The legitimacy of the death penalty has emerged as a hot topic in the national conversation. Oregon’s governor declared a moratorium on executions, the execution of convicted murderer Troy Davis in September sparked controversy, and in October the Supreme Court heard a case whose outcome could affect the use of the death penalty.
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Two reports in early January highlighted the ongoing tumult in the national debate over the death penalty. A story in The New York Times looked at a prominent legal group’s decision to end its support for capital punishment. And the annual survey from the Death Penalty Information Center presented a mixed picture.
Americans seem to accept the death penalty as a fact of life, as polls show a steady 2-1 majority favor keeping capital punishment on the books. Yet that consistency can mask a simmering national debate about the efficacy, morality and even legitimacy of the death penalty.