 executions carried out last year were people of color. In addition, several of the men on death row, including those among the 13 who were executed in the last half of 2020, were not the accused killers, and their culpable or equally culpable co-defendants were not sentenced to death. The petition is in collaboration with the Innocence Project, Equal Justice USA, 8th Amendment Project, Witness to Innocence, ACLU, and the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Sign Now

What Conservatives Are Saying

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty National Supporters

Conservatives, like all Americans, have a wide variety of views on the death penalty and a wide array of reasons they are concerned about it. Here are some of them. (The following views are the speakers’ own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CCATDP, which is a single issue organization).

“Conservatives have every reason to believe the death penalty system is no different from any politicized, costly, inefficient, bureaucratic, government-run operation, which we conservatives know are rife with injustice. But here the end result is the end of someone’s life. In other words, it’s a government system that kills people.” Richard Viguerie, Advisor to President Ronald Reagan

“I’m opposed to the death penalty not because I think it’s unconstitutional per se—although I think it’s been applied in ways that are unconstitutional—but it really is a moral view, and that is that the taking of life is not the way to handle even the most significant of crimes…Who amongst anyone is not above redemption? I think we have to be careful in executing final judgment.  The one thing my faith teaches me—I don’t get to play God.  I think you are short-cutting the whole process of redemption…I don’t want to be the person that stops that process from taking place”
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice
“I believe that support for the death penalty is inconsistent with libertarianism and traditional conservatism. So I am pleased with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty’s efforts to form a coalition of libertarians and conservatives to work to end capital punishment.”
Dr. Ron Paul, former Congressman and GOP Presidential candidate
“On the core issue — yes or no on capital punishment — I’m with the opponents. Better to err on the side of not taking life. The teaching of the Catholic Church, to which I belong, seems right to me: The state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals, but it should refrain if it has other means of protecting people from them. Our government almost always does.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor for National Review and Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
“I used to support the death penalty, but I oppose it now. It gives the state too much power, it actually cost more money than life in prison without parole, and the government sometimes sentences innocent people to death. There are hundreds of people in the U.S. that have been wrongfully convicted and eventually released after serving time on death row. Others have still been executed after evidence was introduced that strongly supports their innocence. If the government kills someone and later finds out they were innocent, there’s not much you can do.”
Julie Borowski, Conservative Libertarian Vlogger
“The death penalty is too perilous to risk to human error.”
Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Ronald Reagan
“I first supported the death penalty until I found out how many innocent individuals were being killed and how costly it was on the taxpayers. In a free and just society, we should always strive to protect life, most especially all innocent life. And, ultimately, it costs the taxpayers more to put a man to death than keeping him locked up for life. So after studying the issue, I now strongly oppose the death penalty.”
Jeff Frazee, Founder, Young Americans for Liberty and Executive Director at New Leaders Network
“The government’s culture of death–including capital punishment–must be opposed by everyone who loves freedom and life.”
Lew Rockwell, CEO and Chairman, Ludwig Von Mises Institute
“Government has no business in the taking of life that is not strictly related to national defense. The same people who don’t believe that government can efficiently deliver health services or regulate the economy believe it can execute people without a mistake. Government should have no authority to make decisions where a mistake could mean the taking of an innocent life. I would rather see 100 guilty men go free, than to see one innocent person executed.”
Austin Petersen, Founder and Editor of The Libertarian Republic
“Are some crimes so heinous as to be worthy of the ultimate earthly punishment? Yes. Are some who commit those crimes capable of remorse, redemption and restitution? Yes, but not if they’re dead. Is government guilty of sloppiness and error in its judgments? Oh my God, yes! Add to that the proven fact that capital punishment in our clunky court system costs more than life without parole and you arrive at an inescapable conclusion: the right alternatives to capital punishment offer more hope, more deterrence and more justice.”
Lawrence W. Reed, President, Foundation for Economic Education
“With hindsight’s 20-20 vision and three decades of obstinate data, it’s clear to me that California created a fiscal monster that’s taking a human toll on the very people we wanted to protect. I support the efforts of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.”
Ron Briggs, Former Republican member of the El Dorado County, California Board of Supervisors and former death penalty advocate
The state’s right to kill you is the final demonstration of its power. The death penalty isn’t about justice; it is about the supremacy of the rulers over the ruled.
Jeffrey Tucker, Vice President and Editorial Director, American Institute for Economic Research
“The death penalty runs a dangerously high risk of killing innocent people, siphons billions of dollars from the public, and gives the government power it cannot be trusted to carry out fairly.”
Drew Johnson, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research
“The United States government has perverted the relationship between the citizen and the State. We now have warrantless surveillance, militarized police and indefinite detention. How can a government that so easily disregards the fundamental principles that created it (and limited it) be trusted with questions of life and death? It can’t, and that is why I support Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty.”
Michael D. Ostrolenk, Co-Founder and National Director of the Liberty Coalition
“The most important reason to oppose capital punishment was eloquently stated by Marquis de Lafayette, who wrote, “I shall ask for the abolition of the penalty of death, until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me.” Our courts, judges, prosecutors and police are NOT infallible, by a long shot.”
Paul Jacob, President of Citizens in Charge and the Liberty Initiative Fund

