When I started researching the death penalty in 1995, roughly 80% of Americans favored its use. The death penalty was a rare point of consensus in American politics, crossing party affiliation and political ideology.
Times have changed. The unicameral legislature of a very conservative state, Nebraska, voted last week, 32-15, to repeal capital punishment. Gov. Pete Ricketts vetoed the bill on Tuesday. But on Wednesday Nebraska became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty after legislators voted to override the governor’s veto.
Clearly, a tide is building against the death penalty in America. One of the most powerful factors is science. DNA evidence in the past 20 years was a strong reason for the exoneration of many of the 153 innocent people released from death row during that period. These people in earlier generations would have been wrongfully put to death. This realization has challenged the conscience of a fair-minded country that doesn’t want to kill innocent people.