On the Record: Will the Supreme Court Finally Decide Whether or Not the Death Penalty is Constitutional?

By District of Columbia Bar

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D.C. Bar member Debbie Hines, a trial lawyer and former prosecutor, was asked about the future of the death penalty. With three cases to go before the Supreme Court this year, how far will the justices go in their rulings? Is it time for them to tackle whether the death penalty is constitutional instead of providing rulings specifically on protocol or should they wait?


“As the Supreme Court gears up for its Fall 2015 term, it will once again face off against the death penalty with 3 cases from Kansas, Florida and Georgia on its docket. Despite the Court’s narrow June ruling upholding lethal injections for execution, the overall tide in the country is slowly moving away from the death penalty.  


While 7 states completely abolished it, the majority of the other states have not executed anyone since 2010—with only 7 states that have executed anyone in the last two years. The country is now almost evenly split on the issue as opposed to 20 years ago when almost 80 percent supported it. And on the world stage, 101 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, according to Amnesty International. 


Since 2002 with decisions against the death penalty on juveniles and the mentally impaired, the Supreme Court is slowly moving in the same direction. It is not a matter of if the Supreme Court will determine the death penalty is unconstitutional but when the majority of justices will agree.”


Have your own thoughts about whether the future of the death penalty? Tweet Thai Phi Le @thaiphi_le or send her an e-mail at Your opinion could be the next On the Record.