Canada's National Post examines the state of capital punishment in, "Tide may be turning for U.S. capital punishment as recent votes reveal states divided on life and death issue." It's by Joseph Brean. Canada, as is the case with every Western democracy other than the United States, does not have capital punishment. It also contains some excellent infographics.
Public support for capital punishment remains strong, solidly 60% in both the U.S. and Canada, which abolished it in 1976, and came within two dozen House of Commons votes of reinstating it in 1987.
But there are signs this modern period of American justice might not last. In March, Maryland became the most recent of five states in six years to abolish capital punishment.
What these votes have revealed is a country formally divided, state against state, on a life and death issue.
Virginia, Ohio and national leader Texas are lined up against New York, New Mexico and Michigan, with California unsure where to stand, as it curiously registers death sentences but does not carry them out. Only nine states used it in 2012. It was 13 the year before. The national tally is 32 with, 18 without, and closing.
“I think what’s taking place is a gradual movement away from the death penalty that now has, by almost any measure, made it into an institution used by a minority of the population in a minority of the counties,” said James Liebman, professor of law at Columbia Law School in New York.
“But the counties that are using it are sticking to it, and the question really is how long the majority in the U.S. will continue to be prepared to subsidize the use of the penalty by the minority.”
About half of Americans live in a jurisdiction that does not execute. Just one county in 10 returned even a single death sentence over a given year, and only 1% did so at a rate of more than one a year, according to research by Robert Smith, assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
What this reflects is the geographical pattern of the American death penalty, a lens through which its legal vulnerabilities are being targeted.