The unfairness and injustice of the death penalty has been front and center recently with the execution of Troy Davis, a Florida man who was convicted of murder with no physical evidence and only the testimony of witnesses, most of whom later recanted.
Now a new Gallup Poll shows that attitudes about the death penalty are changing.
Americans are increasingly opposing capital punishment.
According to the poll, 35 percent of Americans oppose the death penalty, with 61 percent supporting it for people convicted of murder. That level of support is the lowest it's been in the United States since 1972.
Attitudes about the fairness of the death penalty's application also fell, with only 52 percent of respondents saying that they feel it is applied fairly. Forty-one percent said they think it is unfairly applied.
The Gallup Poll results are encouraging, but show we still have our work cut out for us if we want to mobilize people to end the barbaric practice of state-sanctioned killing.
The key is public education.
Here in Montana, attitudes about capital punishment are significantly different than the nationwide viewpoint -- in large part because of work being done by the Montana Abolition Coalition to spread the word about why the death penalty system is broken beyond repair.
A 2009 survey of Montanans found that a majority of Montanans -- 53 percent -- view life in prison without the possibility of parole as an acceptable substitute for the death penalty. Only 40 percent of people surveyed in that poll said they favored the death penalty as the sentence for those convicted of murder.
The Montana Abolition Coalition -- a collaborative organization which includes the ACLU of Montana, the Montana Catholic Conference, the Montana Association of Churches and the Montana Human Rights Network, among other groups -- has been working to end the death penalty since 1998.
The group has sponsored events featuring innocent men sentenced to death and exonerated after years on death row, victims' family members, law enforcement and others who advocate for an end to capital punishment.
These events and other educational efforts have increased Montanans' awareness of why the death penalty is wrong. It does not deter crime, it is unfairly and unjustly applied, the innocent are put to death, it traumatizes victims' families and it costs too much.
Please join the Montana Abolition Coalition today, and help them with their work. Together we can end the death penalty in Montana.