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Did the Failed Oklahoma Execution Reduce Support for the Death Penalty?

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In a word, no.

According to an NBC News poll taken May 7 - May 10 (i.e., in the immediate aftermath of the failed execution and at the height of the press coverage about it): 

A comfortable majority of those questioned -- 59% -- said they favor the death penalty as the ultimate punishment for murder, while 35% said they are opposed.

That split is in line with surveys done before Lockett's death in the last two years, and also reflects the erosion of support for capital punishment since the 1990s, when it was more than 70%.

"I don't think this fundamentally altered views about the death penalty," said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

Just so.  The most recent Gallup poll had support at 60%, and a poll six weeks ago by Pew had it at 55%.

I'm a little surprised.  Given the explosion of media outrage (articles collected by SL&P, here), I thought support would take a hit.  Immediate facts usually tend to affect opinions about the DP, such as in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing.  I'm glad to see that, according to this poll, at least, Americans continue to understand that there are some crimes for which a mere prison term, no matter how long, makes a joke of justice.

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I suspect that items such as the Oklahoma botched executions are overshadowed by stories such as this near my former hometown:

"ALBANY, N.Y. — Federal authorities have decided against seeking the death penalty for the upstate New York man who cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet, then raped a 10-year-old girl and killed her mother last year, U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said Wednesday."

Authorities say Renz attacked the woman, a school librarian, and her daughter after they left a gymnastics class at a mall in Clay. Police said he used an air pistol to force the woman to drive her car to a remote section of the parking lot, where he bound both of them and raped the girl.

Prosecutors say Renz was trying to use cable ties to bind the woman to a headrest in her car when she fought back and shouted for the girl to bolt from the vehicle. The girl ran and was rescued by a passing motorist. Her mother was strangled and repeatedly stabbed, authorities say. Renz was captured by police shortly afterward."

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/05/14/3339915/us-wont-seek-death-penalty-in.html#storylink=cpy

For the record, my disgust is with NY for not having the beanbags to hold the most contemptible among us fully accountable, not the Feds. In my opinion, although they may legally have been able to prosecute and execute Renz, it is not the Feds job to clean up after the idiocy in Albany. Having the right to do it does not always mean one should.

It is my sincere belief that by far the biggest driver of public sentiment on issues of criminal punishment is the prevalence of crime in communities. After employing harsher sentencing 30 years ago, the crime rates dropped and relatively fewer people are now seeing the need for MMs and the DP. Of course, as we ditch these tools the crime rate will eventually rise again and we will be forced again to tighten the ratchet on criminals. Unfortunately, it will take mountains of human misery to get back to that point of the cycle.

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