The Death Penalty in America

ACS Resources and Analysis

ACS Condemns the Death Penalty

In July 2020, after a 17-year moratorium, the U.S. Justice Department resumed executions of federal prisoners sentenced to death. During this nearly two-decade hiatus, public opinion has turned against the death penalty, due, in part, to the litany of exonerations of people previously sentences to death (170 and counting) and a national reckoning with the racially unjust  administration of the death penalty.

The American Constitution Society condemns the cruelty and racism inherent in the death penalty and has launched a new “ACS President’s Initiative” to foster greater understanding of the racial disparities and constitutional issues in the administration of the death penalty.

ACS has and will continue to hold national and chapter events about the lack of effective representation for the accused, the use of junk science, unjust and unnecessary limits on judicial review, as well as the institutional racism that plagues our criminal legal systems and the death penalty.

Videos: ACS Death Penalty Events

Tinkering with the Machinery of Death: Resuming Federal Executions

ACS Webinar (July 9, 2020)

Experts discuss the reasons for the nearly 20-year moratorium on federal executions, and the concerns over this quick succession of executions planned for this summer in the face of continued criticism that the death penalty is arbitrary, racially biased, and plagued by poor, under-resourced lawyering.

Speakers: Gary Tyler, Former Death Row Inmate, Outreach and Engagement Support Worker, Safe Place for Youth; Miriam Gohara, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel; and Russ Feingold, ACS President, Moderator. (July 2020)

The Dangers of Injecting Secrecy into the Death Penalty

ACS National Convention (2015)


Since the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in Baze v. Rees, which held Kentucky’s lethal injection protocol constitutional, makers and suppliers of lethal injection drugs have increasingly refused to sell their products to death penalty states, forcing the few states that actively seek to execute death row inmates to adopted untested lethal injection protocols. These states have also developed a new tool to ward off legal challenges: secrecy laws barring access to information about lethal injection drug sources or protocols. Are critics right that these laws violate the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments by curtailing the media’s access to information, forcing corrections staff to inflict pain on inmates, and violating the due process rights of the executed? Is the use of untested lethal injection protocols constitutional? How do these debates more generally reflect the continued viability of capital punishment in the United States?
Speakers: Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Correspondent, The New York Times; Mark Earley, Founder and Principal, Earley Legal Group; Member, Death Penalty Committee, The Constitution Project; Tanya Greene, Advocacy and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union; Megan McCracken, Eighth Amendment Resource Counsel; Katie Townsend, Litigation Director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press