Is the death penalty on its way out? It is not abolished, but there has been a significant shift in attitudes about the death penalty. I live in Louisiana, a staunch death penalty state, but even here, changes can be seen. Since May 11, 2002, 49 death sentences have been reversed, five people were exonerated from death row and one person was executed because he waived his appeals. The civil parish district attorneys are bringing fewer cases as death penalty cases.
Other states are following the trend of a decline in death penalty sentences. In 2014 there were 35 executions, the fewest number since 1994. Of those 35 executions, three states each had 10 executions. People who serve on juries are starting to reject death sentences. In 2014, there were only 72 death sentences in the US, the lowest number in the 40 years since the death penalty was re-instated. In Louisiana juries have handed out only three death sentences since 2012.
There are numerous problems with the death penalty. It is not financially feasible, it is discriminatory, and it is a moral issue. It is arbitrary in sentencing, largely given to people of color and the poor. Capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent and is more costly than life without parole. I think Pope Francis gave the best reason for the abolition of the death penalty and finding an alternative to it. “Even a criminal has the inviolable right to life, a gift of God,” Francis said as part of a speech marking the Year of Mercy, alongside the beginning of an international conference called “For a World Without the Death Penalty.” According to Catholic News Service, the Pope said, “This issue has to be considered within the perspective of a penal justice, which is more and more in compliance with human dignity and God’s plan for humanity and society.” It is long past time to end the death penalty.