"This is such a profoundly difficult question and what I have said and what I continue to believe is that the states have proven themselves incapable of carrying out fair trials that give any defendant all the rights that a defendant should have, all the support that the defendant's lawyer should have. And I've said, I would breathe a sigh of relief if either the Supreme Court or the states themselves began to eliminate the death penalty. Where I end up is this, and maybe it's a distinction that's hard to support, but, at this point, given the challenges we face from terrorist activities, primarily in our country that end up under federal jurisdiction, for very limited purposes, I think it [the death penalty] can still be held in reserve for those. And the kind of crimes I'm thinking of are the bombing in Oklahoma City, where an American terrorist blew up the government building, killing, as I recall, 158 Americans, including a number of children who were in the preschool program. The plotters and the people who carried out the attacks on 9/11. But a very limited use of it in cases where there has [sic] been horrific mass killings. That's really the exception that I still am struggling with and would only be in the federal system."
Source: Ricky Jackson, "Exonerated Death Row Inmate: Clinton Wrong on Death Penalty," cnn.com, Mar. 14, 2016
"The death penalty. It should be brought back and it should be brought back strong... They say it's not a deterrent. Well, you know what, maybe it's not a deterrent but these two [men convicted of killing two police officers in Hattiesburg, MS] will not do any more killing. That's for sure."
Source: The Right Scoop, "Donald Trump: Death Penalty Needs to Be Brought Back Strong for Cop Killing Thugs in Mississippi," therightscoop.com, May 11, 2015
"When I was younger, I supported capital punishment. I changed my mind because I recognized that the risks and costs associated with the death penalty are too high. I understand the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality but, realistically public policy should have room for mistakes. Killing one innocent person who was wrongly accused is not worth executing 99 guilty people. DNA evidence and judicial appeals have shown many people are mistakenly convicted."
Source: Gary Johnson, Seven Principles of Good Government, 2012
[Editor's Note: Gov. Johnson reportedly first publicly announced his opposition to the death penalty at a Jan. 16, 2002 news conference following his State of the State speech to the New Mexico State Legislature where he said in part: "I have to come to believe that the death penalty as a public policy is flawed… I believe that this country has put innocent people to death and that in the future this country will put innocent people to death."
"America's experience shows that capital punishment does not effectively stop crimes from being committed. And our judicial system makes mistakes, killing people who are innocent. It's time to move beyond capital punishment, to abolish it, and to instead use life imprisonment as the most severe form of sentencing for those who cannot be trusted to live in common society."
"I am pleased that Attorney General Holder has decided to seek the death penalty in the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It is crucial that the United States send a message across the world that terrorists who seek to attack our homeland and bring harm to our citizens will be brought to justice and receive the severest punishment under our laws."
Source: Ted Cruz, "Cruz on Decision to Seek Death Penalty in Case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," cruz.senate.gov, Jan. 30, 2014
"I don't think you're an indecent society when you take two men who broke into a family's home, tortured two young girls, raped them, burned them alive — I don't think that makes us indecent that they would be administered the death penalty."
Source: Andrew Kaczynski, "Lindsey Graham: No Death Penalty for CT Home Invaders 'Makes Me Want to Throw Up,'" www.buzzfeed.com, Aug. 18, 2015
"But I've had these grieving families come to see me, Chuck, people who've had their mothers, who have been gunned down. And look, it's about justice. And it isn't about revenge; it's about justice. And I support the death penalty and will continue to do that, because a lot of times, families want closure when they see justice done."
Source: Henry J. Gomez, "Gov. John Kasich Reaffirms Support for Death Penalty: Ohio Politics Roundup," www.cleveland.com, June 1, 2015
"Forge Consensus for Ending the Death Penalty. The death penalty is a racially biased and ineffective deterrent, and the appeals process is expensive and cruel to surviving family members. O'Malley has long opposed the death penalty as a matter of principle and as a matter of policy. As president, he will continue to oppose capital punishment and work to abolish death sentences under federal laws."
Source: "Criminal Justice Reform," martinomalley.com, July 31, 2015
"Let me just give you an answer that I suspect not everybody will agree with. I am against capital punishment in general. I understand, and certainly for people who are mentally incapacitated who don't know what they're doing or what's happening to them—I think people have been executed who were not even aware of what was going on, and that's not something that a civilized nation should be engaged in. But in general, this is what I think. Look, there are people who commit horrendous, horrendous, horrendous crimes: we all know that. And we are furious at them, we can't understand their barbarity. But I think, as with so much violence in this world today, I just don't think the state itself, whether it's the state government or federal government, should be in the business of killing people. So when you have people who have done terrible, terrible things they're gonna spend the rest of their lives in jail, and that's a pretty harsh punishment. But I'm against capital punishment."
Source: Zaid Jilani, "Bernie Sanders on Death Penalty: The State Shouldn't Be in the Business of Killing People," alternet.org, May 5, 2015
"I've seen interviews with people saying they'd have no trouble carrying out a death sentence on a mother. People often speak as if they would gladly conduct an execution. I seriously doubt it. And I know a little more about the subject than most of some of the tough talkers. In ten and a half years as a governor, I had to carry out the death penalty sixteen times. And no matter how you think you would react, when you pick up the pen and sign your name to a death warrant that starts in motion a decision that is going to end in the death of a human being, you think about it. And when the IV line is in the veins of the condemned person, and your verbal command results in the injection of lethal drugs, it's not so simple. In the four to ten minutes until death is pronounced, time stands still. One of the executions that I had to preside over was one of only twelve women executed in modern times. She was a mother and had killed her two children. She refused to accept any legal assistance to stop her execution. Now people can talk about how certain they are about deciding on a death sentence. It's because they've never had to do it. I don't understand how the Casey Anthony jury could find her not guilty on all the charges, including manslaughter. But I also don't understand how people could possibly think it would be easy to take a life of a mother, even one who killed her child. And, God help us all if that ever gets to be easy."
Source: FoxNews, "Huckabee: Truth about the Death Penalty," video.foxnews.com, July 11, 2011
"My first thoughts aren't that forgiving for someone who would hurt a member of my family, but I also understand there have been times when we haven't gotten the right person...
And somebody who is distrustful of big government, like I am, is also distrustful of so much power being given to government to kill somebody, when there might be a mistake. A lot of eyewitness testimony has been shown over time not to be very good...
We also have the problem of when you've got three thugs and they're all testifying against each other, and two of them say, 'Let's say he did it,' and the other two say, 'Let's say he did it,'...
So your testimony is coming from people who are not necessarily the best witnesses, as far as veracity.
Most crimes are adjudicated at the state level and should be, so there really are almost no crimes at the federal level really under the Constitution that would require the death penalty – I think treason being one. It isn't a big issue, I think as far as a change in federal policy, and I would leave it for the most part to the states."
Source: James Hohmann, "In Iowa, Rand Paul Sticks with Death Penalty Skepticism," washingtonpost.com, May 28, 2015