The following quotes are compiled from public sources and do not represent their endorsement of, or membership in, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

“Even in the United States where we have the best due process probably in the world, we have probably executed people wrongfully for the death penalty, then found out through DNA testing many people on death row are there inaccurately. And even Republicans have pulled back their beliefs some on death penalty.”
Senator Rand Paul
“I felt very troubled about cases where someone may have been convicted wrongly.  DNA evidence definitely should be used when possible.  I agree with the pope that in the civilized world…the application of the death penalty should be limited.  I would definitely agree with that.  I would certainly suggest there probably should be some further limits on what we use it for.”
Rick Santorum
“My own view on capital punishment is that it is morally justified, but that the government is often so inept and corrupt that innocent people might die as a result. Thus, I personally oppose capital punishment.”
Edward H. Crane, Founder and President Emeritus, The CATO Institute
“I do not support the death penalty. I am very concerned about the studies that show that there exists racial and economic disparities that, in my view, should not be ignored.”
Michael Steele, Former Republican National Committee Chairman and Former Republican Maryland Lieutenant Governor
“I believe that inside many Americans lies certain uneasiness about capital punishment.”
Bill O’Reilly, commentator
“I’m troubled by the fact that there are people that have been exonerated through DNA. That’s horrific. And we have to do something about that. ….There could be innocent people probably today on death row.”
Laura Ingraham, Host, The Ingraham Angle
“The biggest government waste: The death penalty. An individual death-penalty case could climb to $100 million, much of it spent at the litigation level. Also, DNA evidence has exonerated nearly 300 death-row inmates. At least 39 of those inmates have been executed despite evidence of innocence. Biggest government waste.”
John McLaughlin, creator and host of “The McLaughlin Group”
“I oppose the death penalty. It’s too high a risk if we can get it wrong. It’s someone’s life.”
Evan McMullin, former conservative presidential candidate
“Death penalty is more expensive than life in prison. Far too often we kill the wrong person. Conservatives should oppose the death penalty.”
Charlie Kirk, Founder, Turning Point USA
“How is it that conservatives generally believe in ‘life,’ but are very willing to allow a corrupt and hugely flawed court system to condemn someone to death?”
Larry Klayman, Founder, Judicial Watch
“It’s becoming harder to justify the death penalty in the face of evidence that our system is flawed… For years, people like me thought that being tough on crime meant supporting the death penalty. Times have changed, and it’s time for conservatives to get on the right side of the death penalty argument. One can oppose the death penalty and still be in favor of a tough, affordable, accurate, and fair criminal justice system.”
Mary Kate Cary, commentator and former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush
“I think a [death penalty] moratorium would indeed be very appropriate.”
Rev. Pat. Robertson
“I have come to think that capital punishment should be abolished.”
Jack Kemp, former Republican Congressman and Vice Presidential Candidate
“My fundamental problems with the death penalty began as a result of my personal concern, echoed by many on all sides of the political spectrum, that it was inconsistent for one to be ‘pro-life’ on the one hand and condone government execution on the other…Then came the talk of margin of error; the fact that in the course of business, the government had sentenced innocent people to death based on either just plain poor legal representation or discoveries obtained through advanced DNA technology.”
Christian Josi, Former Executive Director, American Conservative Union
“I’m uncomfortable with the death penalty under any circumstances.”
Tucker Carlson, Fox News
“I’m a “law and order” guy. Don’t get me wrong. Individuals need to be held accountable. I don’t believe in… the kinds of fuzzy-wuzzy stuff of the Left, but I have always felt… and always said that there are very serious questions about the justice of the death penalty.”
Colonel Oliver North, President, National Rifle Association
“As a pro-life, fiscally responsible conservative, I’ve long had problems with capital punishment. But in the face of all this evidence that the death penalty is neither just nor effective nor cost-efficient, it makes me wonder why anyone still supports it.”
SE Cupp, Conservative Columnist and Television Host
“As governor of New Mexico, I was a bit naïve and I did not think the government made mistakes with regard to the death penalty. I came to realize that they do. I don’t want to put one innocent person to death to punish 99 who are guilty.”
Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico
“Society is not equipped to handle death penalty cases because of resources.  Large law firms are not willing at this stage to take these cases on, at a cost of many thousands of dollars, in order to make sure that if the public wants the death penalty, it is not administered with arbitrariness and caprice.”
Kenneth Starr, former United States Solicitor General
“The costs can’t be borne by smaller counties particularly, so if the crime occurs in a large county you might be charged with the death penalty, in a smaller county you’re not. That raises some significant questions about fairness.”
Greg Zoeller, Former Indiana Attorney General
“For those who believe in the virtue of limited government and criticize roundly when government does not work well, capital punishment does not meet fundamental conservative standards. Not only is it applied arbitrarily, but our judicial system cannot even figure out how to examine it properly.”
Marshall Hurley, former general counsel, North Carolina Republican Party
Source: Greensboro News & Record, July 27, 2003
“It is time for conservatives to do what they do best and insist that a wasteful, inefficient government program gets off the books… Small government and the death penalty don’t go together.”
Christy Clark, Former Montana State Representative (R-Choteau)
Source: “Execution costs in the cross hairs,” Great Falls Tribune, September 17, 2012.
“We should rethink the death penalty in this country. If even one innocent person is wrongly put to death on behalf of the state, for me, that is enough to get rid of it.”
John Feehery, Republican strategist who used to support the death penalty
“I quit believing in capital punishment when I became convinced that the state is not trustworthy to use this power responsibly.”
Rod Dreher, Author and Senior Editor at The American Conservative
“[The death penalty is] a waste of time and money…The only thing it does is prolong the agony of the victims’ families.”
Donald McCartin, former conservative jurist who sent nine men to death row in California
“It might be easier to allow the death penalty to continue if it were less expensive than life in prison. If the courts treated rich and poor equally. If it truly was a deterrent. If everyone that was executed was guilty. Unfortunately the sad truth about the death penalty is it is much more expensive. The courts do not disperse justice equally. It is not a deterrent. And sometimes, yes, sometimes they are innocent.”
Roy Brown, former Montana State Senator (R)
“I’m opposed to the death penalty.”
Kathryn Jean Lopez, Former Editor, The National Review

On April 25, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the April 27 execution of Melissa Lucio for a crime that never occurred. She now has a chance to prove her innocence in court, but her fight for justice continues. 

Send Ms. Lucio a message that you’ll continue to fight for her.

Clearing the federal death row is the best way to ensure that the U.S. government does not risk the irreversible horror of executing innocent people like Carlos DeLuna, whose case is documented in the film The Phantom. In 1989, Texas executed Mr. DeLuna for a murder that someone else likely committed.

Sign this petition to urge President Biden to commute the sentences of people on federal death row.

  • Since 1973, at least 185 people across the U.S. have been wrongly sentenced to death and exonerated. But those are just the cases we know of — for some, like Carlos DeLuna, the truth emerged too late and an innocent person was executed. 

Free Pervis who has fought for his innocence for 33 years on death row 

On Nov. 23, Mr. Payne was formally removed from death row, where he has been wrongly imprisoned for a crime he’s always said he didn’t commit. Mr. Payne had been facing execution in Tennessee, despite living with an intellectual disability that makes it unconstitutional to execute him. Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich finally conceded that Mr. Payne is a person with an intellectual disability, and announced she would stop pursuing the death penalty in his case. 

Sandra “Sandy” Hemme has spent more than four decades in prison for a crime that evidence supports she did not commit, making her the longest-known wrongly incarcerated woman in the U.S. Although Ms. Hemme, now 63, has spent the majority of her life wrongfully imprisoned, she has never given up hope that her name will one day be cleared.

Read the key facts about the case: here

Wrongful conviction occurs when a factually innocent person is convicted of a crime they did not commit. It is a symptom of a broken criminal legal system that must be fixed.

64% of Innocence Project clients who have been freed or exonerated are Black and/or Latinx

63% of our cases have involved eyewitness misidentification (including cross-racial misidentification)

53% of our cases have involved the misapplication of forensic science

We’ve learned a lot about the death penalty in the last 40 years

For three decades, we have tinkered with the death penalty in an effort to make it fair, accurate, and effective. Yet the system continues to fail.

The risk of executing an innocent person is real

The DNA era has given us irrefutable proof that our criminal justice system sentences innocent people to die. Evidence we once thought reliable like eyewitness identification is not always accurate. DNA evidence has led to hundreds of exonerations, but it isn’t available in most cases. Despite our best intentions, human beings simply can’t be right 100% of the time. And when a life is on the line, one mistake is one too many. Read More

The complicated process has drained our resources

The death penalty is longer and more complicated because a life is on the line – shortcuts could mean an irreversible mistake. For this reason, the death penalty costs millions more dollars than a system of life without parole – before a single appeal is even filed. Read More

The death penalty has failed victims’ families

The longer process prolongs the pain of victims’ families, who must relive their trauma as courts repeat trials and hearings trying to get it right. Most cases result in a life sentence in the end anyway – but only after the family has suffered years of uncertainty. To be meaningful, justice should be swift and sure – but the death penalty is just the opposite. Read More

The death penalty doesn’t keep us safe.

In the name of helping law enforcement, the death penalty concentrates enormous state resources on chasing a small handful of executions while thousands of cases go unsolved. It’s hardly surprising, then, that police chiefs rank the death penalty last among public safety tools. Read More

Fairness in the death penalty is a moving target.

We expect justice to be blind. Otherwise it’s not justice at all. Yet poor defendants sentenced to die have been represented by attorneys who were drunk, asleep, or completely inexperienced. Geography often determines who lives and dies, and after 30 years we have not found a way to make the system less arbitrary. Every effort to fix the system just makes it more complex – not more fair. Read More

Conservatives are ready
The mounting evidence of waste, inaccuracy, and bias has shattered public confidence in the criminal justice system. Death sentences are at an all-time low and public support for the death penalty has dropped in favor of life without parole. More and more of us are questioning the death penalty and realizing that it does not square up with Conservative ideology.