Death Penalty Overview

"The death penalty is barbaric. And I think we as a society need to come face-to-face with that. If we’re not willing to face up to the cruelty, we ought not be doing it."
Alex Kozinski, United State Court of Appeals Judge for the Ninth Circuit

California Death Penalty Initiatives

This November, California voters will consider two competing death penalty initiatives. NACDL’s State Criminal Justice Network recently held an advocacy call on Proposition 62, which abolishes the death penalty, and Proposition 66, which would not only maintain the death penalty, but has the potential to cost the state even more and overburden local court resources.


Learn more about NACDL's State Criminal Justice NetworkAngelyn C. Frazer-Giles, Host.  Doug Shaner, production supervisor.  Music I Will! Rise Above (Jared C. Balogh) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0Running time: 39m 04s.


Current News

In March 2016, The Virginia Legislature passed HB815, that would reinstate the electric chair as the default method of execution in the case lethal injectable drugs are unavailable. NACDL is in opposition to the death penalty and more particularly this inhumane practice. NACDL President Gerry Morris penned a letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe opposing and encouraging him to veto the legislation. Please see the letter here.

Nebraska Death Penalty Repeal Referendum

In November 2016, Nebraska voters will go to the polls to decide whether to keep the repeal of the death penalty. On May 27, 2015, the Nebraska Senate voted to override the gubernatorial veto abolishing the death penalty, becoming the 19th state to do so in 8 years. However, proponents of the death penalty were successful in their petition drive in collecting enough signatures to suspend the new law and force a statewide vote on whether the death penalty should be reinstated in Nebraska.

During the Legislative session, NACDL supported efforts to repeal the death penalty through a letter from NACDL past President Theodore Simon to members of the Senate and by engaging Nebraska members through various action alerts. As efforts are underway to repeal the law abolishing the death penalty, NACDL will continue to work with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty’s 90 Million Strong Campaign and partners on the ground in Nebraska to ensure the death penalty repeal is sustained.

Victory in Nebraska! 

On May 27, 2015 the Nebraska Senate voted to override the gubernatorial veto abolishing the death penalty. Nebraska becomes the 19th state to do so in 8 years. Theodore Simon, NACDL President sent a letter to senators who supported abolition, thanking them for their support and urging them to hold the line on their vote as the governor had signaled a veto.  NACDL's advocacy team also engaged Nebraska members through e-alerts. In addition, NACDL's Death Penalty Committee and Board Member Bill Wolf were actively engaged behind the scenes during the entire process ensuring the vote would be sustained. 

90 Million Strong Campaign

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014 NACDL joined the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and a national coalition of civil rights, human rights, religious and pro-liberty groups for the launch of the 90 Million Strong Campaign.  The Campaign signifies the 90 Million Americans who believe that the death penalty is wrong.

NACDL Executive Director, Norman L. Reimer expressed in his remarks at the launch of the campaign, “The practice of government-sponsored execution has no place in the modern criminal justice system...It produces arbitrary, sometimes irrational outcomes, and it perpetuates racial and ethnic disparity.”

To learn more, visit “90 Million Strong Campaign.” 

Gallup Poll - "U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years"   

Death Penalty bedNACDL opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and supports reforms to ensure that innocent persons are not executed. Purely retributive in nature — countless studies show that it does not deter crime — the death penalty is unjust, uncivilized, and inconsistent with the fallibility of our justice system. Since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1973, more than 1,040 people have been executed in the United States. During the same time, more than 120 people sentenced to death have been exonerated. Many others have had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment because of serious doubts about their guilt. And some have been tragically executed despite serious questions concerning their innocence.

Because we believe that no amount of tinkering will rescue the death penalty from its inherent flaws, NACDL supports legislation to abolish the death penalty. In addition, NACDL supports individual state efforts to halt and study the death penalty as well as federal legislation to institute a moratorium. NACDL's Board Resolution Calling for a Moratorium on and Abolition of the Death Penalty.

In addition, NACDL's January 2012 National Advocacy Call on Developing Legislation featuring a discussion on death penalty moratorium reform efforts around the country.  For more information on the National Advocacy Calls on Developing Legislation please click here.

NACDL Executive Director, Norman L. Reimer recently gave a brief interview about why he is opposed to the death penalty.  



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