POLICE Magazine

MAY 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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P O L I C E M AG .C O M 45 1989 CAPITAL PUNISHMENT…THEN AND NOW A May 1989 special section examined the death penalty, including an article on pub- lic opinion whose deck read, "Why and how executions are carried out has changed over time." And oh how it has. e article goes on to say, "According to one nationwide opinion survey, 42 percent of Americans favored capital punishment in 1966. More than 75 percent were in favor by 1986." But now the pendulum seems to have swung back. In 2016, the Pew Research Cen- ter reported, "Public Support for the Death Penalty Drops Below 50% for First Time in 45 Years." In 2018, another Pew poll found an "Uptick in Death Penalty Support, ough Still Near Historic Lows." en as now, states' stances on the death penalty vacillated. And execution meth- ods have gained and lost favor: "e witch burnings used here 300 years ago were replaced by public hangings the following century. e firing squad, which is still used in some states, has been used, as well as the gas chamber, electrocution and the newest twist in execution—lethal injection." Now lethal injection is the favored form of capital punishment, in states where it's currently allowed. But debates over which lethal cocktails should be allowed compli- cate matters, as do individual prosecutors' and judges' stances on the death sentence. As the article states, "e history of capital punishment also is a history of controversy."

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