In Connecticut, a powerful, comprehensive study provided evidence that state death sentences are haphazardly meted out, with virtually no connection to the heinousness of the crime.
In California, two former death penalty proponents — a prosecutor who drafted the 1978 ballot initiative that expanded the state's death penalty and a leading supporter of the 1978 law — are now championing a new ballot measure to repeal the penalty. They point to a study showing that, since 1978, California has spent roughly $4 billion on the death penalty to carry out 13 executions. "The cost of our system of capital punishment is so enormous that any benefit that could be obtained from it — and I now think there's very little or zero benefit — is so dollar-wasteful that it serves no effective purpose," Donald Heller, the drafter of the 1978 measure, said recently.
Decades of research show that racial bias pervades death penalty cases. Minority defendants with white victims are much more likely to be sentenced to death than others; 35 percent of those executed nationally since 1976 were black, though blacks currently make up 12.6 percent of the population. The problem of inadequate counsel permeates the system, with many indigent defendants sentenced to death after major blunders by court-assigned lawyers. And a horrific number of innocent people have ended up on death row: 17 convicts with death sentences have been exonerated with DNA evidence since 1993, 123 with other evidence since 1973.
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