Supporter Profile: Wendy Kaminer

Why do I Give to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty?

The National Coalition Against the Death Penalty is a leader in the growing movement to abolish capital punishment. It has helped repeal death penalty laws in six states and is changing public opinion nationwide about the human and financial costs of state sanctioned killings. Supporting these efforts with an annual gift to NCADP is the least I can do.

Why do I oppose the death penalty?

I oppose the death penalty because I oppose killing people unnecessarily. The death penalty is not carried out in self-defense: dangerous offenders can be incapacitated by incarceration. I oppose the death penalty because I have limited trust in government and have long regarded support for capital punishment as an exercise in cognitive dissonance. If you mistrust government bureaucracies, as so many of us do, you shouldn’t trust the justice system with the power to kill. In fact, the death penalty never has been, and never will be, applied fairly, given the vagaries of the system and unavoidable human biases and fallibilities. My own brief, youthful tenure as a criminal defense attorney only confirmed my suspicion that the system can’t be trusted to prosecute larcenies sensibly, much less select people to die.

What if death were meted out fairly? That’s an impossible hypothetical, the late legal scholar Charles Black stressed. In his brief, elegant book, Capital Punishment: The Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake, Black deftly dispensed with the question, “What would you do if the death-choice system were perfected?” Sometimes, he answered, asking about the possibility of perfecting the system is like asking, “What would you do if 40% of people in the United States learned to speak pretty good Japanese by next New Year’s Day?” Or it’s like asking, “What would you do if an amoeba were taught to play the piano?”

NCADP supporter, lawyer and social critic, Wendy Kaminer, writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. She is currently a correspondent at and has authored eight books, including It’s All the Rage: Crime and Culture.

Source: National Coalition to End the Death Penalty