Proponents of the death penalty often argue that the threat of being executed acts as a deterrent that prevents people from committing murder. But those who oppose capital punishment challenge that claim. And some researchers argue that state-sanctioned execution might actually increase homicide rates.
Now, a panel of independent experts convened by the prestigious National Research Council has taken a look at this question and decided that the available research offers no useful information for policymakers.
Religious leaders stop to pray as they march to the state Capitol for a rally to support repealing the death penalty, in Hartford, Conn., on Tuesday. The state Senate passed a bill abolishing capital punishment Thursday.
Following a vote this week in the state Senate, it's all but certain that Connecticut will become the next state to abolish the death penalty. But residents are divided over what a repeal will mean for those currently on death row.
State Sen. Edward Meyer stressed that the bill — which makes life in prison without parole the maximum sentence — was not retroactive.
"It doesn't affect the 11 inmates that are on death row right now," he said.
This August 23, 2011 photograph obtained courtesy of the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) shows Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (right) at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. (<strong>Note at 10:50 p.m. ET:</strong> Earlier, we mistakenly said he was on the left.)
Credit Spc. Ryan Hallock / AFP/Getty Images
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales has been officially been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for the March 11 killings of unarmed men, women and children in Southern Afghanistan, The Associated Press just reported from Kabul.
It adds that "premeditated murder is a capital offense and if convicted, Bales could be sentenced to death."
The only Canadian on death row in the United States is in the Montana State Prison, about an hour and a half southeast of Missoula. After almost three decades, he is asking the governor of Montana for mercy. The request for clemency is the last chance Alberta native Ronald Allen Smith has of avoiding execution.
"I've been here for 29 years," says Smith, who has spent more of his life inside the state's maximum security block than he has spent outside of it. He has tried to think about his crime as little as possible.