November 19, 2020

Is the End in Sight? The Questionable Future of Capital Punishment in America

For the first time in our nation's history, half of all states in the country have either outright banned or declared moratoria on capital punishment. Even in states that maintain the death penalty, capital prosecutions and executions have steadily declined in recent years, with just four counties in Texas and one in Missouri accounting for over fifty percent of executions in the past ten years. At the same time, support for capital punishment is at a near half-century low, with sixty percent of Americans supporting life in prison over the death penalty. What do these trends tell us about the future of the death penalty in America? Can we continue to justify its use as we attempt to reckon with the estimated 170 people previously sentenced to death who have been exonerated and the overwhelming evidence of racism in its application? When a penalty is imposed so infrequently and seemingly arbitrarily based on geography, race, and even happenstance, can it survive good-faith constitutional scrutiny?

Russ Feingold, President, American Constitution Society

Maurice Chammah, Staff Writer for the Marshall Project; Author of the forthcoming book Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty (Moderator)
Terrica Redfield Ganzy, Deputy Director at the Southern Center for Human Rights
Sam Kamin, Professor of Law at University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
Laura Porter, Executive Director of the 8th Amendment Project