'Wrong-headed and misguided': Experts slam Donald Trump's call for death penalty for mass shootings and hate crimes
As Americans reeled from three mass shootings that left more than 30 people dead, President Donald Trump suggested that hate crimes and mass murderers should face the death penalty
Last month, amidst an uproar of dissent, attorney general Wiliam Barr announced that the US Department of Justice would be resuming the death penalty.
Then, just recently, as Americans reeled from three mass shootings that occurred days after each other and left more than 30 people dead and many more injured, President Donald Trump suggested that hate crimes and mass murderers should face the death penalty.
However, those working to abolish capital punishment say the president's suggestion is "misguided".
"The trauma brought to bear on the families, loved ones, and communities from this weekend’s tragic mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton is staggering. Yet, President Trump’s suggestion to accelerate the use of the death penalty is wrong-headed," said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network speaking to MEA World Wide.
CMN works towards the abolishment of the penalty. To them, the reason is simple—an eye for an eye is not the solution America needs.
"If our country is to confront violence, it needs to seek ways to promote human dignity, foster healing, and repair harm. It is misguided to respond to shameful, cowardly acts of violence with more senseless violence. The death penalty only perpetuates a culture of death instead of the culture of life we so desperately need," she said.
Studies have shown that there is, in fact, no relationship between the death penalty and reduction in crime.
A February 2015 study by the Brennan Center for Justice looked into why crime had dropped dramatically between the 1990s and 2000s. One of the factors included in the study was the use of the death penalty. However, the report found that it has no effect on the drop.
What another report did find was that the anxiety of punishment being doled out was a deterrent rather than the severity of the punishment itself.
Moreover, in cases of mass shootings, more often than not, the shooter or the perpetrator is killed at the scene making the threat of a death penalty fruitless.
It absolutely does not deter mass shooters, said Kirk Bloodsworth, Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, a group that advocates for criminal justice reform and death penalty abolition in the United States.
Bloodsworth himself is a death row exoneree. He was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder charge involving a minor. He is the first person in the United States to be exonerated from death row based on DNA testing. "The death penalty doesn’t deter murders, period. It just makes it unsafe for innocent people," he said, before adding that the death penalty itself was broken.
The federal death penalty had been discontinued for 16 years before Barr reinstated it. Many criminal justice activists have called it a cruel and unusual punishment.
Apart from the fact that it is cruel, there's too much of a risk that an innocent man may be killed, Bloodsworth said.
Bloodsworth advocates the abolishment of the punishment for all crimes, irrespective of their nature. "There is too much of a possibility of an innocent person being executed by the criminal justice system. Yesterday, today and tomorrow," he said.
Data has shown that 166 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973 and there have been 365 DNA exonerees to date.
According to another study, at least 4 percent of all defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent.