On June 29th, 1972 the Furman v. Georgia decision was issued. In that ruling, the United States Supreme Court found the death penalty to be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner and all states were forced to abandon capital punishment. Four years later, the decision was unfortunately reversed and America returned to the bloody practice of the death penalty.
On June 29th, 2015, the Supreme Court issued the Glossip v. Gross decision; allowing the use of the drug midazolam in executions. This will allow the death penalty to continue to be carried out, despite the huge concerns and controversy surrounding the lethal injection protocol.
Looking at those two decisions, you could assume that we are headed in the wrong direction, losing ground, and moving away from our ideals of justice.
You’d be wrong.
Support for the death penalty is rapidly eroding. A 2014 Washington Post NBC poll found a majority of people (52%) prefer Life without parole as a punishment for murder, while only 42% chose the death penalty. We see a majority of states that have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice in recent years. Nineteen states have legally abolished the death penalty (including seven states since 2007); three more states have an active moratorium; and ten more haven’t had an execution in almost a decade. Montana is one of those ten and we show no signs of executing anyone soon.
From Justice Breyer’s dissent of today’s ruling:
“In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed…perhaps as a result, most places within the United States have abandoned its use.”
Today’s ruling is at odds with where the rest of the country is going on this issue. Conservatives and liberals increasingly agree that the death penalty is broken beyond repair; regardless of how we carry out executions or which drugs are used. It’s extremely costly, Montana wastes millions of dollars prosecuting and defending capital cases that ultimately never result in a death sentence. The long and drawn-out process inflicts more pain and suffering on grieving families, and has longstanding detrimental effects on our law enforcement and prison personnel as they are forced to carry out executions. We can never completely eliminate the possibility of executing an innocent person; Alfred Brown just became the 154th person to be exonerated from death row . The simple truth is that the death penalty cannot be fixed and that the only solution is end it.
The death penalty is dying. Today’s ruling only makes us more committed to ending the ghastly practice. We will work harder and we will win. With your continued support and help; we will get Montana and America out of the business of killing people.
Onwards to Justice!