56 elected prosecutors representing 26 states have pledged to end the death penalty. This included refusing to execute people with intellectual disabilities, seeking to commutations and helping to reverse sentences for cases of racial bias or negligent defense counsel.
"Many of our colleagues have been at the forefront of efforts to reform the American death sentence. Other people have seen, and in some cases, been involved in, prosecutorial efforts to seek capital punishment," said the joint statement. It was shared by Fair and Just Prosecution a bipartisan network elected prosecutors.
"We all have different opinions about the death penalty, and we come from different jurisdictions on the proper use of this sentence. However, we all have now reached the same inexorable conclusion that our country's capital punishment system is broken.
Although mainly Democrats make up the coalition of state and district attorneys general, there is at least one Republican in it: Christian Gossett (district attorney of Winnebago County), Wisconsin. They hail from both rural and large cities as well as some of the most populous counties and cities of the country.
Eleven states that they represent still have death penalties, including Arizona and North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.
Miriam Krinsky is the executive director at Fair and Just Prosecution. She stated that prosecutors had historically been strong in supporting "tough on crime" laws that have disproportionately impacted people of color and put hundreds to death, including those who were later found guilty.
Krinsky, who was a former federal prosecutor from California, stated that "now, for them to gather their voices in an unexpected manner and to turn back the tide is significant." We hope they will become change agents in their respective states. It is powerful to see 56 of them come together.
After months of inactivity during the coronavirus pandemic, states have reopened their death chambers.
Five executions are scheduled for Texas this year. Oklahoma will execute a man on Thursday . This is the second execution since 2022, and the fourth since October .
The flip side is that the frenzy of federal executions which had become the norm under Trump administration was suspended by the Biden administration. However, the White House has yet to say if President Joe Biden will keep his campaign promise to abolish the federal death penalty.
Recent executions are being questioned due to lethal injection protocols, which lawyers and opponents of the death penalty claim pose the risk that they cause undue pain or suffering.
As an example of how execution of intellectually disabled people violates their constitutional rights, recent cases inmates in Missouri and Alabama have been under scrutiny.
Although polling shows that Americans support the death penalty, it has been declining in popularity in recent years. However, some states have tried to abolish or repeal it. Virginia was the first Southern state that abolished capital punishment last year. This was largely due to the fact that its Legislature was controlled by Democrats.
Utah's bill to end the death penalty was defeated in a Monday committee vote after victims' families spoke out. One mother said to lawmakers that she is grateful for the death penalty as it was used to leverage her daughter's killer into giving information in return for him not being executed. The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Jessica Black, mother to 5-year old Elizabeth Shelley stated that "there are monsters in this world that should never get out of prison." "Having the death penalty allowed me to find my daughter and place the monster in prison for his entire life."
Krinsky stated that changing minds will not be easy but she believes that prosecutors can help to make the conversation more meaningful.
She said, "We are at a time when some states have started to resurrect executions. We can move forward on them." We also know that prosecutors and elected prosecutor have the ability to guide others and show them it's safe.
CORRECTION (Feb. 17, 20,22, 12:01 p.m.). An earlier version of the article misrepresented the number of executions Oklahoma has performed this year. Thursday's execution will be the second.