U.S. bucks international trend against capital punishment
January 31, 2000
ATLANTA (CNN) -- More than 600 prisoners have been executed in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to resume using the death penalty in 1976.
Public support for capital punishment remains strong, according to polls, and states have taken action to increase the number of executions within the last decade.
U.S. policy toward capital punishment offers a stark contrast to other developed nations.
"Our neighbors -- Canada, Mexico -- (and) most of the industrialized nations have done away with the death penalty," said Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights. "Even Russia has now done away with the death penalty. South Africa has.
"So the trend is clear, but we don't see that trend in the U.S."
The death penalty is popular with U.S. voters. A Gallup Poll released in 1999 showed that nearly 75 percent of Americans supported the death penalty, and 64 percent felt the death penalty was not carried out often enough.
In his successful bid for Texas governor in 1994, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush made streamlining the death penalty appeals process a campaign priority.
"The message is clear," said Bush, "Don't come to Texas and kill somebody."
On June 7, 1995, Bush signed a bill into law aimed at reducing the time spent on death penalty appeals, which can last up to 15 years. The Texas governor's office says the law cuts appeals by up to 2 1/2 years. The law also aims to save taxpayers an estimated $50,000 per inmate in overall costs.
The result of the Texas legislation and laws like it across the United States was a dramatic increase in the number of executions, from 31 in 1994 to 98 in 1999. More than a third of those executions took place in Texas, which far outpaces other states in carrying out the death penalty.
The increase has raised the voices of opponents, who charge that capital punishment is applied disproportionately to minorities and those who cannot afford adequate legal representation.
Indeed, many members of the legal community have become staunch death penalty critics, including the bar associations in Louisiana, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They have called for moratoriums on executions in their states.
Correspondent Eric Horng contributed to this report.
3 sentenced while juveniles face execution this month
Death Penalty Information Center
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