Friday, February 09, 2007

Barack Obama and the death penalty

NCADP cannot and does not endorse candidates for elective office. We can't because of our tax status as a 501(c)(3). However, we can engage in public education -- i.e., we can tell voters where candidates stand on issues such as the death penalty.

Courtesy of today's Washington Post, here's where Barack Obama stands on the death penalty. In a nutshell: He's pro-death penalty but he is also pro-let's not execute the wrong guy:


Five years later, Obama waded into a complex capital-punishment debate after a number of exonerations persuaded then-Gov. George Ryan (R) to empty death row.

Obama wrote in his recent memoir that he thinks the death penalty "does little to deter crime." But he supports capital punishment in cases "so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."

In proposing changes, Obama met repeatedly with officials and advocates on all sides. He nudged and cajoled colleagues fearful of being branded soft on crime, as well as death-penalty opponents worried that any reform would weaken efforts to abolish capital punishment.

Obama's signature effort was a push for mandatory taping of interrogations and confessions. It was opposed by prosecutors, police organizations and Ryan's successor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, who said it would impede investigators.

Working under the belief that no innocent defendant should end up on death row an no guilty one should go free, Obama helped get the bill approved by the Senate on a 58 to 0 vote. When Blagojevich reversed his position and signed it, Illinois became the first state to require taping by statute.

"Obviously, we didn't agree all the time, but he would always take suggestions when they were logical, and he was willing to listen to our point of view. And he offered his opinions in a lawyerly way," said Carl Hawkinson, the retired Republican chairman o the Judiciary Committee. "When he spoke on the floor of the Senate, he spoke out of conviction. You knew that, whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him."


Anonymous said...

It is my view that death penalty abolitionists, people who want (so badly needed) social change, and so-called "progressives" need to give up their illusions that Obama is the candidate for them. Let's not waste our votes on this man.

The Central Pennsylvania Abolitionist said...

In my younger days, the death penalty was a deal breaker issue when I voted, even for president. (Did not vote for Clinton or Gore.) Now it's not, and I'm an Obama supporter.

But this post does cause a roll of the eyes. "(H)e is also pro-let's not execute the wrong guy"??? (sarcasm)Wow, how brave.(/sarcasm) It's not comprehensible how a guy who was the prez of the Harvard Law Review and who went through the Illinois experience and who worked the streets of the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer could possibly be pro-death penalty.

By the way, is Hillary's campaign busily trying to scare up a brain-damaged inmate to execute?

Anonymous said...

while obama's work you've outlined here is great and all, we all know that there is no fool proof way to make sure the wrong man doesn't go to death row except abolishing the death penalty, so obama's actions feel almost like a vain attempt at winning votes on both sides of the death penalty debate. let's not find ourselves had by another sweet-talker.

a similar article on another possible candidate, wes clark:

Anonymous said...

I hear what you both are saying and I wish it were only the death penalty that Obama is problematic around. But it's not. Quite frankly, I am offended and insulted by the politics of Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. I often think Kucinich is a decent guy in many ways though. I will not be voting for any of those 3 though. For a good look at the awful politics of Obama see:
You don't have to share Street's radicalism to see the truth in what he's saying. His analysis speaks to liberals and progressive democrats. Liberals shouldn't be falling for Obama's (or Edwards or Clintons) charade.

DonationTree said...

There's no way that Obama is going to win anyways.

I don't see the point of people being so hung over him.

political forum

Anonymous said...

sadly, i agree. i say sadly because i think it will still come down to the color of his skin, nothing actually IMPORTANT.

Unknown said...

The president doesn't have much influence on this issue, unless it comes to pardons, and he is clearly willing to go to length's to make sure innocent people aren't executed. The only way it would be an issue is if it came time for him to veto an abolitionist bill, but I don't see much of a chance of such a bill coming to his desk.

TonyTH said...

here is a good look at the Zmag article so that people can better make there decision.
I can't at this time come to a final decision on Obama. I was a supporter until I heard about the capital punishment stance. This is not the only factor to my decision. I feel that the belief of the president dosn't always persude the belief of the people. So, we could have a Obama presidency and still have a fighting chance at overturning the death penalty in good time. If we want it overturned then we must focus on education. I feel that Obama is still the best "viable" choice in helping our education system.

Anonymous said...

In my younger days, the death penalty was a deal breaker issue when I voted, even for president. (Did not vote for Clinton or Gore.) Now it's not, and I'm an Obama supporter."

In my younger days, the death penalty was a deal breaker issue when I voted, even for president (Did not vote for Clinton or Gore). Now that I am older and wiser the death penalty is my # 1 deal breaker. The death penalty is immoral, classist and racist, and for these reasons I am NOT an Obama-Edwards-Clinton supporter

Lance Del Goebel

Anonymous said...

"In my younger days, the death penalty was a deal breaker."

I hope I NEVER grow this old.


Anonymous said...

It's exactly because Obama was head of the Harvard Law Review and worked the streets on the South Side of Chicago that I trust his efforts to try to reform the system.

So we can't get everything all at once, are we going to refuse to support the most reasonable candidate on the issue?

Anonymous said...

As a law student myself with a B.A. in Criminology, I find it rather interesting that this is even a topic up for discussion... The fact to the matter is that people are pro and anti any and everything until they are the one's in the hot seat...

I like so many others are pro an or would be pro death penalty, however, the idea that someone can be put to death and or has been put to the death over a crime they never committed is a moral compass jerker... No one wants to be responsible for putting someone to death and then finding out they were not the on responsible for the acts that were placed around their neck... Until and unless all avenues of making sure that the actual and factual person is paying for the crime they have been charged with have been exhausted... no one should be put to death... but it doesn't mean that a person like me can't be pro death penalty because after all, I am...

Anonymous said...

It is truly sad that so many Americans rely on the corporate mainstream media to shape their views about a politician such as the celebrity candidate, Obama.

They are already, now, so emotionally attached to him that they will turn the thinking part of their brain off to deny the reality that he is so fundamentally unjust on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm voting and campaigning for Obama.

I'm opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.


When did politics become all-or-nothing? Politics is ALL about compromise, negotiations, timing, blending leadership with representation.

Charles Wilton said...

"He's pro-death penalty but he is also pro-let's not execute the wrong guy"

So is John McCain and 90% of the politicians in Washington. Of those running for the Democratic or GOP nomination, only Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were opposed to the death penalty.

To his credit, Senator Obama has at least mentioned the Illinois experience with innocent men on death row in his speeches. That is more than most politicians are willing to do.