In previous elections, support for death penalty abolition has been politically toxic, but the positions and rhetoric from many of the candidates in the 2016 race shows that the political landscape has changed. Some candidates have announced their opposition to the death penalty, and more have pointed to the numerous problems with it. Here is a breakdown of the positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on capital punishment.
Hillary Clinton: “I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”
Hillary Clinton’s position on the death penalty has shifted over the years. In her early work as a lawyer in Arkansas, Clinton defended people on death row and was a death penalty opponent. As First Lady, she supported a tough on crime agenda, and voiced support for the death penalty. Recently she has begun to qualify her support for the death penalty with concerns about how frequently it is applied.
Donald Trump: “I have always been a big believer, and continue to be, of the death penalty for horrendous crime.”
Donald Trump has supported the death penalty throughout his career in public life. In 1989, in response to a highly publicized sexual assault trial, Trump paid for an ad in 4 New York City newspapers advocating the return of the death penalty in New York. In the advertisement, Trump wrote “Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS! The teenagers he accused would be exonerated by DNA evidence after spending thirteen years behind bars for a crime they did not commit. Recently, on the campaign trail, Trump promised to make the death penalty compulsory for those convicted of killing police officers.