Newspaper Editorials Conclude That The Death Penalty Is Too Flawed To Fix!


Since the Illinois moratorium was declared just more than two years ago, we have witnessed a sea change in public opinion about the death penalty in the United States. With the release of the Illinois commission’s report on capital punishment in April, growing numbers are calling for the abolition of the death penalty, and the issue of the death penalty is once again in the national spotlight.

Here, Alice Kim has collected excerpts from editorials published in newspapers around the country that make the case for abolition.

  • The United Nations Commission on Human Rights should loudly reaffirm its call for an immediate worldwide moratorium on executions... The Illinois review of the death penalty there confirmed what many studies already have suggested: This country is inconsistent in meting out the ultimate sentence.

    Detroit Free Press, April 21, 2002

  • While there are many improvements that could be made to the Illinois system -- it’s the state where 13 of the first 25 people sentenced to die since 1977 have either been exonerated or freed because of errors -- one has to wonder if the commission isn’t trying to fix the unfixable. The whole exercise is like polishing the decks on the Titanic just before hitting the iceberg. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to pretty up a vessel that is headed for the bottom of the sea.

    Likewise, you can fine-tune the death penalty system all you want. But the best evidence indicates that it will still fail to serve as a deterrent to crime; it will rarely provide closure for the families of victims; it will cost much more than a system of life without parole; it will still risk that an innocent person might be put to death.

    Evansville Courier, April 21, 2002

  • To those who believe that capital punishment is immoral under all circumstances... reforming capital punishment is an oxymoron. How can the evil of state-sponsored killing be reformed?

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 17, 2002

  • Marylanders, take notice. Many of the problems found in Illinois’ system should look terribly familiar to people here. And as the Illinois report inspires a national debate over how and why the ultimate punishment is meted out, that same hard thinking ought to take place here in the Free State.

    Baltimore Sun, April 21, 2001

  • These measures would indeed lessen the possibility of convicting an innocent person. But, as the commission itself noted, they would not rule out that possibility. The best way to avoid errors that take an innocent life is to ban the death penalty.

    The Journal Sentinel, April 15, 2002

  • In polls, it is apparent people are feeling far less comfortable with the ultimate punishment. It would be a good time to abolish capital punishment entirely.

    St. Petersburg Times, April 19, 2002

  • Despite its raft of recommendations for improving the administration of the death penalty, the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment squarely acknowledged the one inescapable reality that makes its work futile: You cannot make the death penalty foolproof and that means it will never be fair... Actually, that’s not quite right. There is one way to achieve such certainty: Abolish the death penalty.

    Newsday, April 17, 2002

  • The commission’s recommendation to tighten the whole process, from videotaping all interrogations of suspects to imposing statewide controls on local prosecutors, is long overdue. But even its 85 proposed reforms won’t ensure Ryan’s demand for 100 percent moral certainty... One wrongful execution in the name of justice is too great a risk to justify perpetuating even a reformed death penalty.

    USA Today, April 16, 2002