Committee Reports

Life After the Death Penalty: Implications for Retentionist States


The Capital Punishment Committee (Kate McMahon, Chair) issued a transcription of a panel discussion held at the City Bar on August 14, 2017, on the circumstances that led to the abolition of the death penalty in a significant number of states during the first two decades of this century. The discussion included analyses of the leading arguments propounded by people opposed to abolition and whether the evidence supports or belies those arguments. The panel, including moderator Ronald Tabak and featuring speakers Thomas P. Sullivan, Shari Silberstein, Celeste Fitzgerald and Robert Dunham, concluded that there is no apparent correlation between the death penalty and changes in murder rates (indeed, states with higher murder rates tend to have, and to retain, the death penalty); that as abolition occurs, murder rates do not rise, nor do the rates or percentages at which police officers are killed; and that national murder trends are national trends before abolition by individual states and remain national trends after abolition. “Simply put, the death penalty does not drive whether and to what extent murders occur, and the death penalty has no discernible effect on the killing of law enforcement officers.”