Why does a free, democratic and so called civilized country like America still practice capital punishment for serious crimes like murder?
Looking at capital punishment from a global perspective, the majority of countries practicing execution by death are characterized by the exact opposite traits as you would usually ascribe to America. In fact, America is in the same category as undemocratic countries like Iran, Iraq, China and Saudi Arabia.
In America, there has been a decrease in support for capital punishment for murders since the 1990s. In 1996, 78% of the Americans supported death penalty whereas the support in 2018 was only 54% .
Although there’s been a slight increase in people in favor of death penalty since 2016, which was the year where Donald Trump became President, the support for capital punishment has been decreasing overall since the 1990s. In America many people are against the death penalty, but the country is still divided on the topic.
There is no doubt that Death Row inmates live in a state of constant uncertainty, because they face the ultimate punishment and may not even know when they will be executed. Activists often state their opposition to capital punishment based on the basic idea of human rights and claim that the ultimate sentence violates the offenders’ right to live.
An increased awareness of human rights may be a part of the explanation for the decrease in support of capital punishment. Another reason may be the progress within forensic technology.
There has been a series of public cases where new forensic techniques have been used to investigate old capital punishment cases which have led to the release of several death row inmates.
The development of forensic technology and the awareness of injustice may be another explanation why there has been a decrease in support for capital punishment since the 1990s. However, it does not explain why the majority of Americans are still in favor of this kind of punishment.