The Bill of Rights specifically protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” The death penalty is the ultimate denial of civil liberties, and the ACLU is committed in its opposition to this cruel and unusual punishment. 

Why Oppose the Death Penalty?

  • Innocent people are being sentenced to death. Since 1976, 196 people were found to be innocent and released from death row, including 12 in Pennsylvania. 
  • Almost all people on death row could not afford to hire an attorney. The quality of legal representation is a better predictor of whether or not someone will be sentenced to death than the facts of the crime.
  • Race often plays a role in determining a capital sentence, in multiple ways. First, over 80% of capital cases involve white victims, even though nationally, only 50% of murder victims are white. Second, Pennsylvania's death row has one of the highest populations of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the country at 62 percent. Finally, for years, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office trained its prosecutors on how to strike BIPOC jurors during jury selection, despite a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled it unconstitutional to strike jurors solely on the basis of race.
  • Where a death sentence is sought often determines whether a defendant is sentenced to death more than the circumstances of the crime.

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